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How the Regatta changed my life

THE Old Viking Society is for all former staff and pupils of Shiplake Collage but most people automatically associate it with rowing. Here, two old(er) Vikings tell ANNE MARIE SCANLON how rowing changed their lives.
IAN CRUICKSHANK was born in Henley and went to his first royal regatta when he was about six.
He remembers it fondly: “The whole town would go and also to the fair behind the enclosures.”
Ian first competed in the royal regatta in 1973, aged 17, as part of the Shiplake first eight.
“It was brilliant,” he recalls. “The whole school came and made a lot of noise.”
Ian thinks rowing is particularly conducive to forming bonds and friendships – he and three other rowing mates continue to meet regularly.
“It’s the ultimate team sport,” he says, “You can’t have someone taking a rest mid-competition. You give everything from the start to the finish and you depend on the person in front of you and the one behind you.
“Working as a team and having the commitment to training will help with any future career.”
Ian went on to become a British and international umpire, travelling throughout Europe and to Australia and America.
He also provided commentary at the Henley Royal Regatta for many years.
Ian says that umpiring the rowing world championships in 2005 was his “pinnacle” and the roar of the crowed at the 2012 Olympic regatta at Dorney made the “hairs stand up”.
TELEVISION viewers may recognise Jonty Hearnden as an antiques expert.
He remembers going to regatta as a teenager in the early Seventies. “It was the biggest thing in Henley, something to look forward to,” he says.
He rowed for Shiplake College from 1977 to 1979 and recalls the thrill of the crowds cheering.
“Rowing ordinarily doesn’t have thousands of people watching,” he says, “It was flattering to be the centre of attention and as a 16-year-old competing at Henley was just outrageously fantastic.” Jonty’s family hosted visiting crews and
it was a New Zealand rower who, he says, “changed my life”.
New Zealand boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics, so the royal regatta was their only chance of winning a medal.
When they lost the final, one of their crew was so distraught he did not want to return home and sold his ticket to the teenage Jonty.
He initially stayed with the crew in New Zealand before travelling around the world for 18 months and then moving to London for work.
Despite this, Henley and the regatta remained a huge part of Jonty’s life. When he married in 1993 he rowed his bride to Temple Island. After the couple had their three boys, they returned to the area.
The boys are now Old Vikings themselves and their eldest, who is still rowing competitively, was in the Shiplake eight for three years.
“The Regatta is what makes Henley special,” says Jonty. “It’s an international event, famous over the world.
“It was much smaller then but the atmosphere doesn’t change. It still has the secret ingredient of feeling timeless. It’s unique and it’s great to have it on our doorstep.”

This Month's Issue

Henley Life June 2022