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Outstanding results at Henley Women’s Regatta 2013

Charlotte Taylor completed the journey from beginner rower to elite champion in just three years when she triumphed at Henley Women’s Regatta on Sunday.

Charlie secured the first outright Henley Women’s title ever for Putney Town RC. And her victory in Elite Lightweight Sculls wasn’t the only reason for club celebration as the crew of Lottie Higgins, Jennie Dawson, Victoria Watts, Klem Zastawniak and cox Camilla Lister reached the final of the Club Fours.

Charlie beat Lizzie Polgreen of Isle of Ely RC by three lengths, reversing the result from last year when the two clashed in the final of the senior event.

Charlie's HWR 2013 final

Charlie's HWR 2013 final

The two have been asked by GB Rowing Team coaches to train together in a double scull and will compete at the Holland Beker international regatta in Amsterdam next weekend.

“Last year’s Henley was the first time that I thought there was more than a club sculler in me,” said Charlie, who took part in national team trials for the first time this winter and was the fifth fastest lightweight women in final trials in April.

A gymnast as a child, she started rowing at Putney Town in April 2010 as a raw novice, following a couple of sculling lessons from father David at home in Bedford. She won her novice pot in a sculling boat the following summer so her progression from there elite level – working closely with coach Tom Evens – has been remarkably quick.

Charlie with her coaches Tom Evens and Martin Gough

Charlie with her coaches Tom Evens and Martin Gough

Charlie raced at Henley in a brand new boat, bought thanks to donations of £5,000 from club members (including one member’s particularly generous contribution from their business, Mammoth Micro) plus £1,500 each from her employers Exodus Travels and colleague Paul Goldstein.

“When I boated for my race I had a really calm feeling about the whole thing. It sounds a bit arrogant but I knew I was ready,” said Charlie, who had beaten Lizzie Polgreen on her way to one of three victories at Metropolitan Regatta at the beginning of June.

HWR Club 4+ Semi

HWR 2013 Club 4+ Semi

The PTRC coxed four were also celebrating on Sunday, none more so than Lottie Higgins, whose birthday it was. She took up rowing on the club’s Learn to Row programme in 2010/11, while crew-mate Vicki Watts rowed for the first time on the course last September.

Coached by Chihiro Calvin, the crew came together for the first time in May and only showed Henley final potential when they won at Reading Regatta a fortnight before the event.

Second-fastest on unofficial timing in qualifying, they beat club crews from Birmingham, Worcester and Trentham before succumbing to an experienced crew from Thames RC in blustery conditions in the final.

“Before Reading we had no expectations at all but winning there made us think we could do OK,” said women’s captain Jennie Dawson. “Once we knew how we’d done in qualifying we thought we could reach Sunday but I don’t think any of us expected to make the final.”

Jennie hopes the squad will be able to go one better next year but before then she will have her hands full helping out with PTRC’s next Learn to Row course, which starts in September. The club has already had over 500 expressions of interest and the aim is to teach the sport to 24 beginner men and 24 women.

PTRC has won three Women’s Henley titles in the past but two came before the modern era of the multi-day event and the last was for a composite four in 1993.

Words: Martin Gough. Pictures: Ian Kershaw.