Former Sarasota Crew rowers compete in prestigious Henley Royal Regatta, on the River Thames, in Henley-on-Thames, England.
Thousands of visitors lined the River Thames, in Henley-on-Thames, England hoping to catch a glimpse of one of the more than 200 races scheduled to take place over a five-day period during the Henley Royal Regatta — one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious regattas.
It wasn’t enough for Ben Delaney and Maddux Castle to simply be in attendance. They wanted to be part of one of the premier highlights of the sporting calendar.
And what better way to take part in the action than from atop the water itself?
Representing George Washington University, Delaney and Castle, along with eight teammates, competed in the Henley Royal Regatta June 29 through July 3, marking the first time in the program’s history that the Colonials rowed in the historic regatta.
“Racing at Henley Royal Regatta has been a whirlwind of experiences,” said Delaney, a 2013 graduate of Horizon Educational Systems. “At 177 years old, the history and prestige of the event has put competing here at the top of my rowing bucket list.”
The Henley Royal Regatta is unique in that it features a match-race format. During the regatta, two boats race side-by-side, with the winner advancing to the next round of competition. The bracketed tournament of dual races feature between two and five rounds for each of the 20 events.
During this year’s regatta, Castle, a 2014 graduate of Pine View School, helped power George Washington’s B4 boat to a top-four time finish during trials June 24, to successfully qualify for entry into the field for the Visitors’ Challenge Cup. The Colonials’ A4, which Delaney was a part of, had already qualified prior to the trials.
The Visitors’ Cup Challenge is for men’s coxless fours and is open to male crew from all eligible rowing clubs in the world.
In bracketed competition, George Washington’s A4 boat beat Cambridge University and Goldie Boat Club by two lengths before falling to eventual champion Thames Rowing Club by 1 1/4 lengths.
Castle and his boat mates fell to a team from Holland in their initial race.
With nine of the 10 rowers returning to George Washington in the fall, Delaney hopes the international racing experience will help put the Colonials on the map as a strong contender for both national and international success.
“The caliber of rowing at the regatta is unparalleled by anything in the U.S.,” Delaney said. “With a program as young as ours, we’ve had to quickly assert ourselves as formidable racers. With our results at Henley, I’m hoping to solidify that reputation.”
Delaney and Castle first learned about the Henley Royal Regatta back in high school during their time rowing with the Crew.
Although both rowers were captivated by the thought of rowing at the Henley Royal Regatta, neither Delaney nor Castle fully grasped the level of competition associated with the regatta or its rich history until arriving in England.
“The tradition of the regatta and the level of competition elevates the event to a status that every rower can only dream of,” said Castle. “It’s a goal of every rower to reach the regatta and compete alongside some of the best athletes in the sport.”
Dressed in their Sunday best, complete with navy blue blazers and boater hats, Delaney and Castle arrived in England June 22. Over the course of its two weeks overseas, the team had an opportunity to explore their surroundings, visiting Oxford University and the town itself.
The experience not only fulfilled a lifelong dream, it also allowed Delaney and Castle to be part of something historic.
“It’s been an honor being selected as a member of this squad,” Delaney said. “It’s an important milestone in our program history, and to be a small part of it has been phenomenal.”
“For me, competing overseas for my school and representing all that we have done this year, and all that the team has done before, is one of the greatest honors I can imagine,” Castle said.