Despite the frustrating weather much of the country has faced lately, the Vesta Scullers' Head will still be running this Saturday. As the event was cancelled last year there should be some fresh results coming our way as scullers compete from University Stone Mortlake to Putney.
The first of the three junior men’s categories is the J18 category, changed from last time’s School/Junior category. Since last year’s race was cancelled, only a small number of the scullers here have experience with the race. Starting second is St Pauls’ Dom Valt, who won the J16 category two years ago just ahead of then-Globe RC sculler and current Etonian James Watson-Gandy. Dom’s had plenty of sweeping experience this past year; winning Nat Schools and then representing GB in the pair at coupe as a J17. Hopefully he won’t have forgotten his sculling roots and put on a good show. He’ll be chased by Sol Hewitt of Star and Arrow, who has big boots to fill at Leander after their Fawley-winning quad, and later down the course fellow hippo Joe Willis will give it a go. Joe is coming into this as one of the premier scullers after getting a double bronze at Coupe in the quad and giving it a very impressive run in the Fawley in Leander ‘B’. Some other familiar names peer out down the list from last year’s schools; Norwich’s Huck Hempsall, Mattie Sexton and Johnny Elliot are all returners from last year’s 1st VIII, KCS have a large cohort racing including last year’s Callum Betteley and George Thompson fresh from the eight and four at Coupe, and Shiplake will be looking to re-establish themselves on the Tideway early on ahead of SHORR, sending coupe’s Rhys Ash and some members from last year’s 2nd VIII in Robert Humphris and Federico Focosi, who are fresh from winning Championship Junior Doubles at Pairs Head. The rest of the J18 entries are filled up by Tideway regulars Dulwich, Globe, TSS and ASL.
There aren’t a huge number of races which offer J17 categories, and it always offers a good insight into next year’s crop of athletes. St Pauls’ Joe Middleton is back from worlds with a gold medal, and has started off his year stroking the 1st VIII at the Head of the Charles Regatta, his home water advantage will only improve his position amongst the field. Tom O’Sullivan is another SPS rower who’s just come back from the states, and already has a GB vs France vest under his belt, alongside Max Gillard and Deni Galay. A no-show from Milo Taylor and Felix Kwok seems strange as they don’t seem to be entered in any other categories despite making the trip out to Boston earlier in the year. Tristan Grainge rowed alongside Joe Willis in Leander ‘B’, but is the only Leander J17 here, despite the relatively high number of club entries. More Tideway regulars in this category with Team Keane placing four entries, and Tideway Scullers splitting their pairs head double of Oliver and Kelly who came second in junior championship doubles.
An incredible 30 J16 entries will no doubt be hell on earth for the marshals, but we do see plenty more variety in the clubs and some more veterans of the sculling scene. Windsor Boys School have eight scullers racing, closely followed by Westminster’s 6 and Team Keane’s 5. At pairs head J16 doubles were dominated by Eton in Club, and won by Shanklin Sandown in senior (all the way from the Isle of Wight!) Both Shanklin and Eton aren’t racing, but the Maidenhead double was the second fastest and we do see Jacob Ioras returning from that – a member of the J15 4x+ which on silver behind Windsor Boys at NSR. Worryingly for the rest of the field, all 4 members of that Windsor quad are racing, so we should see a very green podium for this event.