The Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup for school 1st VIII's, attracts the best school boy crews in the world to compete over Henley's 2112 metre course. Last year, St. Paul's dominated Henley setting a new record of 6.06, but many expected them to break the record and complete the triple due to their wins at Schools' Head and Nationals Schools' Regatta. However, this year featured wins by Shiplake College at Schools' Head, while St. Paul's retained the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother's Cup for Championship VIII's at NSR for the third year in a row.
Abingdon, Shrewsbury, Kent School USA and Monmouth all face each other within the first two days showing the highly competitive nature of this year's PE entries. Abingdon, who have recently been underperforming in relation to their prolific rowing pedigree, finished a strong 7th at NSR showing plenty of momentum which should have lead to finding more speed in the period between NSR and Henley Royal.
Monmouth's 6th at NSR, combined with the presence of Munich representative Iwan Hadfield, would suggest that this year could be the year they make the Friday or later and Wednesday's race vs Kent School USA should be easy row for the Welsh boys for whom many will have aspirations to compete for Team Wales at the Home Internationals Regatta post-Henley.
Eton College who came 2nd in the time trial at NSR will be looking to move on the St. Paul's crew who beat them by 2.34 seconds over 2km at Eton Dorney, their home water. The added 112 metres at Henley can add many of its own complications, and with Eton being on the opposite side of the draw to St Paul's it is only possible for this matchup to occur in the final on Sunday, potentially making onlookers wait all week for a fierce rematch of NSR.
Little is known about Boston College USA , Flatow-Oberachule GER, Kent School USA and Lawrenceville USA (all seeded crews) in comparison to the home crews, due to their overseas status and lack of racing in British Schoolboy events such as National Schools' Regatta. This is exciting, as their unknown speeds are pitted against the known strengths of rowing in the UK such as Eton or Radley College, making for some extremely exciting racing.
Championship Schools such as Hampton, Kings College Wimbledon and Latymer Upper also have VIIIs entered but with 14th, 8th and 15th finishes at NSR respectively, and the presence of new international competitors, they will have to prove themselves every race, each day of the week, showing that a greater boat speed is able to be found in the weeks of training since NSR to have the advantage over their opposition.
Bryanston entered Championship Eights at NSR but found themselves slightly off the field, surrounded by Non-Championship Eights in the C final, with Bedford, who have also qualified a quad into the Fawley, underperforming and also finding themselves in the same race, not being able to replicate the success of their previous years crew which won Non-Championship Eights.
Other crews potentially viewed as underdogs such as Canford, Norwich and Pangbourne will be looking to get past the Wednesday initially and taking everyday as it comes and could provide some shock results to make for a really exciting competition. Whereas Clare’s Court's VIII, its second ranked boat behind their Quad in the Fawley Challenge Cup, will be excited to race on the famous Henley Stretch and looking to prove their ability at both disciplines of rowing.
Radley College are one of the favourites for winning this year despite a slightly subpar performance at National School’s Regatta back in May as they have successfully recovered and bounced back in recent weeks. Much hype was made about their speed before the National Schools’ Regatta in which they disappointingly placed third behind St. Paul’s and Shiplake respectively. However, this disappointing result has seemed to motivate the crew further as ever since then they have come out on top, winning the Metropolitan Regatta two weeks after NSR and beating St. Paul’s in the process.
Reading Blue Coat have been dealt a tough draw on the Wednesday against Boston College USA and after a 3rd place D final at the National Schools’ Regatta it will require their best performance and race on the day from the crew to proceed into Thursday, but all is possible at Henley!
St Edward’s School, a seeded crew despite not racing as an eight at the National Schools’ Regatta (instead preferring to race in the coxless four where they came 5th in their A final) put together an eight at Marlow Regatta where they once more came 5th, this time in Tier 2 open eights. They will look to build on their recent success come Wednesday as they face Kings Canterbury.
St. George’s reached the B Final in the National Schools’ Regatta only 0.1s behind Latymer Upper School and have been drawn a very tough competition on Wednesday against St Joseph’s Prep (USA). They will rely on their experience come Wednesday as they face the young US crew who’ve made the journey across to the iconic stretch of water. The young St. Joseph’s School crew, one of the seeded crews,look to continue their success back in America on English water as they hope to replicate their victory at the Stotesbury Cup Regatta and their success in reaching the ‘B’ final of the Youth Eights at the USRowing Youth Championships at Henley. They, along with Kent School, are possibly the strongest American crews to make the trip to Henley as they race Canford School on Wednesday.
St. Paul’s School are the current holders for this event after last year’s spectacular victory over Eton where they smashed the course record and writing themselves into the history books as the fastest ever schoolboy crew. This year St Paul’s have struggled to find the same sort of speed as last year’s crew and have failed to dominate quite as truly as last year with a series of less-than spectacular displays in the lead up to HRR. That being said they managed to pull it out the bag when it really mattered – claiming victory in Championship Eights at National School’s Regatta beating Shiplake by 1.8 seconds, once again reinforcing their uncanny ability to save their best for the biggest stages. Unfortunately for them their season has been beset with injuries to key athletes which could have a serious impact on their performance during the course of HRR. St. Pauls are set to race Latymer Upper on Wednesday which hopefully will allow us to catch a glimpse of the speed to come over the course of the week.
St. Paul’s Concord (USA) won an impressive silver medal at the New England Interscholastic Championships back in May on Lake Quinsigamond before deciding to train for HRR instead of the National Championships as their American counterparts St. Joseph’s Prep had decided to do. Like all foreign crews who decide to travel across to Henley, they must clearly believe that their speed matches those of other crews to make it worthwhile, therefore, their first race on Wednesday against Canford will offer them the chance to make their mark overseas.
Scotch College are also very strong contenders for this year’s PE as they remain unbeaten in competitions back in Australia including a victory in the Schoolboy Eight at the Sydney International Rowing Regatta. The last time Scotch College raced at HRR they returned home winners of the PE, beating rowing stalwarts including Radley, Eton and St Paul’s. Therefore, they return once more to HRR this year as one of the strongest overseas crews with a steadfast intention of winning it once more. Their HRR campaign begins on Wednesday against Bedford School which may allow the Australians to hide their true speed as they reserve their energy for their tougher competitions come later in the competition – but nothing can be taken for granted.
Shiplake College had a great start to the year with a victory at the Schools’ Head back in March during the head season, and their success continued into the regatta season with second place finish at the National Schools’ Regatta, losing out to St. Pauls in the final. The unfortunate second place finish as they rapidly gained on St. Paul’s in the final 300m was the final appearance at races since then for this Shiplake crew who have been absent from all subsequent regattas due to an injury to a key member of the crew. Shiplake will be one of the stronger crews in contention for winning this event and the result of Wednesday’s racing will give a rough idea of their potential speed as they race Kings School Chester.
This Royal Shrewsbury School crew are one of the faster crews in the UK circuit after an impressive fourth place finish in the Champ 8 final at the National School’s Regatta back in May, only 0.07s behind third place Radley. Shrewsbury again displayed their speed at Marlow Regatta where they came 4th in tier 2 eights just 1.4s behind Eton. These small margins between their closest rivals is definitely something Shrewsbury will have been training hard to reduce in the lead up to HRR, to help them guarantee progression later this week. Their HRR campaign kicks off against Abingdon on Wednesday who perhaps won’t push the Shrewsbury crew to their maximum, however Henley is known for throwing up surprises.
King’s School Chester qualified for the B Final at the National School Regatta in May coming a respectable 4th place behind Pangbourne with less than 0.1 of a second differentiating the two crews. Unfortunately for King’s Chester they have been drawn one of the strongest contenders, Shiplake, in their first race on Wednesday, meaning they will definitely require their best performance to proceed into Thursday, but all is possible at Henley!
The Scots College are a promising young crew having travelled around to world to compete at Henley from Australia, however, it must be said it is hard to know what to expect as at the Sydney International Regatta their equivalent of NSR they did not race in the senior Schoolboy’s Eights and instead raced in the U17 Schoolboy’s Eight where they came 5th less than 1s behind 2nd place. Scots College race Claires Court on Wednesday which will hopefully reveal more about their potential here.
Westminster School won the B Final at the National Schools’ Regatta and will be looking to improve on that result with the aim of beating some of the crews who beat them earlier this season and they will face Winchester College on Wednesday. Winchester College won their C Final at the National Schools’ Regatta in May and will have to have their best race and pull it out of the bag on Wednesday to progress to later rounds.
Dulwich College will race at HRR as one of the two crews qualifying via the qualifying races last Friday after not racing as an eight at the National Schools’ Regatta and instead preferring to race as a coxed four. Since then they’ve established a young crew including two J16’s – Ben Knowles and Francesco Dembinski who placed highly at February GB Early ID Trials and will need a performance similar to that at qualifiers to beat their Tideway boathouse neighbours KCS Wimbledon on Wednesday who placed last in their A Final at NSR. Withthe young talent inside this boat that this will be a crew to definitely look out for in the coming years, even if 2019 is not the year they make their mark.
King’s School Canterbury are the second of two crews qualifying through the qualifiers last Friday. This crew placed 4th in their C Final at the National Schools’ Regatta and will face the newly formed eight of St. Edwards on Wednesday a race which should stretch both crews.