Bedford Regatta Draw

Bedford Regatta takes part this weekend over a 1200m course, making it the largest single day river regatta in the UK. Crews come from all of the country to race. With only weeks to go before the prestigious National Schools Regatta, Bedford is an event where we can take a look at the crews to watch for the weekend at Dorney. With a tight starting bend and unforgiving concrete banks, this is a course that is short and savage to unknowledgable coxes and steersmen.

Open Eights
Bedford Regatta has chosen to adopt the new system for British Rowing, having four bands for Open Eights this year. Band One is dominated by junior crews from Shrewsbury and Radley, alongside Abingdon, Bedford and Bedford Modern. The information we are given on these crews are very limited at this event, leaving much information to be desired , however with crews such as Abingdon in the mix, Bedford School will have to use their home water, and every trick in the book to hold on to these Championship level crews. Radley have entered their 2nd 8 and J16 8 into this category, leaving their 1st 8 to race in J18. This event could be one to watch for possible National Schools medalists.

J18 Eights
This regatta allows doubling up, with lots of Open 8s, making their way down into this category as well, such as Radley’s ‘Innes-Ker’ crew, who raced in the Radley 1st 8 at Henley Royal in 2017 and the Coupe 4+ in the summer, I would be expecting the Radley top 8 to make an appearance here. Alongside crews such as Abingdon, who recently won Junior Schools 8+ at Wallingford, beating Radley by only 3 seconds, this event could be very close to call. Other crews such as Great Marlow, with a prominent result in the final of Wallingford last weekend, and King’s Wimbledon, making the large step up to the Champ 8 level this year, are also entered into this category, and with the tight right hand bend off the start, and the “Henley” esq feeling into the Enclosures, I will expect the prominent Schools’ Head contenders to do well here.

J16 Eights
Lacking contenders such as Abingdon and St Pauls in this event leaves the pack open for a bit more competition. With schools such as Norwich showing their faces again, last seen winning a bronze medal at JIRR, and Shiplake College, who we have yet to see race at a big regatta this season, the competition for the RF Goblet will be fierce. Windsor Boys, notably a sculling focused school have been pulling out very strong J16 8s this year, following, including a very impressive performance this weekend at Wallingford. With 2 eights entered from WBS, the depth of the programme will be tested thoroughly. With the death of 1st 8 at this age-level, all these crews are racing J16 Champ 8 at NSR this year, and will be wanting to see where they sit in the pack for the next 3 intense weeks of public exams and training.

J15 Eights

The J15 Eights category will be interesting this year, after strong results from BASHER and Wallingford; Hampton School, Abingdon School, Shiplake College and St. Paul’s School seem to be the main contenders for tankards at the regatta this year, with crews, such as, Eton College, Radley College and Kings College School not performing to their usual standard, after disappointing results for Eton and Radley at SHORR and then BASHER, they don’t seem like contenders for Bedford this time around, but could surprise us after some hard spring training. KCS will be facing tough opposition in their first race against St. Paul’s school to progress this Saturday, although winning seems unlikely after failing to qualify for the final at Wallingford, finishing third in their heat. Racing, for the J15 first eights, will start this weekend with Royal Shrewsbury School against Shiplake college, although it promises to be a close race, Shiplake may just have the edge after finishing 5that Wallingford in a very close final. They will then face the winners of Eton College vs. Bedford Modern School in race 67, which after results at Basher puts Eton as favourites, but Hampton School will have a by into the second round, going against the winner of St. Paul’s School and KCS, this will be one to watch as the two crews have been very tight over the last 2 years, with St. Paul’s winning National Schools in the J14 Octuples category, but then Hampton coming back to beat them at Marlow a few weeks later, this race will also be a repeat of the final at Bedford last year in the J14 category, with St. Paul’s winning by just over a quarter of a length. With Hampton’s depth, putting out 5 eights at SHORR and St. Paul’s senior success, emphasising their strong programme this promises to be a great race. 

St. Paul’s and Abingdon tend to be quick off the start, while Hampton and Shiplake tend to row through the opposing crew in the latter stages of the race. It will be interesting to see how this works over a shorter race such as Bedford, and the two crews will have needed to do some work on their first kilometre or so to be competitive against the faster moving boats. Hampton and St. Paul’s are also entering a 1st 4 into the regatta, whether this could affect their performance in the eights will depend on the timings, but there’s no doubt that recovery between races and nutrition will be a vital part of the day.

With Abingdon being favourites on their side of the draw, it seems likely that they will make it into the final stages of the regatta, however, crews such as Kings Chester cannot be underestimated. On the other side of the draw it seems it could be pretty close between Shiplake, St. Paul’s and Hampton, nevertheless, KCS and Royal Shrewsbury could find themselves moving through the stages of the day. The whole category will, no doubt, be an impressive show of Junior 15 rowing and will present some great competition however the day pans out.

In the J15 2nd 8+ category there is no exception in competition with all schools who make up BASHER (Bedford, Abingdon, St Paul's, Hampton, Eton, Radley) having a crew entered. Besides these crews, a SHoRR winning crew in King's College Wimbledon are entered, but after a disappointing result at Wallingford finishing 12 seconds behind Hampton's 2nd 8, it will be interesting to see what they can do this weekend. Hampton's 2nd 8+ are an obvious favourite for this race after a 2nd at SHoRR and a 2nd place finish at Wallingford behind Monmouth's A crew who entered the B category. However they are by no means clear favourites, as at SHoRR Abingdon were less than 2 seconds behind them at SHoRR, and some promising races at Basher suggests this crew are definite medal contenders at NSR. Bedford School have a decent 8 but a relatively disappointing SHoRR saw them 7 seconds behind Hampton's J15 3rd 8 who are entered into the C category at Bedford and are favourites for that race in my eyes. Plaudits must also go to the coaching team at Hampton who fielded 5 J15 eights at SHoRR which is a remarkable effort. St Paul's lack of speed at SHoRR was also evident, but it will see if the boys of Bobby Thatcher's programme can replicate the success that their Championship 8+ is experiencing. 
The boys in pink from Abingdon and Hampton both have the capability to make the final, but what makes this category more exciting to the spectator is that these crews can only match up in the final as they are on opposites of the draw. That being said Abingdon will have a tough day racing Open Eights (Band 4) simultaneously while racing in this event. Meanwhile Hampton have entered into Fours and Quadruple Sculls respectively, which highlights the importance of recovery and rest between the 1.2km races, as these athletes will be pushing their bodies very hard throughout the tough day of races. 
Saying, that Hampton will have to beat KCS Wimbledon and St Paul's two prominent programmes in schoolboy rowing at the moment and Abingdon will have to race the likes of Shiplake, Kings School Chester and Bedford which is no easy task for either crew.
Wherever you are this Saturday I would definitely be tuning into find the results of the McArthur Cup at Bedford, as it will show the summer speed that crews have built up as well as providing crucial information about who could potentially win the Bluefriars Cup at National Schools Regatta on the 26th May 2018.
J15 Coxed Quads 

In the J15 Coxed Quadruple Sculls at Bedford Regatta, there are only 4 crews entered meaning that the crews who make the final will only have to win one race to get there. Sculling specialists who have recently fielded quite a few eights at races, Windsor Boys have entered what seems like a top quad which would be the pundits obvious choice. Kingston Grammar School have entered a sole quad, which also equates to their top quad, with Hampton filling up the other two entries. Hampton who are most famous for producing the Searle brothers are predominantly a sweep rowing school, however, this year group wiped out all the octuple medals at the Scullery in 2017 as J14s, which shows they will be of a respectable pedigree.

Kingston Grammar boat club decided to cut the sweep programme for this year group, so they have therefore have spent much more time in quads than Hampton have which could give them the upper hand against Hampton in their semi-final. Windsor and KGS have only entered a Quad at J15 whereas Hampton have opted to race eights as well, which definitely disadvantages Hampton due to fatigue.

Although Hamptons powerful performances in both the 1st and 2nd 8+ at Wallingford could transfer to some fierce and ferocious racing in Quads. My prediction is that the sculler factory of Windsor Boys School which has produced the likes of Bryn Ellery who has just returned from Munich will win the Talbot Jarvis Cup due to their experience and expertise in racing fast Quads .