The Fawley Challenge Cup is the biggest event of the year for all Junior Scullers; clubs can compete in this event too, thereby further increasing the diversity of the crews entered and thus the bragging rights. The best 24 crews have already been filtered following a heated round of qualifying time trials last Friday. Be braced for some scintillating duels this year!
Racing on their home stretch, Leander A and Henley RC A will be the two favourites for this event. Henley A won the Championship Quads at NSR this year, with Leander A trailing them by just over a second, claiming silver. These two crews, despite being entered in different events, showed real pace at Marlow Regatta. There is little separating these two crews, and it can go either way: one thing is clear, Henley A and Leander A are certain to be firm favourites with the supporters on the banks. Both Leander and Henley have more than one quad entered, Leander with two and Henley with three crews racing. Despite being the club’s second or third fastest boats entered, these crews still have the calibre to progress beyond Wednesday.
There are two crews from Oceania racing at Fawley. Scotch College have a quad racing (as well as their PE eight this year at HRR, with their top boat being the eight), but as Scotch rarely scull beyond Year 8, this quad is very much an unknown entity. Despite this, Scotch wouldn’t have made the effort in entering a quad unless they thought they have the ability to progress in the event, but it is hard to gauge whether these athletes are strong, doubling up or just there to gain experience. They come up against Sir William Borlase in the first round on Wednesday, who have since gained speed after missing out on the semi finals at NSR behind crews who they have since beaten to qualify here. St Peter’s from New Zealand have shown promise since training in the UK, with wins in two events at Reading Town Regatta. St Peter’s will have the advantage over their Day 1 opponents, St Pauls, with the Paulines only recently forming the quad with the next best four athletes who aren’t in the PE boat. St Peter’s should have the capability to progress to the next day, but it should be a close contest.
Tideway Scullers have three crews racing in the Fawley, their A crew should progress into Day 2 beating Star Club: Scullers A were B finalists at NSR, and A finalists at Marlow Regatta. They should at least progress into Day 2, but will find it tough making it beyond the second round. Scullers B and C both have tough races on Day 1, but qualifying is still an enviable achievement. It is highly unlikely these crews will make it beyond the first day, as they face on form crews Walton and Bedford respectively.
Lea RC has had a strong season this year as, despite crabbing, this crew placed 4th in the A final of NSR and showed pace at Marlow. This crew should have a strong run, a run (if no more crabs occur) that should see them make the weekend.
Despite lagging behind the likes of Windsor Boys and Maidenhead in recent years, Claires Court have shown enough speed to convince the Stewards that they are quick enough to earn a bye and miss Day 1, but will face tough opposition on Thursday. This crew will be itching to put Claires Court back on the map and restore their glory.
Frankfurter from Germany and Christiania Roklub from Norway have travelled abroad to compete this year, it will be great to see these crews take it to the British crews. Frankfurter will have a tough race against the GB Start rowers from Gloucester Hartpury, it will be tough to call who will progress in this gladiatorial duel. On the other hand, Christiania Roklub should have an easier race against Chester-Le-Street and should be favourites to progress.
The ‘watt farmers’ from Walton did well to make the A final at NSR, but will be hard pressed to beat Henley B, who had a much quicker time in their 2nd 4x final. Bedford School this year made the bold decision to make their top boat a quad, despite not making the A final this year, they should have the ability to progress beyond Day 1. Also worth a mention are Hinksey Sculling School, who have qualified the club’s first ever crew for Henley Royal Regatta with these boys, so we can expect them to be fresh and fast as they come up against Clydesdale ARC on Wednesday.