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 we can't cover all of them, but here are our previews for all the Women's Championship events.
A rarely seen category now, the women’s’ lightweight eights will see a second battle between the blues, with Oxford and Cambridge lining up against eachother once more as the first event of the regatta on Saturday. The girls in dark blue took the win over Cambridge by 2.5 lengths at the Henley Boat Races last month- the question for Oxford will be whether the remainder of the field from Bristol and Exeter will put out a quicker crew. Exeter produced the U23 lightweight double last year that raced at the World Championships in Susannah Duncan and Danielle Semple, alongside coach Richard Tinkler. They’ve shown real quality in the women’s lightweight events and although their top two athletes look to be racing a double, if their depth can hold them up, they may well produce a pretty quick crew. It’s worth noting that like Exeter, Oxford and Cambridge have athletes entered into the lightweight doubles on Saturday. Depending on where these doubles rank in the squad, the result from the lightweight boat race may well be overturned come this weekend.
The championship pairs entry looks to feature a lot of quality crews. Cambridge are putting out three boats, the first of which is Pippa Whittaker who we would assume is racing with her GB trials partner Tricia Smith, where they were second in a hotly-contested C final. Meanwhile, the CUW B crew hints that it could be the young lightweight King twins. The sisters have shown a real skill in rowing together after qualifying as juniors in the women’s pairs at Henley Royal Regatta last year. The C crew looks to feature their fellow Lady Eleanor Holles school alumnus and now Cambridge first year Clare Jackson, who was in the spare pairs race this year.
Lauren Irwin and likely Helena Barton from Durham are the next on the start list off the back of a successful trials. They were 4th U23 pair at trials last year, and Lauren finished as the fastest full U23 pair alongside her Brookes partner last week. She will have hopes of making the team once more after finishing 4th at last year’s world championships in the eight. Edinburgh are showing real strength at the moment, and here they have an entry under India Somerside, who herself has an U23 world championship vest in the women’s four. Perhaps joined by one of Edinburgh’s trialists in Lydia Currie or Alex Rankin, the latter of whom was the fastest U23 sculler at trials, this pair will no doubt be quality.
Imperial’s entry we’d expect to be Daisy Bethall and Helen Kirkpatrick. Helen looks to be ICBC’s top women’s athlete this season and has made a solid start to the trialling process, albeit with some chopping and changing after a pairs partner swap at the most recent trials also brought with it a swap of sides. She will have her eyes on her first GB vest in the U23 squad this summer, and this pair should also put down a strong performance.
Issy Powell looked to pull-out of trials last minute, so could be suffering from injury, but the UL pair entered will be looking to finish near the top of this category regardless with a very strong women's squad behind them. Newcastle have two entries, the A crew under Frances Russell with her junior worlds experience back in 2016, and Millie Perrin, who stroked the Cambridge women’s reserve crew to victory in the 2018 Boat Races. Crews from Aberdeen and Nottingham make up the rest of this very strong field, which is sure to provide some brilliant close racing.
The standout entry on the lightweight women’s doubles draw has to be Danielle Semple alongside presumably Susannah Duncan of Exeter University. As bronze medallists at the U23 world championships last year in Plovdiv, they are surely the crew to beat. Fiona Chestnutt put in a good performance at trials and perhaps she will feature in one of Newcastle’s two crews in this category, where she would then face her world university games crewmate of last year in Alex Styles. Alex features in the first of three crews from Oxford Brookes, whose women’s squad are showing ever growing success after taking the women’s Victor Ludorum at BUCS last year (shared with Newcastle University). Nottingham too have shown good performances from their lightweights and we would expect them to be strong. It will be interesting to see how the doubles from Oxford and Cambridge fare in this field- while they are the only universities with dedicated clubs for lightweight rowing, there are a great deal of strong athletes here from integrated programmes.
The quads are the last championship event of day 1. The focus at university level tends to lean towards eights and the sweep boats, but the format of junior women’s rowing in the UK lends itself to producing strong women’s scullers. With only 64 athlete spots in the quads at Henley Royal Regatta for junior girls racing the Diamond Jubilee, most girls will maintain a strong focus on sculling in their junior careers (unlike the junior boys where 256 athletes can race sweep in the Princess Elizabeth, there is no girls sweep event).
Bath have produced some quality scullers in recent times at their GB start centre, while it looks like bulldog Lily Lindsay has swapped one blade for two as the listed name in Cambridge’s quad. This is an interesting entry considering her strong history in sweep, both as a student at Yale and Cambridge, but equally representing USA. She has raced at two junior worlds, medalling at the second, and gained a bronze medal last year at U23s in the eight. It will be interesting to see how she and her Boat Race winning crewmates fare in the quads.
Exeter too could put out a good crew and we would expect Reading to be another crew to beat considering their major focus on sculling and abundance of strong results behind them. Newcastle and UL have entries under the same names as some of their pairs. Racing two events on one day would be brave indeed, or it may be that there are some crew swaps expected. Nevertheless, these clubs consistently turn out quality crews and will look to be near the top of this field.
Moving onto the Sunday, the first women’s championship event of the day is the lightweight single sculls. Laura Macro is the first in a strong field representing Bath. She raced this category at the U23 european championships last summer where she finished 5th as the latest GB representative for their programme. Saskia Devereux comes from a strong family of scullers in her brothers Seb and Miles. She will represent Durham and look to build on her 5th U23 placing at trials last winter. Laura McDonald of Edinburgh won the aspirational singles at Henley Women’s last year and will be looking to put in a strong performance too, alongside Imperial’s Pippa England, Nottingham’s Lucy Gillbanks and Oxford’s Ellie Watts. Chloe Knight will be a real contender to top this event after finishing as the fastest U23 lightweight sculler at final trails.
The openweight single sculls is an equally stacked category. Cambridge’s Pippa Whittaker has commonwealth gold medals under her belt in the single and double sculls, as well as experience in Thames RC’s fantastic quad last year, so will be right up there in this event as she switches back to sculling. Lucy Glover (Edinburgh), Fiona Bell (Queen’s Belfast) and Georgie Robinson Ranger (University of London) will look to build on their racing at final trials. Georgie was the fastest at trials, finishing 6th in the B final, with Lucy and Fiona winning and finishing 5th in the C final respectively. Lucy has a wealth of international experience in medals at junior & U23 level and will have hoped to place higher amongst the U23 cohort at final trials. She will no doubt be a real contender this weekend. Helen Kirkpatrick will move from the sweep to the single, but has shown her strength as a sculler at some of the GB winter trials. Amongst the rest of the field is ex-lightweight Imogen North for Nottingham, as well as several current or previous start athletes in Bath’s Zara Mulholland and Nottingham’s Jade Lindo & Molly Johnson. Sean Olusanya of Exeter, a nominee for the Fillipi Spirit award last year, is also another recognisable name on the draw, who has proven her strength at trials in the past and as a Henley Royal qualifier.
Light blue Lou Brett has a few Boat Races behind her, and like the previous lightweight categories, we see Oxford and Cambridge fielding crews in the lightweight four. It will be interesting to see how what we’d assume to be the top halves of the lightweight boat race crews will fare. Exeter’s four races under Izzy Lingard who has experience a few years back representing GB at Coupe whilst still at Headington School in the middle of their period of immense domination. With the calibre of lightweight athletes in their squad, we’d expect Exeter to be very strong.
Sunday’s racing closes with the championship eights, often earmarked as the blue riband event. After victory at Brit Champs back in October and winners of this event last year, UL will no doubt be favourites going into this event. Continuing to look at Brit Champs results- particularly after bad weather forced the cancellation of WEHORR- Newcastle will be hot on their heels, followed by Edinburgh. Imperial and Oxford Brookes have had some good results this season and will look to build on their placings back in October. The Brookes women have some way to go before they mimic the success of their men’s squad, but seem to be growing from strength to strength. We’re now at a very different time in the season, so we may see the order of crews from Brit Champs shaken up a fair bit as crews reap the rewards of their winter training.
The final day of racing opens with the lightweight women’s pairs. As mentioned earlier, we’d expect the King twins to be the ones to beat here. No doubt brilliant athletes in their own right, it must be said that this particular pair have really shone. Wins as juniors at pairs head and Home International were a start, but qualifying in the pairs at HRR as juniors was a big statement. The rest of the field features some names we’ve seen in some of the events on Saturday and Sunday, so the way the first few days of racing pan out will be the best indicator as to how this category will organise itself, perhaps with some wiggle room amongst those with strengths in sculling over sweep.
With both a coxed and coxless four event, the medallists in each will be somewhat dependent on which universities enter their top crew in each category. The big names in the eights have crews entered in both categories (the likes of UL, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Brookes, Imperial) and here it becomes a bit of a gamble as to who enters where. With only one name, it’s not enough to go on to say who will be the frontrunners in either category. UL will likely field two quick fours from their eight lineup, with top performers at final trials in Nuala Gannon as the fastest U23 and Oonagh Cousins. That said, the fours are a good opportunity for the smaller squads from Bristol, Durham and Nottingham to really shine where they might not have the depth to challenge the very top end in the eights. With any luck, they’ll shake things up and push the big championship eight crews out of the spotlight.
We should see some of the multiple entries in the lightweight doubles coming together in the quad on Monday. It could be a battle between Exeter and Brookes, as it looks like the former have the edge of some real strength at the top end, while Brookes might have better depth behind them to field a rapid quad. Any of the other entries shouldn’t be discounted either, with our money on Oxford or Newcastle also putting out a nippy crew.
The final event of this year’s BUCS regatta will be the women’s championship doubles. A quick skim of the draw reveals a lot of names we’ve seen entered in lightweight events who could well challenge the best of the openweight scullers, some of whom look to be in sweep events on the Monday regardless. Rosalind Wilson of UL has shown herself as a strong sculler with a junior worlds vest and previous results at trials and is entered in a double here, perhaps to be joined by UL’s top young sculler at the moment Georgie Robinson Ranger in what could be a quick crew. The crews from Edinburgh, Nottingham, Brookes and Reading should be up there, perhaps with Bath or Exeter sneaking in there.