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.
For the last three years, the University of Cambridge have recorded back to back Boat Race wins on the Thames stretch. This year, they will be hoping to repeat history as they fight to defend their title. In 2019, University of London were only six seconds behind, and so they too will be ravenous for victory in this year’s rematch. UL have a very strong women's squad this year with a number of U23 vests and HWR wins among them after the arrival of post grad athletes from programmes like Edinburgh, Yale and UCLA. But, to a throw a spanner in the works, Oxford Brookes have entered three crews who will be sure to ruffle the waters; Brookes usually keep their cards close to their chest at this stage of the year so an entry here is very out of character. With the guidance from ex-Goldie coach and Olympic silver medallist Richard Chambers, and straight off the back of another legendary Wimbleball training camp, will Brookes “A” come and spoil the light blue’s party? They may stand a better chance than the University of Oxford, as the dark blue boat hasn’t overcome Cambridge since 2016, and Osiris haven’t since 2015. Despite this, the results from Fours Head a few weeks ago really make things interesting as Oxford won Band 1 Academic 4+ by more than 20 seconds over CUWBC. Keen followers of the varsity race should have an exciting weekend ahead.
With the top three places, predicted to be very competitive, it's not worth forgetting the rest of the competition, with entries from Lea, City of Oxford, Vesta and Mortlake Anglian & Alpha. There was a large gap in the field last year between UL and CUWBC versus third and fourth fastest (Imperial and Thames), and with Imperial looking to take a win in Senior Eights and seemingly no entry from the top Thames and Molesey women, these other crews don’t look like they’ll be vying for podium positions.
As mentioned above, Imperial are likely favourites to win Senior Eights after their second place finish last year in a category which sees a few more universities entered: this is Bristol’s first big race with new women’s coach Holly Stead, while Nottingham showed some decent speed in the 4- at Fours Head. Marlow and Vesta have notoriously steadfast women’s squads backed up by some close times in coxless fours at HOR4’s, while the strength of UL's squad this year could mean their B crew still have plenty of speed.
With no British Senior Champs this year, this is the first chance for the top boat clubs in the country to race against each other and set the tone for the rest of the season. As we know, Henley Royal Regatta has introduced The Island Challenge Cup for Student Women's Eights, which should not only vastly increase the numbers of students racing but also benefit the top clubs whose Remenham entries are often taken by universities. Of course in 2021 the regatta expands to 6 days and will see the introduction of Club Eights and Junior Eights categories, so there’s no better time to be competitive within Women’s Rowing. Whatever the results, we predict it is going to be a close one!