Bedford Amateur Regatta is a very special race. The biggest single-day river regatta in the country, it’s the first opportunity for two-lane racing in the year over the 1200 metre course through the town. With hundreds of spectators on each bank merely meters from the boats, the regatta can produce some very special moments, and is a great psychological opportunity for many crews – there’s absolutely no hiding in its knockout 1v1 format.
Bedford has 13 categories for men’s eights and 5 of these are for open eights, ranging from the Bedford Grand Challenge Cup to the B.S.B.C. Quindodecicential Cup, and this offers a unique experience for many crews to not race against their peers and come up against older or younger crews. Band 1 was won last year by Royal Shrewsbury School, and with their first and second eights making up 2 of the 4 entries they’re keen to hold onto it. They will be up against Abingdon School who are quite an unknown following their scratch from SHORR, and Oriel College Oxford with 4 boat race athletes in the squad and repping their iconic white headbands. It’ll also be a reunion from last year’s Junior World’s Eight as Jake Swann from Oriel will come up against Dom Sullivan from Shrewsbury. Heaps of talent in all crews involved.
Band 2 is typically for crews who are around the speed of a first eight crew, and last year’s winners Emmanuel College aren’t present, meaning it’s up for grabs between HSBC RC, Abingdon, Norwich and Bedford. These might be mixed crews from Abingdon, as schools often prefer to race their top eights in the school’s category. Band 3 introduces many school’s J16 crews, and this is packed with entries from BMS, Bedford, Radley, Hampton and Abingdon. Band 4 sees more Oxbridge colleges entered than schools, and the introduction of Band 5 sees Kingston RC and The Grange School place entries, against the J15 and J15 crews of Abingdon, Bedford and Radley.
Bedford Regatta is one of very few events to have a dedicated College Eights category, and it’s a perfect opportunity for these crews to get some proper racing in before Cambridge’s May Bumps and Oxford’s Summer 8’s. Bedford is also one of very few occasions where the colleges can race their rival university leading to some desperate racing. There are 14 crews in this category, 8 from Cambridge and 6 from Oxford. From Oxford, Oriel will be looking to take the win after retaining their top position at torpids all week comfortably. Their biggest rivals come in the form of Caius (Cambridge) who took Lent Bumps from Lady Margaret and raced at BUCS regatta last week, giving them the racing experience many colleges will lack. Most of the Cambridge Colleges entered aren’t the same calibre of Caius, with the second fastest from Lent Bumps being Jesus College who finished 6th down from 5th last year. Oxford meanwhile have brought the big guns with Christ Church, St Catherine’s and Wolfson who finished 4th, 5th and 6th at torpids, and it’s looking like an dark blue dominated event.
J18 eights seems to have taken a hit from the Nottingham City Regatta clash, with only Bedford, Abingdon and Shrewsbury racing. It looks like it’ll be a repeat of last year’s final. Last year’s event had 8 crews entered and saw the famous Bedford-Radley upset. J18 second eights is a straight final between Shrewsbury and Abingdon, and J18 third eights will likely see Eton progress past Bedford to face Hampton in the final.
The J18 quads category lacks many of the big names we would expect from this year’s scene including Leader and Henley. This will be a big first run-out for Bedford’s Quad, this year’s priority boat, against the suspiciously-named Windsor Boys “Workman” quad. Meeting them in the final will likely either be Star Club or Great Marlow School. Bedford’s second quad, likely a scratch crew, will face The Grange School, perhaps leading to a Bedford-Bedford semi.
J16 eights at least has more crews racing, with Dulwich, Radley and Norwich joining the regular cohort of Bedford, Hampton and Abingdon. None of these crews raced at Wallingford Regatta apart from Dulwich and Radley who didn’t make the final. It will be a good indication of general positions to see how Dulwich and Radley perform against the others. No entry from the South African School’s Rowing Union in the eights, being split into 2 fours instead, means the event shouldn’t have any surprise semi-finals – there will always however be complaints about the draw in knockout racing.
J16 quads sees Bedford, GMS and Windsor racing again alongside Bedford RC, Emanuel School, Dulwich and SASRU. The South Africans are often a wildcard, with their performance fluctuating wildly every year
The J15 category is packed due to the lack of J15 categories at Nottingham City Regatta with an impressive 14 A crews racing for the B.M.S.B.C. Centenary Cup. The top 2 J15 crews from school’s head, KCS and St Pauls, have been hit by the draw and presuming no upset from St Paul’s versus Dulwich, they will meet in the quarter-finals. The fastest crew on the other side of the draw is Latymer Upper School. No entry from Hampton is surprising given that they have entered a 3rd eight and especially given their 4th at School’s Head, however I’m sure it will be welcomed by the liked of Shrewsbury and Radley, another predictably close matchup who will meet in the quarter-finals. However, Hampton may have instead decided to enter their top boat in Band 3 eights, a bold statement to make. This brutal-for-some draw will give these J15s their first experience of what it’s like to get mugged by the Henley Draw.
The women’s eights category overall isn’t as packed as the men; however, Band 1 is a bit more exciting. With 2 school crews, 3 colleges and 1 club it’s a real mixed bag, I imagine it will be Lea RC who are favourites to take home the Symonds Perpetual Challenge Cup. Last year it was SASRU who won in the final over Pembroke College. This year’s Cambridge colleges, Jesus and Emmanuel, finished 2nd and 3rd respectively at Lent Bumps so I doubt it will be an easy ride for Lea RC, and it could even become a Jesus-Emmanual final. Bedford Girl’s School have struggled to replicate the success of their boys’ counterparts, and they haven’t been treated well by the draw. Great Marlow School face Emmanuel in the first round and will be looking to step on from their performance at Wallingford Regatta last week.
The women’s college category has fewer crews than the men’s but still some outstanding talent. As mentioned above, Jesus and Emmanuel will lead the Cambridge teams alongside Pembroke, Churchill and Magdalene, who finished 7th, 11th and 29th at Lent Bumps. Alongside the 5 Cambridge colleges, Oxford have sent University College and Christ Church. Christ Church will be Jesus and Emmanuel’s biggest rivals after finishing 4th at Torpids, with University finishing 11th. The draw could again lead to a Jesus-Emmanuel final, but I imagine that a Christ Church-Emmanuel semi will be the closest race of the category.
Women’s J18 eights do not have their own category, forcing them to race in open, However the WJ18 quads looks competitive, despite being another category being hit by the Nott City Clash. King’s School Ely won this event last year and looking at the draw they won’t have a clear run to the final, probably encountering Bedford Modern School in the semi finals with Jess Read fresh from Munich. On the other side of the draw it’s Sir William Borlase who have the by straight to the semi, leaving the other place up for contention between BMS and GMS. Borlase were 1 place behind BMS’ J18 quad at the Junior Sculling Regatta, however looking at the draw the BMS top quad might be split in 2. Only the race day will tell.
Another age group without its own eights’ category, the quads don’t look too surprising. BMS came 3rd in the A final at JSR with Great Marlow and Bedford RC not entering. Their biggest competition will thus likely be SASRU, who have entered 2 quads. They might be quick, but BMS are more than quick, with a women’s squad which specialises in quads, and SASRU will have their work cut out to come on top.
WJ15Due to speed differences, WJ15 eights simply can’t race competitively in open, so they have their own heavily subscribed category with 8 entries from all around the country. Due to SHORR being cancelled we know very little about these crews, but some big names do standout. Shrewsbury’s girls programme has really stepped up in recent years so they may be a crew to watch. Putney High are demonstrating their already impressive squad depth by entering 2 eights. Lady Eleanor Holles are making waves in championship eights, and this often reflects down the age groups to the younger rowers, inspiring them and providing a goal to better. Bedford Girl’s have also entered 2 crews, and on home water with local landmark knowledge, they’ll know exactly where and when they can push for the best race plan, as well as navigating that tricky corner off the start.