Rhubarb 2020

ST EDWARD’S r h u b a r b

THE KING’S CUP AN OSE PERSPECTIVE One hundred years ago eight military crews raced to mark the end of World War 1 at the Royal Henley Peace Regatta. They competed for a gold cup presented by King George V, The King’s Cup. In 2019 military crews from Australia, UK, USA, France, Canada and New Zealand were joined by Germany and the Netherlands to race once more. For the first time at Henley Royal Regatta these were mixed military VIIIs, for if women now serve alongside men on the front line, why not race together in their spare time?

Chris Hartley (D, 1975-1979) was responsible for bringing this event together. Below is an account of the work that went into making the event so special. Three years’ work with each nation’s Chief of Defence brought this project to reality, showcasing military allies’ fittest and finest, whilst honouring the past. A new cup had to be made as the Australians wouldn’t part with the one they had won in 1919. The 2019 King’s Cup incorporated precious gifts from each nation crafted into a river of gold, punctuated by a diamond and on a wooden base made from the 1919 regatta booms. Melted into the gold river were the national gifts, one dating back 200 years from Her Majesty The Queen, others from the USA part of George Washington’s 1797 battleship, shell cases from the Dutch Royal Family, from France four Croix de Guerre awarded from each year of WW1, Australia donated part of the original King’s Cup and brass from the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial ….and then there was a set of 70-year-old OSE brass blazer buttons. “They were my father’s,” says Chris Hartley , “and I thought of him when I took the Cup to be inspected by Her Majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace. Rhubarb tie of course. He would have loved to have seen this complex project with its international competitors and pageantry brought together - although he may not have enjoyed seeing the French beating the UK crew or the fate of his blazer buttons .” Adam Donaldson (G, 1979-1984) was responsible for selecting and coaching the UK Armed Forces crew – below he talks about this unique experience: “I am discovering that winning the Special Race for Schools in 1983 and the Princess Elizabeth Cup in 1984 with St Edward’s 1st VIII, has stood me in very good stead. In September 2018, I was approached to take on the role of Head Coach of the UK Armed Forces (UKAF) crew for the King’s Cup. From November until May we ran a virtual squad containing around 35 athletes, holding occasional training

rivals, Radley College Boat Club. From the 16 athletes, we competed for the first time ever as UKAF at the Henley Women’s Regatta in Championship 4, and then at the HRR in the Wyfold Cup and of course the King’s Cup.  The final crew contained 2 ex-GB internationals, 2 HRR event winners, 1 Cambridge Lightweight, and 2 HRR finalists. Across the Armed Forces, we had 2 Royal Navy, 1 Royal Marine, 2 RAF and 4 Army athletes in the King’s Cup VIII. From my perspective, it was a unique experience to be responsible for such an endeavour and it paid to be diplomatic when selecting 8 athletes out of 16, all of whom were professional trained killers!” The event was won in spectacular style by the United States Naval Academy against a highly credentialed German crew in a stunning race that has subsequently been watched over 50,000 times. It was the race of the regatta and as the crews sprinted past the enclosure, the noise even eclipsed another ‘OSE’ connection - the especially chosen ‘Dambusters’ theme played by the UK military band during the final. Covid-19 inevitably got in the way of the subsequent presentations to each of the competing nations’ Heads of State, so there are still ceremonial daggers to present and a sterling silver sword to eventually hang in Annapolis where it will be seen by over a million visitors a year. Sealed into the hilt of that sword is a written message from the victorious US Armed Forces crew that includes the sentiment “In 1919 the US Army started something that 100 years later the US Navy had to finish off. Business as usual.” It is hoped that a similar sword, with a different greeting from the Australian Governor-General in its hilt, yet to be presented in the UK, will be lent for display at Henley Royal Regatta. There is also an aspiration that it will not be another 100 years before military crews race once again at Henley Royal Regatta for The King’s Cup. There may not be an OSE involved next time but those blazer buttons will always be an integral part of a very special cup.


camps during the winter and spring. The event itself stipulates a minimum of two female athletes in each crew, and from the outset we ran a mixed gender squad. Formal selection trials were run on the ergs and at Dorney at the beginning of May, whittling down the number from 35 to 16 athletes who made it into the ‘full time’ UKAF squad who trained nonstop downstream based at our friends and


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