The Open Club 4+ category is comprised of three bands at Fours Head and is a huge category with a staggering 51 entries this year. Band 1 comprises of 12 entries, and the predictions for the winners could potentially seem quite obvious given the Brookes 4+ being made of the boys from the GB squad, who all finished in the top 10 at November trials earlier this month. Also, with Harry Brightmore coxing, with multiple wins at HORR and within private fixtures against Oxbridge pre-boat race under his belt, he is clearly someone who knows what it takes to win and how to steer a perfect line on the Tideway while doing it. Therefore, a more exciting question that lies here regards the margin of the win and the identity of second place. The race for second place will be something to watch with Molesey’s top 4+ consisting of athletes from the win in the Brit at Henley this year, and Quintin BC fighting to retain the win from last year. Would also be interesting to see if they put some pressure down on the Brookes boys and reduce the margin between them. Both the Thames Rowing Club fours have huge CRI values indicating that there will be a real tussle amongst the greats of club rowing in this event.
In band 2 with 14 entries, the top spot is fair game, with Minerva Bath RC who will be back with a vengeance to claim the top spot after coming second last year to Stratford Upon Avon who are not competing this year. But with crews like Molesey and Vesta in the mix, it will not be an easy fight. Also, Leeds RC who obtained third place last year will be hungry to prove themselves and get one back over Minerva with only 2 seconds between the crews last year.
Band 3 is the largest of all three with 25 entries, so the competition is huge. Last year’s winners Warwick BC will be on an adrenaline rush to retain their spot, especially since Nottingham RC who were just under 2 seconds behind them in second place are racing a division up this year. But with so many crews in this division you can never really tell what will happen, but it will be incredibly exciting to see if any unexpected underdogs take the win.
Another race, another visit from the “bois”. The first boat down the course with number 1 on their bow is the GB U23 Quad which won gold at world championships in Sarasota for the second year running, and picked up the Prince of Wales at Henley along the way. Kieran Clark’s golden boys are coming into this event as the fastest crew out of all the entries, and without any Leander pink to compete against, their biggest challenge will come from the Swiss Rowing Federation. Of course, the swiss will be no pushover. Big names like Barnabe Delarze and Roman Röösli have just secured Olympic qualification in the double. Andri Struzina was in last year’s quad and just missed his Olympic qualification in the lightweight double, and young Jan Schaeuble, only 19, is back from a bronze at U23 worlds and a B final at World Champs. The Swiss will be undeniably speedy, but will they match the experience and home-water advantage of the GB quad? There are 2 more standout crews in band 1 – Edinburgh University, and another Composite. The Edinburgh crew is consisted of some of the finest scullers to grace Scotland. A lightweight crew, James Temple, Matt Curtis, Dale Flockhart and Jack Burns will no doubt carry forward Edinburgh’s tradition of exceptional sculling, and will push all the crews to the very limit.
The final standout quad is a rather interesting composite from Leeds University, Twickenham Rowing Club, Agecroft Rowing Club, and Reading Rowing Club. The most recognisable name to grace this combination is everybody’s favourite Diamonds Sculler Matt Brigham, who famously bested Mahe Drysdale in one of the most spectacular races of the regatta. Alongside him are fellow GB Start Athletes like Twickenham’s Oli Quitmann. Being primarily a GB Start crew, these guys will have the strength and drive to perform well, but their shorter rowing careers may show when placed against some of the more experienced field. The rest of Band 1 are mostly local crews like Putney Town and Team Keane, who shouldn’t trouble the 4 leaders of this group too much. Band 2 has a great mixture of crews from Cambridge to Durham to Bristol, and I can see the Nottingham RC/Twickenham composite, another younger GB Start crew, leading this band, followed closely by Agecroft. Given the low CRI of the composite crew, this will likely have little Tideway racing experience, and compared to the older crews from clubs like London Rowing Club, it’ll be interesting to see if they’ll manage to hang on in front.