The eights category looks like it may turn out to be a fairly straightforward race. Shiplake seem to have fielded a 1V for this event, with only one boat entered into this category. Shiplake are renowned for putting out some very classy eights, especially during the head season, as was highlighted by their win at SHORR a couple of years ago in 2017, and silver medal places in 2016 and 2018.
The two other entries into this category come from Reading Blue Coat School, who are fielding either mixed eights or an A and B crew. They will most likely not be able to challenge the eight from Shiplake college given that they lost to Shiplake at Quintin Head by close to 30 seconds, however they won’t hold anything back on the course.
The coxed four is always an interesting event to watch, no matter the entries. Shiplake have also entered a coxed four in this event. They are most likely going to be a second four given the presence of their 1V in the eights category, however, they will still show some serious speed. It seems safe to assume it will be made up of some of their J16 eight last year which had such a fantastic season, qualifying for the Temple at Henley. This boat will have their eyes firmly on the prize on Saturday.
Dulwich have entered into this event with what may be a first or second four. Regardless, Dulwich College consistently put out some quality crews that are challenging to hit the top placings. They will be looking to build solidly towards the Schools' Head. Itchen Imperial aren’t normally known for strong performances at a junior level, with a much smaller squad than some of the big names. It would be a big ask for them to challenge the likes of Dulwich or Shiplake for the win.
With two Henley crews entered, the depth of squad is clearly not suffering despite the loss of many top athletes last year moving out of juniors, Henley's depth has become apparent across the previous couple of seasons; their large group of strong athletes are sure to put down a strong performance on their home water. Henley seem to have taken on a lot of girls from local rivals Marlow RC this year. Marlow are already a club producing excellent junior crews year in and year out, but no doubt they will have suffered greatly by this transfer of athletes.
Two Headington eights have been entered, and this prestigious club also share a history of incredibly strong eights, performing well over the last few seasons, and if they continue in this form, they should put down a good time to rival that of Henley.
Reading Blue Coats and Itchen imperial are relatively unknown in open competition, with Reading being far more renowned for their boys rowing. Sometimes the unknown competition is the most surprising! The eights are always a fascinating competition to follow as they can vary so much and be so highly competitive.
Kingston have been dominant in all competition over the last two years, with near on flawless performances in the Fours Head, proving they are strong competition regardless of who they are facing.
They will be up against three Headington crews, with a legacy of impressive sweep crews and strong performances at Wallingford Head. Headington have proven they clearly have a strong pool of athletes and should put out a group of strong crews. Henley enter this competition with strong performances at every competition they have been present at, so should be able to hold their own against this other inevitably strong competition. Henley have started to build their legacy in the junior women's circuit and no doubt this will only inspire the younger athletes.
Little is known about the other three crews, Llandaff, Shanklin Sandown and Itchen Imperial, but with the presence of big names such as Kingston, Headington and Henley, this could be a very interesting competition to follow. As will all head racing, no one is to be ruled out!