Quintin Head is the first major Tideway race of the calendar year and provides a rare opportunity for eights to get some racing experience on the Championship Course ahead of HORR and WEHORR. Quintin always attracts a large crowd of matched eights and incomplete top boats, but that’s not to say the racing isn’t competitive, and the results provide a strong indication of which clubs have put in the Winter training, looking to reap the benefits in the Spring racing season.
The Men’s J18 category has 20 entries with most of the big schools and clubs fielding at least one entry- notable missing crews including Bedford, Shrewsbury and Abingdon. The results of the racing at Quintin Head often can’t be taken at face value, as some boat clubs have already created a 1st and 2nd VIII split, whilst others are still in mixed crews. The likes of St Pauls have entered, what should be, their 1st eight into the champ 8+’s category. Leaving their 2nd boat to fight it out in this division, they should still put on a good show considering the strength in depth that Paul's consistently have. Both Westminster and Shiplake had strong J16 squads last year and both schools would hope to have a very successful season with the new boys coming into the fray. Westminster have entered two crews whilst Shiplake have entered three. Whilst they could be matched boats it is likely they will still be challenging for the top positions when considering the pedigree of their rowing programs and coaching. Shiplake especially have made a statement by entering 3 crews and, by being the only school to do so (bar St George’s), have set the standard early on. Another big name that is fielding two crews is Radley College. Whilst Radley are usually considered less of a threat in head season, they will endeavour to buck this trend and put out some impressive times. Considering how far these two crews are apart from each other in the start order when compared to the Westminster boats, it would suggest that there is a significant difference in speed between the two Radley crews. However only the results will show whether this is the case on Saturday.
Hampton School will also be ones to watch entering what looks to be their top boat which will no doubt contain some quality athletes. St Edward's will also look to spread some fear amongst the competition. Their J16’s had an impressive last year and coupled with the fact that both Alex Gowans and Thibby Verdin-Mulot have been in their 1st VIII for two years prior to the 2020 season suggests that they’ll have a good balance of experience and raw potential. Latymer Upper School have also entered an eight into this division who will no doubt look to cause trouble all season, hoping to bounce back after a lull last year, and St George’s College have also entered three crews that will aim for a promising start to the head race competitions, and outline the impressive depth the school has.
All in all, this division should produce some exciting and tight racing. St Paul's result from Champ 8+ will also be interesting to compare to this event, bearing in mind that they will be rowing in much cleaner water. One would suspect that Shiplake, Westminster, Pauls 2nd VIII and Radley will all be lingering around the top end of the table. But don’t rule out Hampton, Latymer or St Edward's from pulling it out the bag and taking it to the opposition. There are unconfirmed rumours that the City of Oxford Championship eight may contain some international juniors, but that article is for another time... The racing will be fierce as will the conditions, so those who have prepared for the Tideway and can race the river the best will give themselves a significant advantage. As always on the Tideway, the line the coxes take will be crucial and seeing how each cox deals with each new turn could separate the top crews. Bring on Saturday.