This year Fours Head has introduced a banding system based on BROE2 points (your crews CRI if made up of each rower's PRI, personal ranking index, which indicated what they've won in the past and how recently), and this means that a lot of the events are now split over two bands rather than having all crews in one band. This is likely to lead to some tighter racing as crews are theoretically banded with other crews of a similar standard. Its important to note as well due to heavy rainfall the tideway has been on a yellow flag with a very strong ebb stream (now thankfully back to a green flag) forecasted for Saturday so it is likely that it will be considerably more challenging than usual, especially for the coxless crews.
This event is dominated by Reading University with 3 Reading University Crews, 2 Nottingham University Crews, a crew from Bath University and a crew from St Andrews, all universities with top women's programmes. Based on the CRI points, Reading University R is starting of first with another Reading Crew following them. Comprised of Kate Lyster, Chloe Knight, Lucy Ryan and Rachael Heap, they share between them a lot of EUSA medals and plenty of GB lycras. Reading University won this event last year so it will be interesting to see how the three crews now compete in the more competitive banding and strong stream, especially considering that during the November Trials they placed first in both the Womens Lightweight single and the Womens single. Nottingham placed 3rd in this event at Nottingham Autumn Head, so they’re having a good start to the season. Bath University has also been looking strong at the beginning of this season, likewise with St Andrews chasing the pack. Overall I think we’re going to be seeing some really competitive racing between these crews.
The Academic Women's Coxed Fours event is split into Band 1 and Band 2, with seven and nineteen crews respectively. Band 1 consists of four crews from CUWBC, two from OUWBC and one from St Andrews University BC.
CUWBC have four crews entered in this event, alongside three coxless fours. It will be interesting to see whether the quality we expect from Cambridge is evident across all seven of these crews. Going off first, and then every alternate crew subsequently gives them an advantage- they will be leading the pack in tough conditions, and in among the mix for the rest of the crews.
The OUWBC crews have three returners from last year’s Blue Boat in Dodds, Koolschijn and Christmann, meaning they have experience of the Tideway and the many twists, turns and pressures it can throw up on race day. Their training at Wallingford over the last few weeks in varying levels of flooding will also have prepared them well for this weekend, with winds and a strong stream forecasted. However, the entry list appears to show their second crew only has three rowers! We will have to wait until Saturday to find out who their mystery four rower is, or whether they really are racing a triple.
The only non-Boat Race club to make it into Band 1 is St Andrews. Despite being a small club and this an as-yet unknown combination, it is good to see them racing here. The crew contains BUCS gold medallists Giddy and Theos, so this should be a fast and experienced crew, hot on the heels of the CUWBC Crew before them.
Band 2 has nineteen crews entered, however eight of them have been scratched. This leaves eleven crews: a second crew from St Andrews, two from York, two from OUWLRC, two from Liverpool, and one from each of Bath, Nottingham, Imperial and Wolfson College Oxford. With a variety of CRI points, suggesting varying levels of racing experience, this category is really wide open, with any number of crews in a good position to take the win. It all rests on how relaxed and focussed they can stay on race day, as well as the all important steering job for the coxes in Saturday’s stream.
There are eleven Academic Women’s 4- racing, with six in band 1 and five in band 2. Coxless fours are the most vulnerable of all boat types racing in the stream tomorrow, so this will be a test of their boat skills and steering, as well as their speed, even more so than any other boats.
First off is CUWBC, in a crew containing two of last year’s victorious Blue Boat including this year’s president Larkin Sayre. The first Edinburgh University crew contains Lydia Currie and Alex Rankin of the HWR-winning crew in this boat type, and so will have depth and speed and a significant level of experience to deal with the conditions and will be looking to emulate that same success even at this early stage in the season. Edinburgh also have a second crew in band 1 and a band 2 entered, and Glasgow University complete the Scottish contingent with a band 2 crew. Imperial college are staring high up the event due their high CRI points, and the home advantage should help them along the gruelling 6.8k.
Local rivals Nottingham and Nottingham Trent Universities will no longer be facing off due to Nottingham Trent Scratching, but even so Nottingham should still be in a good position with an experienced crew leading band 2. York and a second CUWBC crew make up the remainder of band 2, and it should be interesting to see how they do against other clubs here and against their teammates in the coxed fours.