The first major event of the rowing year, Wallingford Long Distance Sculls pits the very best of the Thames Valley (and a few from further afield) against each other down a 4250m course, and it's a great opportunity for scullers to get their name out there early and make the most of their summer training.
One of the largest categories at the event, the Open 1x field is dominated by two big names, Henley and Radley, who have 19 of the 32 entries between them. There are some big names in the draw with athletes who will want to show their coaches they are seeking selection for top boats this year. Radley have a large range of athletes from last year and have retained GB athletes in the form of Peter Denton, Freddie Nielsen and Alex Senior. These guys, whilst more adept in a sweep boat, will no doubt have serious power and will want to look to start the season in a positive manner by establishing themselves as Radley’s top athletes. A club more known for sculling are Henley, and they always have a big squad with immense talent. Most of these guys have raced at Henley, and Joe Long earned a GB vest at last year’s Coupe. Westminster have a large contingent racing in Op 1x and have retained a number from last year’s 1st 8, who will want to do well in this early season event.
W Op 1x
This event has attracted entries from a wide range of clubs. At his stage of the season, concrete results are hard to come by as for many, this is a first race of the season. Some of last year's scullers like Emma Kohlmayer of Westminster School will be billed to compete for that top spot - Emma's A-Final at NSR certainly giving her some status. Avril Walters has come fresh from Coupe De La Jeunesse in the quad, and as the top Junior in the event she should be looking for a very good result. Twickenham Rowing Club's world class start double from last year have split into singles; Robyn Tallis and Sidnie Greenfield's undoubted competition against one another should add to their times and work as a reminder to the juniors that this category's older members won't be a pushover.
Westminster are the dominant name on the entry list for the Op 2x, with their crews being half of the total of 8 in this event. They are crews made up of athletes from an extensive squad, and speed is hard to gauge at this early stage of the season. Other clubs, such as RGS High Wycombe and Pangbourne have not included athlete names on their entries, but both have good reputations for making boats move fast. Upper Thames and Aurol Kensigton complete the field in this category.
W Op 2x
This event sees Henley with 3 entries, from their junior woman’s squad. The stand out name is that of Junior Worlds athlete Phoebe Snowden, who competed in the JW 4- in Tokyo. Henley always do well in the junior events, and it would be no surprise to see them do well here. They face competition from arch rivals Headington School, who have made their entry under Unicorn Diamond, meaning we don’t know the athletes, but Headington always produce solid outfits at any point of the season. The other entries come from Lea, Quintin and two crews from home club Wallingford, and this should see some very good racing.
Just like last year the Open 4x has a small but strong entry with Henley RC, Radley and 2 crews from St Pauls. The Henley and Radley crews will be their athletes doubling up from the singles, and St Pauls are blooding athletes from last year’s J16 squad, and despite being a feared name on the sweep scene, are not unknown to produce fast sculling crews early in the season. The Op 4x is an event to watch.
W Op 4x
Another event with a strong contingent from Henley, with one of the crews under the name of the aforementioned Snowden. The others are under the name of Nave, who was in the J16 GB France crew last year, a crew that qualified for Henley as a J16 crew. The final crew is under the name of Sophie Underwood, who will be looking to move up the ladder at Henley, having had a very strong J16 season last year. All these crew will be looking to get one over on their clubmates at this stage of the season, so this should see some close racing. Stratford on Avon have entered their J17 crew, who last year placed 16th at National Schools, so will be looking to step up this year. The rest of the field is made up by Twickenham, Guilford and Shiplake Vikings.