With many of the top junior scullers racing- very successfully- at Munich International Regatta, we didn't see a number of the top crews race their full lineups at Wallingford Regatta at the start of the month. With the standard of sculling nationally constantly pushing upwards in recent times, this will undoubtedly make for a cracking race.
The top end of this 37 crew field is of a very high standard, but looking at individual crew members, Maidenhead look to have the upper hand. Sending three quarters of this crew to Munich, in Victor Kleshenv, Edoardo Marshall and Elliot Kemp, with the final member, one-year junior Harrison Rowe, finishing 4th in the C final at his first Senior Final Trials, all four athletes are of an exceptionally high standard. They all have either a Coupe or Worlds vest, with Kleshnev taking a silver medal in the JM4x at last year's junior World Championships in Trakai. As a crew, they took both the SHORR pennant and the Scullery title, so it seems safe to say this is the quad to beat this weekend.
Kleshnev's contemporary in the JM4x from Trakai, Bryn Ellery, is one of the two trial lists this season leading the Windsor Boys School crew, who were second place finishers to Maidenhead at both major head races in March. Their regatta season has started well, taking a convincing first and second in the Challenge 2x as well as a win in the Junior 2x at Wallingford Regatta in Bryn's absence, as well as winning the JM4x at Ghent Spring Regatta. WBSBC of course won this event and the Ch2x at last year NSR, before going on to win the Fawley in a nail-biting race against Claire's Court School. On that note, their success last season came from a more average head season, where they finished third at School's Head nine seconds behind Maidenhead. These boys certainly know how to race and looking at the promise they've shown in the early part of regatta season as well as last year's 'comeback', Maidenhead will need to keep their wits about them as they face this crew.
Of course, there are a further eight guys in pink who will be chasing down these two clubs. Leander's junior squad seems to be a growing force this season and have strong J18 and J17 crews to work with. Their top triallist this year, Joe Murphy, doesn't feature in this lineup, but with Joe Willis and Matt Peters also performing well in the trials process so far, as well as Tim Eliers in the German trials respectively, they certainly have enough experience amongst them, which resulted in the bronze medal at SHORR. Westminster School, now back to a quad after great success in the eight in fairly recent times, finished fourth behind them in March, but seemed to come out on top in the Challenge 4x at Wallingford Regatta over Leander. However, the observant among us will have spotted that former World U23 Champion Jamie Kirkwood found himself at 2 in the Westminster quad. We're sure the original 2 man was rapid, but perhaps they gained from this substitution. It looks unlikely either of these crews have the speed to shake the very top of the podium, but given how stacked the draw looks, we wouldn't count them out.
Perhaps a shame not to see Claire's Court, formerly the pinnacle of junior boys' sculling, with more of a mention, but they look to just be too far off the pace of the top entries this year, after their win in the 2016 Fawley Challenge Cup and close second last year to WBSBC. They should sneak into the A final but this isn't their year.
Other A finalists look to be Henley RC, who pipped Leander by a second for the win in Junior 4x at Wallingford. They weren't at SHORR but were fourth at the Scullery, so if there's a dark horse in the medals your money would have to be on them. A young Marlow crew should also find themselves in the final, with Lea who didn't appear in the head racing draws but appeared at Wallingford, where they beat 5th place finishers at SHORR from Marlow to take third in the Junior 4x.
Hinksey are not a name we usually see but have had a brilliant season thus far, so might hope to make the final, but it looks like an entry from Tideway Scullers are another one to watch who will make that task more difficult. Half of this crew were part of the successful TSS J16 quad last year that went on to qualify for the Fawley, whilst the other half are now J16s who were a close second to Henley at SHORR in J164x. It might be a bigger challenge for this younger crew to race here, but they may well have the raw speed to find themselves in the final.