This is the first year in the new location for BUCS 4s and 8s Head, Gloucester, having previously been on the Tyne in Newcastle. This should provide a shake up to the competition after the last few years, and so it will be exciting to see which crews emerge at the top in the new set up. Just like the women, there are 4 Men’s Championship events where medals and BUCS points are available, and they are the coxed fours, coxless fours, eights and quads. There are also two lightweight Championship events, coxless fours and quads.
The premier category of racing, this year’s entry features all the usual suspects, with the differences from last year’s draw being that Bath have opted to drop to the intermediate category, and Glasgow have not entered any crews into the event. What is notable is that Imperial have made the decision to enter 2 eights into the category rather than look for a win in Intermediate, likely to capitalise on the BUCS points only available in the champ categories. After their overall win at Quintin Head Imperial will be looking to win this category, comfortably dealing with the matched UL crews, and will face tough competition from Newcastle (who comfortably beat Edinburgh and UL to win Rutherford Head), Durham and Edinburgh. Bringing up the back end of this category will see some close times between Bristol and Nottingham as always, with Exeter’s up-and-coming programme looking to close this gap quickly. Last year it was UL 1st, Edinburgh 2nd and Imperial 3rd, but with UL yet to show some ground-breaking speed and Imperial's Quintin win, it could be completely different this year.
Only 7 crews have entered this category with the timings allowing this event to be a warm-up to the championship 8’s next division. Mostly the same as champ 8 with the absence of Bristol and Nottingham, Imperial will be wanting to capitalise on last years coxed four success in the Prince Albert at Henley with again 2 crews entered, on top of a fast time at Fours Head. However, I imagine that the programmes lacking Imperial’s depth will be far more competitive here than in the 8’s. As Edinburgh haven’t raced at Wallingford, Fours Head or Quintin they are always more of an unknown, but given their Brit Champs Victor Ludorum, their squad depth and ability to perform well in multiple categories will play into some probable success here.
Once again, the repeat offenders of Durham, Edinburgh, UL and Newcastle will be looking to capitalise on the size of their programmes and win some BUCS points by coming within the top 4. Nottingham have likely split their champ 8 in two for this event and will be fighting Bristol and Newcastle B closely, not having the results to justify fighting for BUCS points. Surrey have also opted to enter this category, going for BUCS points where they can, and will surprise those who don’t know them. Training out of Molesey Boat Club they qualified a development 8 into the Temple last year, something established boat clubs still struggle to enter their top boats into and have produced some outstanding GB athletes in recent years. The dark horse among some rowing giants, they will most certainly surprise some crews with their speed.
When talking about university rowing, the word “quad” is usually closely followed by “Reading”, and with good reason. With the boat club opting to focus almost entirely on their sculling, they qualified 4 crews into the Prince of Wales last year, and comfortably win most quad events they enter. While they will look for a comfortable win, they haven’t entered a B crew, possibly sacrificing some all-important BUCS points in the process. Like Reading, Hartpury also have a strong sculling focus, and on their home waters the university will undoubtedly have the best racing line, making them even more threatening. UWE have also made the jump up to Championship and, with a strong programme chasing their varsity rivals Bristol, could be dangerous. Not enough to faze Reading though as their focus will be on Edinburgh and keeping them at bay, with Edinburgh having athletes in 2 separate finals at Henley last year.
Lightweight 4x and 4-
The lightweight scene often closely mirrors the openweight scene but there are some universities who pride themselves on their lightweight programmes. Two of these are Nottingham and Newcastle. Last year at BUCS regatta Newcastle won the premier lightweight event, Championship Quads, relatively comfortably for such a tight event, and had their B crew finish 5th in that same event. This weekend they have entered 2 fours instead of quads but will be hoping for a similar result. Nottingham also advertise their lightweight programme, medalling in 5 lightweight events at BUCS regatta last year. They’ve entered 4 lightweight crews in total this weekend and will be eagerly searching for some podium results. In a more surprising entry Oxford University have entered a lightweight quad and four, likely some competitive work for their spare Boat Race four, and while absent from most racing this year could easily surpass some smaller university programmes.