A team of Australian Defence Force rowers will take to the River Thames in England from 5-7 July to contest a rowing event that started a century ago, shortly after the conclusion of the First World War.
The tri-service team will participate in the Henley Royal Regatta in the town of Henley-on-Thames, with their main event being the King’s Cup – a race contested by mixed military crews to commemorate the centenary of the 1919 Royal Henley Peace Regatta.
The 1919 Royal Henley Peace Regatta was conducted as part of repatriation activities undertaken at the end of the First World War.
This race holds a special place in the proud history of the Australian Defence Force as the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) Number 1 crew won the 1919 King’s Cup.
This year, it will be contested by crews from the original six nations of Australia, Canada, France, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, along with crews from Germany and The Netherlands, in a knock-out competition on the final three days of the regatta.
Royal Australian Navy Lieutenant Commander Kym Fisher was instrumental in getting the team to Henley – both as a coach and an official.
As the inaugural President of the Australian Defence Force Rowing Club, Lieutenant Commander Fisher had always hoped Australia would send a team to Henley.
“It’s been a dream come true to prepare a team to compete at the world’s premier rowing regatta.
“Watching the boat touch the water at Henley yesterday – I had to pinch myself,” he said.
Lieutenant Commander Fisher is a Maritime Warfare Officer and is posted to the Navy Modelling and Simulation Office.
His Defence rowing journey started in 2001, when he rowed out of the Australian Defence Force Academy shed while studying his masters. He later shifted his focus to coaching cadets.
The Australian Defence Force team for this year’s Henley Royal Regatta has been drawn from across Navy, Army and Air Force, and includes a mix of male and female officers, soldiers, sailors and airmen.
Other Naval officers in the team include Midshipman Benjamin Page, who is completing his final year of study at ADFA, and Commander Rebecca Levitt, who is posted to the Australian High Commission in London.
“It’s been a challenge joining the team on arrival in the UK, but they’ve been so welcoming, and participation in the King’s Cup is a once in a lifetime opportunity – the challenge is definitely worth it,” Commander Levitt said.
In the grand final of the 1919 King’s Cup, the Australian Imperial Force Number 1 crew defeated the Oxford University crew over the Henley course by a boat length, in a time of seven minutes and seven seconds. It was the fastest time recorded for the full course of the Regatta.
These days, the original King’s Cup trophy is awarded to the fastest men’s eight state team in Australia and is raced for each year at the Australian National Championships.
The races will be live streamed on the Henley Royal Regatta social media pages.
Imagery is available on the Defence Image Gallery: