A dream became reality for the Claires Court Boat Club when in the Junior Men’s Quadruple Scull; they rowed with awesome style and competent sculling to win the Fawley Challenge Cup, in Sunday’s Henley Regatta final against a strong Windsor Boys’ crew.
Despite the final being a local derby the teams reaching the final rounds had been up against some tough international crews along the way, including the Dutch, German and American national champions. The Claires Court crew having improved race after race in the heats, were prepared for the full race Windsor brought to them. Tom Jost, Head of Rowing said, ‘From previous results we were favorites for the race which only added to the pressure. We knew if they were going to take us it would be in the first half, but had confidence knowing we were fast from Fawley in.”
In a tense and exciting race the boys matched each other stroke for stroke in the first half. Claires Court took the slimmest of advantages at the first marker ‘the barrier’, but the Windsor crew came back and took a slight lead at the next ‘Fawley’ marker. As the crews reached the stands, the noise of the supporters reached a crescendo and in a race described as truly gladiatorial, Claires Court made it their own and secured their third major title this season.
Tom added, “It was an emotional occasion, as I sat in the launch, in silence, there was a realisation of what we had done.”
Having taken over as Head Coach in April 2012, Tom, supported by Chris Clark, set themselves the goal of winning Henley from the outset. Assured of their chances, the team placed a bet with the School’s Rugby Department to reach their target in four years! The first Sixth Form crew came together just three years ago, and amazingly, two of the winning crew had never rowed in the top boat until this year, let alone row at Henley.
In the run up to the Regatta, Tom said the key was attention to detail, controlling everything we could and not get carried away with what we couldn’t.
Summarising the success of the squad Tom said, “I am so proud of their achievements, Finlay Gronmark at stroke, has been in more bottom boats that I’m sure he’d care to remember but we always thought he’d come good and we’re happy to be proven right in spectacular fashion! Jono’s power is just astonishing and his experience from racing for GB last year is invaluable. Alex was our experienced Henley rower, having competed there four times, a very grounded and focused rower; Ollie, who’s still only 17, his quiet determination never fails to deliver”
Finlay, now preparing for the GB trials along with Ollie said, “We never planned or expected to do the triple, the first two wins were a bonus, and put the pressure on us by being favourites. We worked so hard to get there though, for weeks all we have thought about is how any action we made would affect training, would it make the boat go faster. Our coaches have been amazing, the amount of work they have put in writing programmes, analysing our performance and just generally looking after us is extraordinary.” Ollie, now entering the second year of his A Levels and studying physics, chemistry, maths and geography added, “We knew we were capable of it, but it is quite strange to have actually achieved it. It hasn’t really sunk in.”
Claires Court Boat Club is now the holder of The Fawley Challenge Cup, The Schools’ Head of the River and National Schools Regatta titles. There was a time when a toothbrush was a prize for training hard… now the boys have moved on to bigger things and long may that tradition remain too.