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Henley Royal Regatta, 1977

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Henley Royal Regatta, 1977 ~ In 1977, four crews entered for the Prince Philip Challenge Cup. In the first round, racing against the University of California, we were clear at the quarter mile mark and paddled home at twenty-eight to win by one and two thirds of a length (2.10) (3.45) (8.01). In the final against Thames Tradesmen we won comfortably by two and three quarter lengths (2.09) (3.39) (7.35). This was Garda’s first International-class win at Henley Royal Regatta and the first time that an Irish crew won the Prince Philip Challenge Cup.

The Thames Challenge Cup winning crew of 1975 were one of six entries in the Grand Challenge Cup. This was the first Irish entry in the premier event since Trinity in 1893. The University of Washington and Cornell University from the USA got a bye to the second round. In the first heat on Friday, after a false start, we beat Harvard University, USA by a quarter of a length (1.58) (3.20) (7.07). In the semifinal, the University of Washington were leading by three-quarters of a length at the Barrier (1.54). We fought back and were a canvas behind at the mile post. Washington went on to win by half a length (3.12) (6.48). In the final, Washington beat Leander/Thames Tradesmen by one length (1.51) (3.06) (6.27). Willie Ryan remembers rowing in ‘The Grand’:

The race against Harvard was very close, it was stroke for stroke all the way down the course with Garda holding a slight lead to the finish. That race and the race against Washington the next day were the two hardest races of my career. I think the crew were wrecked after the race against Harvard. Harvard had beaten the Washington crew in the American Championships that year and were favourites to win the Grand. I believe that if our race against Harvard hadn’t been so hard we would have won the Grand that year … a big one that got away!

The Irish Times (2/7/77) gave the following account of the race against Harvard:

Garda opened their Henley campaign on a rousing note with a thrilling victory in the Grand Challenge Cup. They held off a series of late spurts by Harvard University to beat the Americans by a quarter of a length.

The Irish Independent (2/7/77) quoted the Harvard cox, Jeffrey Rothstelm, as saying:

We knew they would be fast and felt whoever rowed the better would win. We rowed really well, probably our best this season. But they are a very good crew. Once they came through they just sat on us though we narrowed the gap slightly to the finish.

Winners of the Prince Philip Challenge Cup, 1977

Bow     Willie Ryan                               (3)        Jim Muldoon

(2)        Christy O’Brien                        Str.      Mick Ryan

Cox                 Liam Redmond

Coaches          Brendan Duane and Pat Grace

Grand Challenge Cup 1977

Bow     John Fahy                                 (5)        Frank Moore

(2)        Larry Barron                            (6)        Christy O’Brien

(3)        Willie Ryan                               (7)        Jim Muldoon

(4)        Andy McDonough                    Str.      Mick Ryan

Cox                 Liam Redmond

Coaches          Brendan Duane and Pat Grace

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