BROOKES|Rowing take on the Dutch National Eight and set a new record

Over the weekend Brookes travelled to Europe with 120 people for the second time this season to compete at the Koninklijke-Holland Beker on the Bosbaan, Amsterdam. A phenomenal weekend was had, racing the Dutch Olympic Men’s VIII as well as setting new Brookes Records over 2k for the history books. It was another show of the hard work and dedication by every individual at the boat club who is in chase of the best results in rowing.

Saturday’s racing saw seven Brookes Men’s Eights take to the water where they put on a dominant display taking up 5 of the 6 spots in the final and with the only Dutch crew withdrawing from the race due to medical, it produced a similar picture to Ghent 2023. The weekend saw inconsistent weather conditions with a typical swirling wind up and down the Bosbaan. In the final, the Brookes 1st VIII made a powerful start, immediately stretching out a lead in the first half of the race which continued to extend to the finish. Brookes crossed the finish line in a time of 5:35.91.

Prior to the weekend, the Brookes women claimed their first 1, 2, 3 finish at the Ghent International Regatta. Just weeks later, further signs were shown of the standard of women’s rowing at Brookes in the W4-. On Saturday morning, all three Brookes Fours booked their slots into the final through their heats. In the final, Brookes extended their run of form with all three crews leading a chasing pack of Dutch crews through halfway. The Brookes 1st 4- extended their lead through 1500m but were chased fiercely to the line by their teammates to win the race by a length, becoming Dutch National Champions in a time of 6:51.21.

In the M4-, the two Brookes 4’s lined up in the final against a German Development Four and three Dutch club crews. The Brookes 1st 4- got out to a strong start and took control of the race. They then extended their lead to beat the German Development four by 2.6 seconds on the line to become Dutch National Champions.

Finishing up racing on the Saturday, the women’s eights also saw some exciting racing with two out of three eights making it to the final to race against the Dutch Development eight alongside 3 other Dutch clubs. The two Brookes crews put together a well delivered race finishing in second and third just 2.4 and 5.2 seconds back from the Dutch eight.

The Sunday saw a similar racing schedule as well as similar unreliable conditions. Racing lanes were not seeded due to this inconsistency. The Women’s 4- were up first with a straight final, where they were able to hold off any attempts from the receding Dutch crews, they won by clear water in a time of 6:49.83.

In the Men’s 4-, the Brookes 1st four once again got out quickly and had a 4 second lead by halfway. In a dominant display of skill and power, they turned up the class in an impressive performance to extend this lead and win the race by 9.5 seconds over 2nd place. A time of 6:06 was also impressive in such conditions.

Three out of four women’s VIII’s qualified for the final to face up against the Dutch development eight who returned to racing for the Sunday. Similar to the Satruday, the Dutch crew started quickly and led the field to 500m. With a touch more skill and power the Brookes 1st VIII and 2nd VIII held their nerve under pressure and were able to inch ahead in the middle 1000m. This lead continued to extend and both walked through to claim 1st and 2nd. Both crew’s crossing the line inside of the Brookes Women’s 2k record, in a new time of 6:16.39. The Brookes 3rd crew rowed through a strong Aegir crew to claim 4th place. This shows further signs of the quality of the women’s squad, and they eagerly await more challenges in the next weeks.

The Men’s Eights race was the main show down event of the day with the Dutch National Eight coming to put on a show to the home crowd. The same Dutch crew who won Bronze at World Cup II at Lucerne just weeks before. First thing on Sunday morning, the Dutch 8+ and the Brookes 1st, 2nd and 3rd VIII’s all lined up against each other in the same randomly drawn Heat of which only the two fastest would advance. In an exciting race, the Brookes 1st VIII won by 2.6 seconds ahead of the Dutch National Eight and the Brookes 2nd VIII just 3 seconds behind them. In the other heats, the Brookes 6th VIII and 7th VIII missed out on the final behind a German Development Eight and Aegir while the Brookes 4th VIII secured their spot into the final with the Brookes 5th VIII just missing out behind Nereus. The resounding question along the bank, would Brookes have enough in the tank for the final having had two flat out races in the legs already over the weekend.
The Final saw one of the finest performances ever produced from a Brookes crew. The news had clearly circulated the rowing circles in Amsterdam after the morning Heat, as the towpath had well over 200 bikes in the chasing peloton behind the race. A spectacle in itself. The Brookes 1st VIII got out to a clean and hard start leading the Dutch VIII by a canvas coming through a rapid first 500m, they then pushed on and slightly extended this lead to a little over 1 second and held the Dutch to that margin for the third 500m. In the final sprint to the line, where the Dutch are notoriously strong both crews raised the rate of striking with the Dutch closing the gap each stroke. In the closing metres it was bow ball for bow ball and would be on the surge to the line. The Brookes 1V managed to nudge their bow ball in the lead, having not been led once by the Dutch to cross the line just 0.25 seconds ahead of the National Eight in a time of 5:29.13 becoming the Dutch National Champions. The time set by the 1st VIII, was the second fastest a Brookes crew has ever gone, after Ratzeburg 2018 (5:29.06). A phenomenal achievement for the whole boat club.

With racing concluding for the weekend for the Brookes crews and celebrations on the medal pontoon. Matt Heywood, (who despite crossing the finishing line first still didn’t know whether he won) was interviewed by Dutch commentators. He said, “This result is a testament to the hard work of the entire Brookes team, the training put in over the winter has put us in this position and we are very excited and privileged to race a classy Dutch crew.” His closing words, “Thank you for having us”, aptly put.  Brookes last raced in Amsterdam in 2016, and we would like to thank the entirety of the Holland Beker organising committee for a great weekend of racing. Some high class competition, the rowing culture and fantastic support along the bank made for a thoroughly enjoyable weekend.

The Brookes squad now return to training for the final run in towards the pinnacle of summer racing, Some athletes look ahead to racing opportunities at World Cup III, while the rest refocus their efforts for final preparations towards our penultimate weekend of racing at the Henley Women’s Regatta and Marlow Regatta in a few weeks time.