This weekend Nottingham is graced by the largest student regatta in Europe, as BUCS Regatta descends on the course for 3 days of intense multi-lane racing. An incredible 49 categories of racing means that we can't cover them all (we're only human!), but here are our previews for all the Men's Championship events.
The first men’s championship event of the regatta is the lightweight single sculls. Coming into the event, it’s looking like an Edinburgh 1-2 as both Gavin Horsburgh and Dale Flockhart are racing. Gavin is the only representative of the LM1x A final from senior and U23 trials racing after finishing fourth there, and with no results from last year’s racing to work off, a strong first BUCS in this category will add to his already strong medal collection. Let’s hope his Edinburgh training has paid off after last racing at BUCS in 2016 with Heriot Watt University. Dale, also from Edinburgh, won lightweight doubles with James Temple (who is ALSO racing in this category), and finished third in this event at BUCS last year. On top of comfortably winning the B final at senior trials in this category, him and Gavin shouldn’t face much opposition. Tom Smith from Imperial College could prove a challenge, right at Flockhart’s heels coming 2nd in the same final at trials, and with A Final returners from last year, Sebastien Tyrie of Exeter and Miles Taylor of Queen’s Belfast, an entirely light blue podium is not looking likely.
One of the most exciting events of the entire regatta, some of the best sculling in the country is on show in this event. Last year’s winner Josh Armstrong from, you guessed it, Edinburgh, is returning to hold onto his crown from the past 2 years and keep his BUCS at a 100% win level. Hot on his tail will be the one, the only, the people’s champion, Dave Bell. Dave finished an excruciating 3rd in this event last year, but will boat race training with Cambridge and time out of a single mean he’s lost his touch, or will the people’s champion become BUCS champion…we can only eagerly wait and see. Both Sam McKeown and George Bourne from Queen’s Belfast and Durham respectively were in last year’s A final and will be desperate for a medal. The B final at Senior Trials was Armstrong 1st, McKeown 2nd and Bourne 3rd with 5 seconds separating the 3, so this will be a grudge match for McKeown and Bourne and a chance to hit back. George Lawton from Reading made it to the C Final at trials but did not start, leaving him as a wildcard of sorts. However well the rest of the field performs, all eyes will be on Armstrong for his hat-trick performance.
Lightweight Coxless Four
The 2 universities leading the field of lightweight fours must be Newcastle and Nottingham. Consistently medalling in this event year on year, their lightweight programmes have regularly beat away the Cambridge and Oxford fours entered in the event, and it’s almost a certainty that they will medal. Both crews have stellar athletes such as James Stephenson, 3rd in the B final of LM1x at recent trials, for Newcastle, as both clubs draw in lightweights from all around the country. While the category may be dying off in international racing, the competition certainly isn’t. While Cambridge and Oxford will undoubtedly field some of their athletes from the lightweight boat races, up-and-coming clubs like UWE and Surrey will challenge more than those other unis will expect. Surrey has Fawley winner Sam Bodkin and other top talents, and masked by their universities’ lesser rowing renown they might just sneak into that bronze medal position, if not higher. The standard and form of the lightweight four is always incredible (much like their rate) and I would highly recommend watching this event.
The big one. All to play for, the championship 8 final is the regatta’s premier event. And when university eights are mentioned, the name that instantly springs to mind is Oxford Brookes. However, Brookes cannot field their top boat at BUCS due to the rules about competitors fully attending the university, meaning that a significant portion of their athletes, including from the 1V, aren’t eligible to race. Therefore, their top crew at the weekend will not be their 1V from the head season and going into the regatta season. Regardless, their 2 championship and 4 intermediate eights will still dominate the field amongst some of the biggest names in university rowing. Their 2 biggest rivals are the tideway-based crews of Imperial College London and the University of London. Imperial are hot off their PA success last year, and after losing Alex Ball to Leander Club they still have the experience of athletes like Caspar Woods, mixed with fresh talent like Max Ridgewell from last year’s Eton 1V. UL also has incoming fresh talent like Isaac Workman from last year’s Windsor Boy’s quad, and will be looking to move up from the previous two year’s silver medals. Cambridge have also entered an eight, but for you hopefuls out there, it won’t be the blue boat. Newcastle and Edinburgh don’t specialise in eights, but with both having vast pools of top athletes, quick crews are standard. With Edinburgh letting its top athletes in their small boats, I imagine that Newcastle will have the edge here.
The men’s championship first event on Sunday’s programme is the Lightweight eight category. A very rarely seen event in this country, this will be the premier lightweight category with some big names involved. Newcastle will be wanting to hold onto their gold medal in this event, likely merging two of their lightweight fours from Saturday to form their top boat, but the fact that they have entered 2 eights in this category shows the depth their lightweight programme has. Oxford University have also brought all their lightweights back to produce 2 eights also. Last year they were a good 10 seconds off Newcastle, but with a comfortable success over Cambridge in the Lightweight Boat Races they’ll cut that margin down easily. Cambridge have also entered their lightweight 8, and they will be out with a vengeance to take some Oxford scalps. UL has entered a lightweight 8 for the first time in 5 years, after winning the event in 2012, 2013 and 2014. A strong resurgence from them could knock even Newcastle off their lightweight throne.
Championship doubles being the day after the singles means that we can expect a lot of the same athletes from Saturday racing again. Reading’s George Lawson and his partner will want to retain their title, but I’m sure that the Edinburgh double will have something to say about that. An interesting entry comes from De Montford University in Leicester. Their double of Dave Potter and Alexander Adrienne were the fastest non-qualifying double at Henley Royal Regatta last year, and kitted out in their cobra, and with a year’s racing together under their belt, they could be a very dangerous prospect for most of the field to face.
With 3 times the entries than the openweight double, the lightweights are clearly using every chance they can to get racing. Again, I Imagine that the lightweight singles will make up a lot of the medals here, with the Edinburgh top double being the crew to beat. Surrey’s double of George Glenister and presumably Sam Bodkin will be a vicious prospect to other young crews racing. Newcastle have flooded entries with 4 crews, and with other top universities like Glasgow, Nottingham and Bristol involved, the semi-finals will be close and desperate races in order to secure those precious A-final places.
Openweight Coxless Four
Brookes aren’t known for their performances outside of eights, partially because they are rarely seen not in one, but the 2 Brookes fours in this category will be looking for a win, albeit in a tighter field than the eights. UL will want to keep last year’s gold medal position in their ownership, however after the cancellation of this category at BUCS Head, it’s hard to know where this crew stands. Imperial College look to be fielding a top 4-, and after their Prince Albert success last year, it’s almost a guarantee that this boat will be rapid. Durham were second in this event last year, and in their programme, which doesn’t seem to have prioritised an eight this year, this boat might just be their trump card.
Openweight Coxed Fours
Coxed fours are always a great race as they provide a top indication of who’s in contention for the PA this year. Brookes have again entered, their boat stroked by U23 silver medallist Sam Nunn. Cambridge have thrown a four together with Dave Bell switching from his sculling the day before. Bath and Exeter have both progressed rapidly in the past few years, expanding their squad sizes and sending more athletes to EUSA and GB Trials than ever before. They won’t be prying for medals, but don’t expect it to be these two likely top crews at the bottom of the rankings.
Monday opens up the men’s championship events with the lightweight quads. In a category heavily populated with some smaller names in rowing, there are many opportunities for smaller programmes to slide in – last year saw Nottingham Trent, Exeter and Bath make the A Final. This year however looks a bit more predictable. The sculling giants of Edinburgh and Reading have both fielded undoubtedly quick boats, with lightweight giants Newcastle and Nottingham fielding 3 boats together. Surrey’s lightweights, like in the double, could be a real force here. UL continue their expedition into lightweight events with a quad also, and Henry Smith from Oxford’s lightweight 8 will stroke their quad to get up and compete with the rest.
The lightweight pair, one of the most technically impressive races in the programme, has 15 entries, most of which I imagine are coming from lightweight 4’s the day before. While we see the same universities come up in almost every event, it’s nice to see a programme like Bournemouth entered, who usually spend their time around the middle of intermediate eights. Cambridge and Oxford have also put in entries, although if these are from their boat race squads or from their colleges is unknown.
The men’s pairs showcases some of the finest sweeping talent in the country, with many of the names here straight out of U23 trials. The Newcastle pair of Will Stewart and Cormac Molloy came 5th in the B final at trials in an event dominated by clubs. Caspar Woods of Imperial and Oscar Lindsay of Durham have been split up from their trials pair and are back to their own boat clubs, and neither will want to appear to have been the slower man in that pair. Thomas Strudwick and Jonty Page of Goldie makeup the last of the pairs who made an appearance at trials, representing Cambridge. With last year’s winners Alastair Douglas and George Stewart of Surrey not racing, all eyes are on Lindsay and his partner to step up from silver to gold.