Shortly after a highly beneficial training camp on the Erne in Enniskillen, the Senior VIII packed up for the long commute to the quintessential home of rowing, Henley Royal Regatta. It was en route to our lodgings, the welcoming home of Laura Reineke, that we found out who we would face in the opening round of the Temple Challenge Cup for University Eights- first up would be a composite of Pembroke & Caius Colleges, Cambridge, featuring some of their Boat Race athletes, a challenge not to be taken lightly. Although on the much stronger side of the draw, there was an indefatigable air of excitement among the crew for what was to come with every paddle along the famous regatta course.

With excitement for the opening day of racing beginning to heat up, so too did the thermostat, with temperatures hitting 34 degrees Celsius on the opening day of racing- a far cry from the bitter cold of that Enniskillen training camp back in December! Backing on to the Bucks station, it was easy to draw confidence from all that side-by-side work in Fours done throughout the Winter and that the crew had matured as racers since the disappointment of going out on the opening day to Edinburgh University the year prior. After a frantic opening 30 strokes with the crews staying roughly level, both settled onto their rhythms at the end of the Island and it quickly became clear who the quicker crew was. Trinity seemed to have “a bit more grunt” in the words of commentators, as they powered away and stretched the lead the whole way down the course. The final verdict- over 3 lengths (you can watch race highlights here!). Pleased to have the first race out of the way, the crew re-gathered their focus for what would be a much sterner test the following day- Cornell University’s Lightweights, national champions in the USA and unbeaten in 2 years.

The final stages Vs Cornell University, USA

The final stages Vs Cornell University, USA

On the morning of day 2, everything was falling into place for what was sure to be a cracking race- after a confident paddle over the course in the morning, and knowing that the crews were roughly the same speed, everyone was beginning to prepare themselves for the dog-fight that was to come. As the clock struck 3:05, both crews tore out of the blocks with Trinity this time on the Berkshire station. Despite Cornell taking an early two-seat lead, Trinity clawed back the early deficit with no more than one seat between the crews at the Barrier. With both crews exchanging immense pushes the whole way down the course, it was at the mile post with Trinity trailing by 2/3L that Cornell made their move. Going through bumpy water was enough for Cornell to capitalise as they pushed out to nearly a length. The final verdict read simply read “Cornell University, USA 2/3L over Trinity College, Dublin IRE”. See the full race highlights here.

Although disappointed with the defeat, later results in the week give great confidence for next year for this still very young crew. Thanks to all those who continue to allow us to push ourselves against the world’s best through their unfailing help and support, and to the coaches Nick Dunlop and Colm Butler for their drive and motivation to make us be better- let’s hope we can finish the season in style at next week’s All Ireland Championships!