Wednesday, 28 September 2016
Making History ... by One Foot by Julie Summers
I write a great deal about life in the middle of the last century and about people who made history in a variety of different ways. Today I want to tell the story of a group of young men who made history nine years ago and who have joined the pantheon of greats in the small but exclusive field of Henley Royal Regatta rowing winners. Sunday 8 July 2007 and the market town of Henley-on-Thames is enjoying a warm afternoon. On the Buckinghamshire bank of the river the scene is one of colour, pageantry and tradition: blue-and-white striped boat tents marshalled neatly between the pink-and-cream Leander Club hard up against Henley Bridge, and the white marquees housing the grandstands and Stewards’ Enclosure on the downstream side. It is finals day of the regatta, the day when lives are changed for ever by the outcome of an individual race. At 3:50pm two crews of nine young men line up at the start, next to the lozenge-shaped island in the middle of the river crowned by an elegant temple designed by the eighteenth-century English architect, James Wyatt. The umpire is standing in a handsome launch, arms raised, holding a red flag vertically above his head waiting for the two coxes to indicate that their crews are all set. Are you ready? He sweeps the flag down sharply. Go! Sixteen blades dip into the water. They are off.