With a big focus on quads ahead of Henley Royal, the junior eights at Henley Women's Regatta are a completely different ball game to the championship eights at National Schools. This year's Peabody Cup has eight entries and it really is all to play for.
It's nice to see a bit of a mix in the entries here. The Wimbledon High School and Bedford Girls School crews looks to feature athletes who raced at NSR in a range of age categories. The older girls will no doubt have invaluable maturity and experience, but we cannot forget that at National Schools the girls from WHS J15 8+ took home a silver medal, while BGS won the B final of J16 8+ in the sixth fastest time overall. While they may not have the years of experience behind them, these younger athletes have more than proven themselves already as fierce racers, and it will be exciting to see how the girls work together in both crews. Racing at an event like HWR as only J15s will be a fantastic experience for some of these athletes, and an equally fantastic achievement to boot.
SPGS boat from TSS, and events like HWR and Brit Champs which allow composites are a great opportunity to combine forces as we see a St Paul's Girls/ Tideway Scullers composite entered. In the same way as the crews mentioned above, there looks to be a range of ages represented in this lineup and no doubt this has been an exciting project for them to work on.
While the age combined crews race fresh lineups that are very difficult to gauge, there are three crews from National Schools racing here. The fastest of those is the second eight from Henley RC. With an intense rivalry between them and Headington School brewing in recent years, the A final of Ch 8+ at National Schools saw a thrilling race between Henley's second eight and HSOBC's first eight that saw the former pip their opposition to the line by less than half a second. Henley's depth is unrivalled this season and these girls will look to make another statement on their home water this weekend.
Emmanuel School were the next fastest entry from NSR, finishing 3rd in the B final of championship eights. Their lineup has a few changes, bringing in athletes from their Non-Ch G4+ that just missed out on a medal at NSR as well as their J16 G4+. Meanwhile, Reading Blue Coat were 5th in that same B final at NSR- a strong performance from a smaller programme. They weren't able to match the pace of the Henley crew at NSR, but over a shorter course they can look to close that margin and use their experience in their lineup in their favour against some of the newer mixed crews.
Last year this event had a huge six overseas entires to only three home crews, but this year we see only two crews entered from abroad. Enniskillen Royal from Ireland have really made a name for themselves on the UK circuit in recent years, with both their junior men and women putting in strong performances time and time again. Barring one substitution, this crew combines their Ch G4x and J16 G4+ from National Schools. The quad was a handful of seconds off qualifying for the A/B semis in what is consistently an ultra-competitive event, while the J16 four had a stormer of a day, leading the event from start to finish through the time trials, semis and final. Despite not racing this eight over here at NSR, they smashed the record to become Irish Rowing Champions closer to home in the WJ18 8+. More importantly, a few months back at SHORR Enniskillen were 4th in Ch 8+, a crucial 15 seconds or so ahead of Henley's B crew. It would be a mistake to underestimate this crew.
The final crew on this draw are St. Paul's School from the USA, who won both of their women's eight events at Reading Amateur Regatta over the weekend. This crew were 14th at Youth Nationals, but it's tough to gauge how they'll fare here without them directly racing any of the British junior crews just yet. The Henley crew racing school eights at Reading Amateur wasn't their HWR crew so it's hard to know how fast this US crew will be compared to the likes of HRC and Enniskillen until the time trial results reveal all on Friday.