This year’s Temple Challenge Cup sees last year’s losing finalists and home favourites Oxford Brookes determined to win back the trophy over strong opposition from overseas. The Brookes crew features five returners from last years Temple crew, including Great Britain U23 internationals Henry Blois-Brooke, Matt Rowe and cox Gavin McWilliams. Rowe and Blois-Brooke along with Seb Newman, another returner from the 2018 Temple crew, also rowed in the eight at the 2017 Junior World Championships winning bronze medals. Fresher Mikey Dalton is at bow having won the coxless four for GB at the Junior World Championships last year. This crew finished second to the Brookes Ladies’ Plate crew in challenge eights at the Metropolitan Regatta, finishing ahead of Leander’s Ladies’ Plate crew and finished third to these two crews in a very close race in championship eights at Marlow Regatta, 15 seconds ahead of the closest home opposition, Imperial College.
The Imperial College crew features one returner from last year’s winning Prince Albert Challenge Cup crew in Casper Woods, who also won the coxless four at the Junior World Championships in 2017. It also includes 2017 Fawley Challenge Cup winner and Junior World silver medallist in the quadruple sculls, Tom Smith. They finished fourth at BUCS regatta behind two Brookes crews and Newcastle University and they also finished fourth in championship eights at Marlow Regatta, this time two seconds ahead of Newcastle who they will race in the first round on Wednesday.
The Newcastle crew features four returners from last year’s semi-finalist crew as well as Alex Haynes who won both the Prince Albert Challenge Cup in 2017 and the Thames Challenge Cup in 2018 (with Thames Rowing Club). It also includes U23 lightweight international James Stevenson but has lost U23 world silver medallist Will Stewart from their BUCS regatta bronze medallist crew, he will be rowing in a GB development crew. They have not quite shown the same form as last year’s crew so far but their race with Imperial on Wednesday looks set to be a very close and exciting battle.
Edinburgh are the last of the home crews who raced in the A final of championship eights at Marlow Regatta, finishing two seconds behind Newcastle. They feature a Junior World silver medallist in the quadruple sculls in 2018, Jake Offiler, and Luke Hatteland-Dunn, who won two gold medals for GB in the coxed four at the Coupe de la Jeunesse in 2017. Should they make it past the first round they will race the winners of the Newcastle/Imperial race, potentially another very close contest for such an early stage of the regatta.
Perhaps the strongest of the US crews will be Harvard University, although they may well be challenged for this accolade by Northeastern, Brown and Boston. Harvard’s crew is a mix of their IRA bronze medallist first varsity eight and fourth placed second varsity eight. The crew includes 2018 Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup winners (with St. Paul’s School) and 2017 and 2018 Junior World Champions Douwe de Graaf and Calvin Tarczy and 2016 Princess Elizabeth winners (with Eton College) Paddy Adams and cox George Cozens, who have also both represented GB at the Junior World Championships.
Northeastern University’s varsity eight also raced in the grand final at the IRA National Championships, finishing fifth. Their Henley crew is rumoured to be their full varsity eight and could provide very strong competition indeed.
Brown won the petite final at the IRAs, with their Henley crew consisting of a mix of first and second varsity oarsmen as Thomas Phelps and Rufus Biggs, stroke and six respectively of the varsity eight at IRAs are racing with the GB development squad at Henley. Their crew includes Finn Jenkins whose brother Elliott is racing against him for Boston University.
Boston finished second to Brown in the petite final and their crew contains six varsity eight oarsmen and two from the second varsity eight. Their crew has 2 Brits in Jonathan Cameron, who won the Fawley Challenge Cup with Claire’s Court School in 2016 and Luke Towers, who represented GB at the Junior World Championships in 2014 and 2015, winning a silver medal in the coxless four in 2015. They feature further Junior World medallists in Alex von Schwerdtner, Junior World Champion in the eight for Germany in 2016, and Elliott Jenkins, silver medallist in the coxless four for New Zealand in 2018.
There are also two selected Dutch crews in the draw, A.S.R. Nereus and A.G.S.R. Gyas. Both raced at Nederlandse Studenten Roei Federatie regatta with Nereus winning the event whilst Gyas finished in eighth place, 17 seconds behind. There is little comparison available to the home crews, however both these crews did race at the Heineken Roeivierkamp back in March, where Imperial College were also racing. This Nereus crew finished 11 seconds behind Imperial in the 2500 metre event, with the Gyas crew a further 19 seconds behind, suggesting both of these crews may perhaps not live up to their selected status and provide the highest level of competition.
The bottom half of the draw looks likely to produce a Harvard vs Brookes semi final which could decide the event, whilst in the top half it could be Northeastern vs any of Brown, Imperial, Newcastle or even Edinburgh. We’re predicting a Northeastern vs Brookes final, with Brookes taking the win. This event is the absolute peak of their season, whilst the IRA regatta is the key event for the US crews, and the level of determination they will bring as last year’s losing finalists, coupled with the consistent speed they have shown, regularly keeping up with or even beating their Ladies’ Plate crew, makes them our pick for the win.