Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan secured another place in the history books when they became the first Irish winners of the double sculls Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta.
Another battle between the Irish Olympic champions and GB heavyweight scullers - the third in as many days - saw Matthew Heywood (Nottingham) and Sebastian Meijer (Tideway Scullers School) have a storming start, stealing a half-length lead which they maintained to the Barrier (2:06).
Despite this, the Cork duo looked composed at all times as they maintained a consistently higher rate of stroking, heaping more and more pressure on their opponents. This paid up a high dividend just before halfway, as they drew level and then drew significantly ahead at Fawley (3:30). The race was all but over at this stage, and McCarthy (Skibbereen) and O’Donovan (University College, Cork) drew further ahead at the Mile Post to lead by over two lengths, paddling over the finish to the loud cheers of a small group of Irish supporters.
Earlier in the day, Rowing Ireland squad members had put in a very spirited performance against three-quarters of the GB Olympic silver medallists in quadruple sculls. Leander took an early lead but were pushed all the way by Philip Doyle (Belfast BC), Ronan Byrne (UCC), Daire Lynch (Clonmel) & Gary O’Donovan (Skibbereen). Despite being put together for the first time this week, the Irish kept the pressure on their opponents and must be proud of this performance.
Other Irish winners today were Jack Keating, formerly of Carlow RC, in the Prince of Wales Quadruple sculls, and Holly Nixon, formerly Portora, in the Remenham Challenge Cup for Women’s Open Eights. Sadly, Claire Feerick and Nathan Hull came up short, but in very close finishes. The crews now return to Ireland for the Irish Rowing Championships at the National Rowing Centre, Farran Wood, next weekend
Double Sculls Challenge Cup: F. McCarthy (Skibbereen RC) & P. O’Donovan (University College, Cork) beat M.E.C. Heywood & S.P.S.Meijer. Time 7:13, Dist. 1 3/4 lengths; Queen Mother Challenge Cup (Men’s Open Quadruple Sculls): Leander Club beat University College, Cork & Skibbereen RC. Time6:38, Dist. 1 1/2 lengths; Princess Grace Challenge Cup (Women’s Quadruple Sculls): Leander Club beat Thames RC & Neptune RC (C. Feerick). Time 7:46, Dist. 1 length; Prince of Wales Challenge Cup (Men’s Quadruple Sculls): Leander Club (J.H. Keating) beat Twickenham RC & Queen’s University, Belfast (N. Hull). Time 6:42, Dist. 1 1/2 lengths. Remenham Challenge Cup (Women’s Open Eights): Leander Club (H.E.S. Nixon) beat Oxford Brookes University & Queen’s University, Belfast (F.E. Bell). Time 7:09, Dist. 1 1/4 lengths.