The Fours Head is the first opportunity for crews to race down the full Championship Course and for many crews, this will be the main race for them this side of the Christmas break, in the wake of disruptive flooding across the midlands. The men’s Academic events see quads and both coxed and coxless fours racing in London, with many of the big names coming out. One of the biggest things that comes out of this race is it is the first and only time Oxford and Cambridge will race head to head before the Boat Race. All this should lead to some good racing this weekend.
The dominant name on the entry list for the men’s quads is Reading University BC. This is a specialist sculling centre and as such it is not altogether surprising to see they have four crews in this category. The top crew is entered under the name of Rory Harris and could arguably be racing in the open quads event. Reading took their top crew out to the Head of the Charles to race in the Champ 2x event, where they took 2nd and 9th places, with George Lawton and Rory Harris as the fastest university crew. Back on home soil, Reading demonstrated the depth of their squad at Upper Thames Autumn Head, where their non trialist athletes took a 1-2 in B1 4x and 2nd in B2 4x. This should bode well for all the Reading crews this weekend as they take on the Tideway. Another club with multiple crews in this category is Nottingham University. They have already had an early season camp in Temple Sur Lot and raced on home water at Nottingham Autumn Head recently where both quads won their individual categories. Other notable entries come from Gloucester Hartpury who are stroked by an England representative from Home Internationals, and they always produce tidy crews. Bath and Birmingham Universities make up the rest of the draw. Whilst I doubt anyone will challenge the top Reading boat, it will be interesting to see how the other crew stack up behind them.
This event is stacked to say the least, with the entries dominated by 3 clubs. These clubs are Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial College London. Both Oxford and Cambridge seem to have put their top athletes in the 4+ event, with both looking to get one over on the other in their first match up of the season. Oxford haven’t done a lot of racing this season but have been working at Caversham to get on the water and have a core of returning athletes for this year, all with the motivation of stopping the Cambridge resurgence of previous years. Cambridge also have a strong returning group this year and boated 2 8+s at the Head of the Charles, where they did reasonably well finishing 10th and 21st in Championship Eights. This bodes well for Cambridge, and it will be interesting to see how the two clubs match up at this stage of the year. The last of the 3 main players in the event, Imperial College have two crews, and both will be well suited to the river, being a Tideway based crew. These crews will doubtless be strong as Imperial look to put themselves on the Map for the season looking towards the BUCS events in the new year. 2 Scottish crews, from Edinburgh and St Andrews complete what will be a very interesting category to keep an eye on.
There is a wide range of clubs who have entered this event, and there should be some exciting races. Oxford and Cambridge again have crews here, racing under the Isis and Goldie names respectively. It will be interesting to see how these crews compare as it will give a clearer idea as to the depth that both squads have. Again, Nottingham have a crew here, who seem to have form, as a Nottingham 4- won their category and finishing 3rd overall at Nottingham Head. Other notable names on the draw include Oxford Lightweights, who will be looking for the experience on the Tideway, and two crews from Imperial College will want to get amongst the aforementioned. Edinburgh have also elected to make the long trip down to London with several crews. Their top ranked athletes are racing in the quad in Op 4x, but nevertheless, this should be a good crew, who won’t have been affected as much by the recent weather and able to get time in the boat, which has been at a premium for many clubs of late. There is a big spectrum of clubs here and I would expect to see one of the established clubs to win, it will be good to see how the rest of the results pan out on Saturday.