We asked the Edinburgh University Boat Club what it takes to win at the Henley Royal Regatta

Edinburgh University Boat Club recently won the last race on the last day at the 2016 Henley Royal Regatta bringing the Prince Albert Challenge Cup to Scotland and becoming the first Scottish rowing team to win at Henley in over 177 years. We talked to the winning crew and coach to find out more.

Edinburgh University Boat Club at Henley Royal Regatta | StaaG Journal interview

Left to right: Rufus Scholefield, Calum Irvine, Rosie Margolis, Kieran Tierney, James Temple. Coach: Colin Williamson. Winners of the Royal Albert Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta 2016.

1. How does it feel like to win at Henley?

(JT) At the beginning of the season the prospect of winning Henley seemed so unlikely that our coach Colin promised to invite any winners to his wedding. I set myself ambitious goals but this was achieving the unachievable!

(KT) It feels surreal, an impossible achievement  to quantify yet. It’s not the trophy I’ll remember it will be the countless sessions with my team mates.

(CI) It was incredible, weirdly more emotional than I had ever imagined. Having spent a week trying to persuade ourselves that it was just another race, it came as almost a surprise when it meant so much the moment I realised we were going to make it.

Edinburgh University Boat Club at Henley Royal Regatta | StaaG Journal interview

2. What does it take to win at Henley?

(JT) Basically a lot of hours on the erg (rowing machine) and in the gym, as well as miles in the boat. We train twice a day throughout the year, and it takes a lot of trust in the process to train through winter when racing is months away.

(KT) An unshakeable confidence that the other crew got the unlucky draw. and a commitment to not be sent home.

(CI) It obviously takes the years of base fitness and rowing but I really believe that what matters more than that is to have a boat full of athletes willing to completely commit to making it all the way.

Edinburgh University Boat Club at Henley Royal Regatta | StaaG Journal interview

3. How do you work as a team and for how long to you row together to get in that perfect harmony?

(JT) I love getting into a new boat because everyone has different strengths and experiences to learn from. Calum and Rufus had rowed in the coxed four last year, setting a Henley course record, so they already had an understanding of how to go fast in this boat class. Kieran and I have both raced as lightweights (70kg crew average) so we have to rely on rowing as smoothly as possible to match the brute force of some of the stronger crews. By combining our different rowing backgrounds I think we all improved during our time together. Rosie is the one who does almost all the talking, so it worked well that she was new to the squad this year and was able to give a fresh perspective from her time coxing at school.

We came together as a crew at the end of May, leaving a little over a month to train together. However, we’ve rowed together in other boats throughout the year so it didn’t take long to gel.

(KT) I’ve been part of the Edinburgh team for the past 2 years, but I rowed as a lightweight. We really only started rowing together at the end of May. However, all the time we spent in the boat was focused and goal oriented – relentlessly efficient.

(CI) Working as a team was really helped by having a common goal, and rowing together really comes down to our coach, Colin Williamson.

4. What sort of discipline do you need?

(JT) The main thing is just turning up to every training session. It can feel like an effort, especially for early morning sessions, but I’m motivated by knowing that everyone else in the squad is doing the same thing. I also enjoy training, so I’m usually motivated to do it anyway.

(KT) Discipline is easy to find in the days before competition, its the weeks and months in advance where an athlete has to be tough on themselves.

(CI) Discipline is really fairly straightforward. You don’t want to be the one guy in the boat who isn’t pushing as hard as he can in each session, or recovering properly between them, so you take it one day at a time.

Edinburgh University Boat Club at Henley Royal Regatta | StaaG Journal interview

5. What did you do to celebrate?

(JT) We followed tradition by throwing Rosie into the Thames, and then joined her for a swim. In the evening we went for champagne at Leander Club with some other EUBC rowers who had travelled down for the weekend to support.

(KT) There were a lot of tears, and hugs as it was a very emotional culmination of efforts. Afterwards, I went out with my team mates and coaches and made memories that I will never forget.

(CI) I ran around hugging friends, family, random strangers, anyone I could for a while, then allowed myself a couple of glasses of champagne.

6. Will you all be in the boat again next year at Henley as a 4 plus cox?

(JT) We won’t be eligible for the coxed four next year now that we’ve won, but we will be able to race in the student VIIIs for the Temple Challenge Cup. We will all still be at university next year, but like any competitive team I’m sure no seat in that boat will be guaranteed.

(KT) Unfortunately, Henley entry rules preclude the re-entering of certain events once they have been won, but there has been mumblings about racing the Temple 8 in 2017.

(CI) We can’t enter the same event again, but I’m excited to see where Edinburgh chooses to go next year, maybe in a bigger boat…

7. Could you enjoy Henley through the week or were you only focused on the rowing?

(JT) Probably the best advice Colin gave us during the week was to make sure we enjoyed ourselves. We spent a lot of time recovering in the house where we were staying, rather than out on the banks watching and socialising, but we really fed off the atmosphere both whilst training and racing.

(KT) That’s an interesting question. I enjoyed it because I had never been before and every day was novel. However, in the future I look forward to not being so race oriented and instead going down as alumni to cheer on my team mates. I believe both the racing and the spectating at Henley are vastly different experiences but equally valuable.

(CI) I surprised myself by enjoying concentrating on the rowing. It’s a strange time of the week when you are out getting in a paddle on the Friday night and everyone on the bank is partying. It really impressed me what a unique opportunity we had to see the whole event from at that angle.


For more information on the Henley Royal Regatta, visit www.hrr.co.uk

For more information on StaaG and the Edinburgh University Boat Club, visit www.staag.co/world-of-rowing