Well, it's happened again. This weekend has seen every single race in the country cancelled due to the incoming Storm Dennis. The list includes:
- Greenwich Head of the River
- Worcester Head
- Henley 4's and 8's Head
- Trafford Head
- Tyne Head
- Hammersmith Head
- Welsh Rowing Small Boats Head
- Molesey Head Races
- GBRT Sen/U23 Trials
Hammersmith Head is the last open event to run on the Championship Course ahead of the Head of the River races in just over a month's time. Not only is this highly frustrating for our writing team, but this has now placed a lot of pressure on many junior crews due to the huge advantages we see from crews familiar with the Tideway. While Quintin is often filled with matched crews, Hammersmith acts as the ideal "dress rehearsal" for SHORR. So to edit our previews, we'll discuss what this change now means for the crews hoping to race at Hammersmith Head.
The J18 category had 17 entries split up into Division A and Division B with the most notable names missing being Abingdon and Shrewsbury, both of whom are yet to make their mark on the Tideway this year alongside Hampton, who have not entered a crew despite their strong showing at Quintin. Shrewsbury have likely been struggling with the severe flooding on the River Severn before Christmas, which has struck again this week. While it's likely that the coaches of these schools will try and organise fixtures and training sessions on the Tideway to get at least some experience, it's not looking promising. Abingdon especially will struggle, as you may remember their absence from SHORR last year due to trailer difficulties.
St Paul's had yet again deviated from the J18 categories and entered their 1st VIII into Championship Eights to battle it out against the likes of UL and Imperial , however they have also entered two eights into the J18 category hoping to replicate Shiplake’s three boat takeover of Quintin. With their second eight coming 8th out of 17 they will surely be looking to improve on their placement against a smaller selection of competition. Topping the J18 category at Quintin, Shiplake shall be trying to continue their dominant streak and prove themselves reigning kings of the Tideway following their win in this category, they have had a phenomenal year in 2019 and will looking to capitalise on this in the future. With a boathouse on campus St Paul's will be one club almost benefitting from the disruption - their familiarity with the course and flexibility with training times means that like many of the schools blessed with easy water access such as Shiplake, Radley, and Teddies, they will still maintain plenty of water time. Schools which have to travel further to training, such as Monkton Coombe or Pangbourne may find that some weeks have left them with no water sessions at all. Kings College School were the fastest J18 crew (going on times) at Quintin entered into the Champ eights category this was an incredible showing by them especially after last years' SHORR result, and on top of setting a new J4- record at Fours Head, this is probably the crew to watch.
Division B had a variety of different schools entered, and as always the results can go any way with these crews entered, so it should've provide very good competition. Hammersmith Head is Bedford School's first racing venture out onto the Tideway this year and after their very successful campaign in 2018 they have proven that their entry should not be taken lightly, although the trip from Bedford isn't too far, and a training piece with Dulwich could be expected - a tactic that most schools have employed at some point, such as the annual Eton vs Westminster fixture. St George's College, Reading Blue Coat and Latymer upper were all within 6 seconds of each other at Quintin, this will all be fresh on their minds and they will all be trying to prove themselves in a very competitive field, although I imagine the cancellation will swing proceedings in Latymer's favour.
The girl's categories aren't as stacked as the boys, but we are still seeing some very impressive eights that will be frustrated not to race. Marlow Rowing Club, Henley Rowing Club and Lady Eleanor Holles are the three standout names, and looking at the CRI points, Marlow were justified to be starting first with a score that places them very comfortably amongst the Senior Championship Eights entries. They cleaned out Hampton Head to comfortably win the eights category while Henley opted to do the same in quads. LEH were of course everybody's favourites last year after their incredible performance at NSR, and this year they haven't quite made the same waves. Their clearly matched eights at Quintin weren't anything too special, placing them in the middle of the field, but this cancellation does mean that they're all out of races before SHORR, with the only major upcoming local meets being Reading Uni Head and Kingston Head, neither of which will be as useful as Hammersmith would've been. Latymer Upper School and Lea RC round off the championship eights. Latymer have lost a few of their Diamond Jubilee quad from HRR, but still put in an impressive showing at Quintin. Arguably the fastest junior women currently on the Tideway (after just edging Scullers at Quintin) the cancellation of Hammersmith should close the gap between them and the top 3 at SHORR.
The quads have a greater variety of entries with 14 crews from 11 clubs ranging from locals Tideway Scullers and Barn Elms, to Shiplake, Great Marlow and Kingston Grammar. In fact, there are 7 Tideway clubs in this category alone, which doesn't bode well for the visitors ahead of SHORR. Scullers hopped into an eight for Quintin and did well enough to not be too far away from Marlow and Henley, and what looked like a top quad at Hampton Head came second to a blistering Henley crew, so Scullers as always seem to be in a good and consistent place. Barn Elms on the other hand didn't perform as well at Hampton but placed much better in their KCS composite at Quintin Head. The only major deviation from the expected results at SHORR which could be attributed to the weather could be Shiplake underperforming just due to lack of experience, but we'll have to wait and see.
The weather this year has been horrific, and has seen many cancellations country-wide since September. We will have a look at the cancelled events and compare to previous years to see if this can be attributed wholly to the weather, or if there are other factors at play.