Johnson ’11, Symington Score Wins at Henley

Derek Johnson. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Derek Johnson. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Henley-on-Thames, U.K. – The Yale heavyweight crew team had three former and two current rowers competing at Henley Royal Regatta this past weekend.  In a year that saw a record number of entries from international crews, the Bulldogs have strong ties to the victors in the two most prestigious events at the regatta.  Derek Johnson '11, Yale's captain for the 2010-11 season, won the Grand Challenge Cup as three-seat of an eight from California Rowing Club.  Rising junior Owen Symington won the Stewards' Challenge Cup as bow seat of an Australian coxless four that will be competing at the World Rowing Under 23 Championships next week.

Johnson kicked off his winning Henley campaign with a win in the quarterfinals on Friday.  His CRC boat beat the German U23 crew from Ratzeburg Training Center by 1 3/4 lengths. The next day Johnson and his crew took down the Australian U23 eight by two lengths to advance to the finals where they would face the Brown varsity eight, this year's Eastern Sprints Champions.

In the finals of the Grand Challenge Cup, widely known to be the premier event for eights at Henley, CRC had a canvas lead at the end of Temple Island and then a length over Brown at the barrier.  The Bears fought back with a few pushes but CRC could not be had and would go on to win by 1 1/4 lengths.

Johnson's crew is the first U.S. crew to win the Grand Challenge Cup since 1995.

Symington raced in two events for the Australian National Team, competing as the National Rowing Center of Excellence (NRCE).  He first raced in the Stewards' Challenge Cup, the premier event for fours and second only to the Grand Challenge Cup in prestige.  Billed as the 'A' crew and the lightweight U23 4- as the 'B' crew, Symington's 'A' boat was seeded and first raced in Saturday's semifinals against the Norske Studenters Roklub.  Symington and his mates led the Norwegians at the barrier and at Fawley, ultimately winning by 1 3/4 lengths to advance to Sunday's final where they would race Waiariki Rowing Club, New Zealand's U23 four. 

The Australians had the better start and led New Zealand throughout the race.  Both crews endured tough conditions and would have clashed blades were it not for the lead of a boat length that the Australians established early on.  New Zealand closed up the deficit to half a length a few times but the Aussies persevered.  The final margin was 2/3 of a length in favor of Australia.

Symington's other boat was a composite eight that combined his straight four with the Australian U23 coxed four to race in the Grand Challenge Cup.  Again Symington's boat was seeded and only raced on Saturday in the semifinals, but this time his crew was knocked out.  Racing against Brown the Aussies were up by a canvas early on, leading until Fawley before getting walked through by the Bears.

Two of Johnson's classmates, Alex Mastroyannis '11 and Carl Nunziato '11, both rowed for Potomac Boat Club in the Thames Challenge Cup, the men's club eight event.  They made it through the first two rounds, taking down Marlow Boat Club on Wednesday and then Royal Yacht Club Hong Kong on Thursday.  On Friday they were knocked out by Royal Chester in the quarterfinals.  Their experience was chronicled on the blog RowingRelated.

Oliver Fletcher raced for Eton Vikings in the Britannia Challenge Cup, a category for club fours with coxswain.  His crew had a tough draw against Star Club and lost in the first round, but Star Club would go on to win the entire event.

Report filed by Yale Sports Publicity