With wins in School 8's at Wallingford Regatta and the School’s Head, the Henley girls from above the bridge have thrown down the gauntlet to the rest of the field. They will want to surely retain their NSR victory from last year, however, LEH have been on their case this year and show no sign of letting them go. With very close races at SHORR and Wallingford last weekend, LEH and Henley are both capable of adapting to the regatta season with speed. With big names coming into HRC from Marlow, like Daisy Bellamy and Izzie Bird, HRC will want to prove they are the best of the best in junior rowing and will do that by taking the W. Their win last year, screaming and sending blades flying, is a reminder of how much NSR means to these girls and how they will do anything to win.
New head honcho Smithy certainly seems to be making his mark since coming over to LEH from St Paul’s with second place positions at the Quintin Head and School’s Head and a second place in School 8's at Wallingford Regatta. Even though these girls haven’t quite secured the W yet, they were only 5 seconds behind Henley at Wallingford, 2 seconds behind them at SHORR and only 6 seconds off Marlow at Quintin. With their focus on sweeping, it remains to be seen whether they can hang onto to Henley’s shirt tails as they begin their traditional acceleration through the summer season. It would be refreshing to see LEH take the win after lots of 2nd places this year so far.
Guided by yet another talented member of the Thatcher clan, Marlow are, as ever, are keeping their cards close to their chests. With a very versatile group of athletes who are able to jump from sweep to sculling and perform equally well in both, this Summer they will pick their races well. Early wins at both Hammersmith and Quintin Heads show what they are capable of. The eight is comprised of two quads that raced at Junior Sculling Head, Junior Sculling regatta and Wallingford. With a win at JSR the girls have proved to be at the top of their field in both sculling and sweep.
Latymer Upper this year have put in some solid performances with 3rd at SHORR and 4th at Wallingford. Like Marlow, these girls have chopped and changed from sculling to sweep this year. With their reputation strong as always, we expect an A-final appearance from them definitely, maybe even a place in the top 3. Mia Anderson in the stroke seat can hopefully bring some international experience into the boat and help propel them into the top 3.
We haven’t seen any of the usual form we would from expect from Headington at this time of the year. With very little evidence from the top group of athletes, with no entry at Wallingford. We only have their fifth place at the School’s Head to go off so who knows what they have been up to. After a ten-day long training camp in France we expect that these girls have been seat racing and competing to get a well sought-after seat in their 1st VIII. After prioritising their J16 8+ at SHORR before moving into the 1st VIII mindset come the summer, Ryan Demaine will have been pulling out all of his stops in this final week so they can claim an NSR top 3 position.
Emmanuel raced at SHORR under Girls 1st eights so in this event they most certainly assume the position of the underdog. These girls appear to have consistently finished at the 4th 5th and 6th end of A finals so maybe they can change this at the weekend. They raced a coxed four at Wallingford and came fourth, and with consistent four performances throughout this year and last year hopefully they will use this experience to lay down a solid performance.
Of course, it would be silly to forget Tideway Scullers. Along with Marlow, Scullers are the only notably outstanding crew in this category this year. This year they seem to have swept their sweep abilities under the carpet, favouring dominating the sculling scene with a win at Wallingford regatta a couple of weekends ago. In their boat they have some familiar international faces, notably Izzy Lack who went to Coupe and Munich last year despite being only J16, and Ruby O’Keefe, who recently won gold in the 1x and the 2x at Sydney International regatta. Scullers seem to be combining their two quads give or take a seat, and based on their sculling results they should perform very well.
PHS have always performed excellently in sweep. With an outstanding four in the 2017 season who represented GB at the annual GB vs France match it is to be expected that they will combine with another four to make up the eight. At Wallingford they just missed out on a final place due to a competitive heat against senior women. Based on time, they were third out of the junior eights, however when these girls are side by side with their competitors surely the time differences will change.
Even though Henley’s B crew are racing in second eights, they could have entered Champ eights and probably taken a medal position. Henley, as always, has performed outstandingly this season. Changing their boats race by race it makes it difficult to keep track of the regular orders. But as all these girls seem to be on the same level of competence, seat racing must be hard. It’s expected that Henley will take the win in both eight categories.
After a weekend of final training at the Docklands LEH should have perfected their course racing to perform admirably this weekend. Of course, if the competition between B crews is the same as A crews, LEH and Henley should have a tough battle in the 2nd eights as well as the champ eights. LEH surprised everybody as Schools Head, and as underdogs they’ll have the crowds support to take the gold medals for themselves.
Latymer Upper should put in another top eight considering they, like Headington, Henley and LEH have a surplus of top-quality girls. These girls were seen at the fours head this year as well as at many head races so clearly, they have been racing hard, and went on a camp this year to Banyoles where they will have used the beautiful glassy water to gain some considerable speed.
Based on their performances this year it is uncertain how Headington will do next weekend. However, after their ten-day camp to France in April these girls most definitely have been seat racing and competing to get into the first eight. So, I expect the quality of the B crew won’t be that different to that of the A crew.
One name stands out more than any other in this category - and that’s Kingston. Guided by their very wise coach Florence Griffiths they seem to be on top form. Despite having bow pair switch sides recently, these girls have dominated for almost two years. After a sterling year last year winning schools head, national schools, HWR and getting the GB France slot these girls have come back to retain their schools head title and will be going out to do the same at NSR. Amber Harwood and Hannah Metcalf have dominated sweep trials as well, winning February pairs by 37 secs and retaining this lead at springs. Last weekend at Wallingford they only got away from Henley by a couple of seconds so maybe they have finally met their match. However, with Henley opting for the coxless four, these girls should have a clear run for the W.
Surbiton High School, who train almost opposite from Kingston, have most likely been using this crew to battle and improve. Surbiton always perform well should shine through in all categories. Surbiton showed their versatility last year after a very quick switch to sweep to secure a GB France vest under the killer guidance of Pete. Despite this, a Surbiton coxed four came 6th in their heat at Wallingford not making it into the finals so hopefully they can switch this around next weekend.
Over the last two years Stratford have performed well in the coxed four event, coming second at the British Championships last summer only to Lea, who aren’t racing, puts them in a very good position. Last weekend at Wallingford they came 5th in the A final, so we are looking at an A final finish for them here as well.
Another school who consistently churns out good girls, we should expect an A-final position finish, maybe even a medal from Godolphin and Latymer next weekend. Opting for women’s challenge fours at Wallingford instead of school fours, this crew came 3rd by only 6 seconds. These girls are also racing pairs this weekend so we are yet to see how they will turn out in both of these events respectively.
After a third-place finish and a heat win at Wallingford last weekend Sir William Perkins’ girls have most definitely got their eyes on those well sought-after medal t-shirts, it is expected that they will finish second after Kingston. Sir William Perkins always perform well in fours / quads it’s a wonder why they don’t enter eights more frequently. Last year Emmanuel were well among the top WJ16 fours so I expect this year will be the same, after a fourth-place finish at Wallingford this crew seem to be at the top end of the field and without Henley they should be in for a third place position finish. So hopefully they will get it.
LEH have performed persistently well in sweep this year, after a very close SHORR second place to Henley this crew should be well capable of securing a medal. LEH have made this four and the coxless four out of a mixture of A and B eights, maybe to try and do some more seat racing, maybe for fun, who knows. But what we do know is that this crew could potentially threaten Kingston for the W. So, all is to play for.
With 12 entries in this event, all crews will be moving on to the A/B Semifinals after the time trials and due to the lower number of entries I’m sure this event is going to be very competitive. Many clubs will be splitting their first eights across Sunday's events to get some more racing in, which will lend itself to some very strong performances across the board. Not to mention that with the lack of a cox, pressure will be on the bows.
The crew from Lea RC are setting off first in the time trials and are looking strong after winning Fours Head in this event, so it will be interesting to see how they fare over the shorter distance. Lady Eleanor Holles had a convincing win in this event last year by almost 7 seconds, but with an entirely different crew they may struggle to replicate this. Godolphin and Latymer placed 3rd in Wallingford Challenge 4+ and placed 4th in Fours Head- they really seem to be building off a strong training camp in Portugal and could do quite well in this event. Their GB girl Alexandra Riddell-Webster is racing in champ pairs so the four may struggle without possibly 2 of its better sweepers.
Putney High School had a strong finish of 6th in Challenge 4- at Wallingford Regatta with a fast time, and this experience against some of the women's clubs might well give them an edge on the competition. Latymer Upper School BC and Henley BC both have crews entered; these two clubs have a history of doing very well in Junior Women's rowing so you can expect some good times from these two. Laytmer’s four has 2 returners from last year’s 8+, Georgia Seal and Selena Jones, and they finished 4th in this event last year just behind Henley RC. The Henley 4- is easily one of the strongest in the field. A staple member of last year’s incredible eight, stroke Phoebe Fletcher will no doubt lead these girls to a great results.
The St Michaels Rowing Club crew are coming down from Limerick, Ireland- without experience against any of the more local crews, it will be interesting to see how this crew does as a potential dark horse in the mix. The other crews include Monkton Combe School, Nottinghamshire Counting Rowing Association, Canford School and Kings School Worcester. All the crews in this event are looking to be very strong, I'd definitely keep my eye on this event for some tight racing and fast times.