In this event we will finally see where the real talent lies and who will likely step up to make a strong Champ 8+ that will challenge for the likes of the PE this time next year. The J16 Champ 8s event could very well see the most exciting races of the regatta, with six crews all capable of medalling; be prepared for some scintillating side by side battles, with crews separated by very small margins.
Shiplake are the current holders of the Desmond Hill Cup and having been dubbed their golden generation, are being directly coached by GB Juniors coach David Currie, and with it being their headmaster’s last year, will be going all out for victory and will settle for nothing less.
Eton will be looking to round off an impressive assured rise to the top with a strong performance at Nats, after having won Schools’ Head and Wallingford Regatta and fared well at BASHER; confidence is something rarely lacking amongst Etonians, and they have good reason in this instance.
Abingdon have been really quiet this season, running parallel eights for a lot of the Head Season and then not showing up at Schools’ Head. This crew’s true speed is frankly unknown, and perhaps this was a deliberate tactic by Rory Copus: there is every chance they could turn up and startle everyone with a blistering performance. However, they did feature and win Bedford Regatta, albeit beating their B crew in an all Abingdon final. They have definitely kept their powder dry, and it will be interesting to see how they get on.
Up in Aberdeen, Scotland, the rowers from ASRA have made a habit of making the arduous slog down south and impressing people with their performances. We know that they will not be at Dorney on holiday and can expect them to challenge for a medal. However, this crew at J15 had an exceptional Schools’ Head before dropping off at National Schools, so this crew know they will have to work harder and what to do to improve on their bronze medals.
St. Paul’s School will undoubtedly be a strong crew, with these boys now starting to approach the business end of Bobby Thatcher’s successful conveyor belt of exceptional crews. They had a slightly disappointing Schools’ Head finishing in 5th, but it will be likely that they will be a much more feared crew over a 2k course. One should expect St. Paul’s to be right in the thick of the action and gun for a top 3 finish, having won Nats J15 last year.
Westminster will be one of the favourites to medal at Nats, with some impressive performances throughout the heads season and more recently with solid results at Ghent and a second place at Wallingford Regatta. It is no secret that these boys will be well drilled, and they will be right in the mix to challenge for the title.
Shrewsbury School finished 8th at Schools’ Head but have stepped up since then, putting in a solid performance at Notts City, finishing in 3rd place and another crew faring well at Bedford Regatta. They are likely picking up more speed before peaking for Nats, just like they did at J15, and contend for a spot in the A final.
Radley haven’t had the strongest of results this season, notably finishing in a disappointing 9th place at Schools’ Head and seemingly off the pace at BASHER. However, Radley have a reputation for peaking at the right time, and pulling results out of the bag; they also have a reputation of having some big boys in their eights, so a 2k course could see them be more competitive. A really strong performance could see them book a place in the A final, but a win in the B final is very much a possibility.
St Edwards were lacklustre last year as many of their 16's were racing in their 1st VIII, but with Adam Moffatt (ex-Shiplake J16 coach) joining them this year as coach has seen them move right up in contention, consistently posting ever improving performances, where I am sure he will wish to prove he was the winning factor in last year’s Shiplake victory. St Edward’s have proven this recently by winning at Nottingham City Regatta.
Hampton School haven’t had the best season so far. Recently, they came 5th at Notts City, albeit with many quicker crews not racing there. Unfortunately for them, a spot in the A final will likely be too much of a challenge for them.
Despite being a small school in the rowing world, Monmouth have been punching well above their weight of late, with them starting to produce GB Junior athletes. Monmouth finished 4th at Notts’ City, it will be an impressive feat if they make it through to the finals, and they have shown some glimpses of potential and a win in the B final should certainly be within their reach.
In summary, at least six crews have high potential of mounting strong challenges for medals at Nats, and with at least ten crews all capable of making the A final, competition will be fierce and both finals will have some really close racing: miss it at your peril!
This event will see top schools demonstrating the depths in their squads, with some impressive crews despite being in the second tier.
Schools with many athletes will have the strongest crews, and it is a slight unknown as to who will be at the top with this event.
Westminster won the J15 2nd Eights last year at Nats, with Abingdon close behind. Abingdon's J16 Bs made it to the final of Bedford Regatta, being beaten by their A crew. Making the final shows that they have the speed to compete with A crews in the category above. It will be no surprise if Abingdon and Westminster will go head to head for the win this year. Eton will likely also enter a more than decent second eight too. Hampton, Radley and Bedford are all capable of putting in strong performances too. Notwithstanding this being the lower tier, some of the best crews in this category could challenge and defeat some of the J16 Champ Eights, so one can look forward to some good racing taking place.
This category has unfortunately had a pretty sparse year as far as racing goes. Schools Head didn't let them race. Inter-Regionals shortly after was cancelled and most recently not enough crews entered Nottingham City Regatta, a past favourite for crews looking to go hunting times and iron out race plans before tapering begins for NSR.
Having looked back at the results of the Junior Sculling Head (the last decent turnout) I think the Tideway Scullers A crew are certainly the ones to beat. No doubt Glasgow Academy and Sir William Borlase will be strong, however what with GCSE’s happening school crews always seem to have their training times disrupted more, and so rowing naturally will have taken a back seat both mentally possibly physically. TSS have also entered a 2nd crew which shows that they have a great squad depth.
At the Junior Sculling Regatta, with a blustery cross-tailwind TSS took the top spot by some margin, almost 4 seconds ahead of Sir William Borlase and just under 6 seconds ahead of Peterborough. A couple of weeks later, at Wallingford Regatta the same Peterborough crew put in a very tidy performance to beat Maidenhead Rowing club by just over 4 seconds, with Wycliffe Junior Rowing Club just 0.21 seconds behind them.
Bedford Regatta didn’t see any big names enter, but Great Marlow School have walked away knowing that they can convincingly beat Bedford RC, Dulwich and Windsor Boys. Wallingford Regatta saw a totally different set of crews enter, and the event was won by Peterborough City rowing club, who finished 3rd at the Junior Sculling Regatta. Peterborough, Trentham and Wycliffe all performed well last year, with Peterborough’s crew being the exact same as it was last year, so their experience racing together for coming up on 2 years will be invaluable.
Some larger schools have also chosen enter athletes from their eight into a quad rather than the traditional eight-to-four plan. ASRA and Bedford School have both entered quads comprised of top athletes from their eights. While they certainly have the rowing talent, they may struggle to translate their sweeping skills into sculling with such short notice.
The J16 4+ competitors will be competing on Saturday 25th May for the Arundel Cup. This category seems to have attracted 13 entries, with 4 clubs and 9 schools.
Twickenham Rowing Club are arguably favourites as a Twickenham Rowing Club based crew raced under Radnor House’s name last year winning the J15 4+ category. They also had an extremely strong performance at J16 Gb-France Trials when they were just J15s. A lack of attendance at Wallingford gives us little information about their summer speed in 2019, but with returners from last year's Gold Medal NSR winning crew, in the form of Inigo Holman and Piers Hunt, they are undoubtedly expected to medal on Saturday.
Kingston Rowing Club are also strong contenders with their 4+ that came 3rd last year in the respective J15 event. With only 1 returner from their 2018 campaign, Rufus Tarayan-Bibbs will be hoping to offer his racing experience and power from the bow seat. It would be no surprise to see this crew medalling under the guidance of coach Josh Burrows.
Dulwich and Westminster, two typical heavyweight schools in the junior men's rowing scene both have 1 boat entered, but it seems that this is due to a lack of entry in J16 2nd VIII's. Due to their strong pedigree, only Saturday will tell if they have the depth in their squad to contend for medals, in their second rank events.
Norwich, Latymer and Great Marlow School appear to have priorities this event for their J16 squads, and this will create an interesting battle between these schools and Walton, who typically scull, but are showing their versatility through this entry.
The J16 4- event on the Sunday of NSR has attracted 23 entries with 2 clubs and 21 schools entered. This will be an exciting event as it offers many a first glimpse at who could ear GB vests in the summer in the GB- France match. As well, it acts as an indicator of which schools or clubs may have strong Senior programmes next year, when this year group will merge with their school's/club's current J17s.
Arguable favourites are Westminster, due to their win at Wallingford in the J16 4+ category there, where they were 7 seconds in front of second place Shiplake. Westminster has a quick eight this year, so there is no doubt that the top 4 and the second 4 made from their J16 Championship Eight will be filled of boat movers.
Eton displayed an impressive performance at School's Head in March, where they stampeded over the rest of the field, a change from their underperformed and slow J15 season. Their A crew is packed with talent in the form of Harry Stevens, and Will Ferguson, both whom sit at 5 and 6 respectively in their J16 Championship Eight. Eton B doesn't lack ability or speed either with strokeman of the eight, Harry Geffen making this crew. So, it will be interesting to see how quick their top 4 is and seeing how much slower their second 4 is, as it can't be a huge amount considering their success this season.
Shiplake is another crew hoping to medal for this event, replicating similar success of their J16 Champ Eight from 2018. 3-man in the 4 Robert Humphris sat at bow of that J16 Eight during their Temple Challenge Cup campaign at Henley Royal Regatta, so he offers this crew an advantage, with his experience and rowing pedigree.
St Edwards, St Paul’s, and Aberdeen School’s Rowing Association also offer their top rowers from their potential A final qualifying eights, so eyes will also be on them. Noticeably, St Paul's have their J16 Joe Middleton stroking their School Championship Eight, so their J16 four may lack some of the talent their Eight from last year previously had.
Hampton and Shrewsbury both Championship Schools have crews entered, but both schools have made little presence about the ability of their top J16 4's. This will make it interesting to see the capability of these Junior rowing stalwart schools, to produce top oarsman.
Another key factor in this coxless event, is how competent the steersman is down a buoyed course, during potentially stressful and physically demanding moments in a race. Steering can easily lose a race for a crew, especially when margins of races can be less than a second over a 2000 metre course. So, there will be a lot of pressure on steersman, with many opting to pressure steer, although this brings its own complications.
They're are obviously too many entries for us to write about all crews and these are just a few we've picked, so good luck to all competitors in this event.
With 37 doubles entered and only the fastest 12 going through to finals we’ll see a very competitive time trial on Sunday. For such a large field they’re little information to be gained leaving a large space up for grabs in those semi-finals.
What we do know is Nottingham and Union set a time of 7:17 at Nottingham City regatta beating Hinksey, we see them going off 2nd in the time trial behind Twickenham. The Junior Sculling Regatta saw a field slightly larger than two with the Exeter boat of Oliver Wickham and Edward Fuller winning in a time of 6.56.7 over Sam O’Connor and Marlow DePeza-Purvis from Lea RC. These were the two boats who really stood out at the scullery but in fact all crews who raced there are also competing at NSR.
Maidenhead, Team Keane, RGS High Wycombe and Northwich all placed in the mid 7 minutes in the A final and it will be exciting to see if they’ve been able to reach that sub 7-minute mark in the last month or so. The B final saw a slightly slower field at around the 10-minute mark, but we will still be willing all the crews on to do their best in the Marlow Bowl this Sunday. This is the first year that this event is running as it replaces Championship Pairs, so it will be interesting to see who picks up the inaugural Marlow Bowl.