Wallingford Regatta offers crews the opportunity to race side-by-side over 2km on the same course that National School's will be raced on the weekend of the 25th/26th May, and is the first major multi-lane regatta of the season for many crews. It offers a great insight into how much progress different crews have made over the Easter holiday.
With 70 odd J18 men’s crews competing this Sunday over 11 different events we are bound to see the combination of old favourites and new talent resulting in some great racing to kick off the 2019 season.
Starting with the VIII’s we see Claire’s Court, Eton, KCS, Shrewsbury, St. George`s College and St. Paul`s ready to try their hand racing some big clubs in Challenge 8+. Last year’s Theodosius Challenge Cup saw Thames A get the edge over St. Paul’s by two seconds in the final. Will the tables be turned, or will we see a different competitor take the win? Last year’s system of A and B school events has gone and in similar fashion to NSR been combined into one event of Op Schools 8+. This sees the field reduce in size including the loss of last year’s winner Abingdon. This leaves the title open with us wondering who will take the opportunity to make their mark first this summer. Bedford and Abingdon are absent from the draw after fielding all the crews (except Abingdon's 1V) at BASHER the day beforehand, with Eton, St Paul's, Hampton and Radley choosing to save their top boats for Wallingford. BASHER is an annual private regatta between Bedford, Abingdon, St Pauls, Hampton, Eton and Radley (get the name?) at Dorney Lake, which has been running for many years, hosting the traditionally top 6 rowing schools in the country, however when the entries from the core 6 schools are weak the doors are opened to other schools such as Reading Blue Coat and Shiplake College.
With no schools 4- event we see King`s College School, South African Schools Rowing Union, Shiplake, St. Edward`s School, St. Paul`s and Westminster enter the Challenge 4-. After seeing St. Pauls beating the seniors in this event last year will any of our J18 crews continue this legacy? We leave the challenge to you.
With only St. Paul’s and Radley choosing to compete in the Challenge 4+ we see a large number of crews competing in Op Schools 4+. Dulwich College, Emanuel School, Henley, Reading Blue Coat School, The King`s School Worcester and Weybridge are all crews who have entered this rather than the VIII’s, it will be exciting to see them set a good platform here and gain vital experience before moving into the VIII’s later this season.
In the 4x- Claires Court School, Great Marlow School and Walton all enter challenge leaving Emanuel School, Henley, Lea, Star & Arrow, The Windsor Boys` School, Wallingford, Warrington and Wycliffe Junior Rowing Club. After last year’s very close final between Star & Arrow and Henley, the latter winning by 0.2 of a second, we recommend getting a good view of the finish line at 17:48 for the final, especially with Windsor Boys’ also entering the mix.
The last 6 events are all slightly smaller but by no means less competitive. With Oratory competing against the seniors in Challenge 2- we hope to see them fighting for a place up in the medals. With J18’s making up about half of the Challenge 2x the South African Schools Rowing Union and Walton should put up a good challenge against the likes of Thames and Wallingford. Op Schools 2x sees a great mix of crews for Mossbourne Rowing Academy to Henley with Nottingham County, Peterborough, Reading Blue Coat, The American School In London and The King`s School, Ely all battling each other for the Chamber of Trade Cup on Dorney this Sunday. In the singles we wish A Brown, A Hui-Le Marer, R Sutherland, W Shedden, B Taylor, D Huntley, F Tyler and J Colam the best of luck as they fight their way down the 2000 metres.
J16 Eights was an exciting event at School's Head, seeing Eton dominate the 'colts' rowing scene, after an arguably unsuccessful season as J15, by winning both J16 Championship and J16 Second Eights at SHORR. Eton A at Wallingford will be favourites to take the Gold Medal, with the likes of Harry Stevens in the middle four, this really displays the pedigree of athletes that Eton have been able to develop over the last 8 months. What will be most interesting to see how far Eton B are off their A crew. Eton showed incredible depth last year in their Senior 2nd VIII, and Mark Fangen-Hall will be looking at this year group with great promise for their two years in the senior group. That being said, Eton B will be up against the likes of other schools' A crews, so I wouldn't expect a medal, but a good tussle with Westminster's J16 2nd VIII can be expected if they are drawn in a race together.
Westminster have two Eights entered, so presuming that they aren't matched, Westminster’s J16 Championship Eight should be the crew who Eton will be looking at and questioning their 1st Place finish on Saturday. Westminster lost to Eton at SHORR, while having the Tideway home water advantage, so it will be interesting to see the margin between Eton and the Pink Boys from the Thames. Note, they are entered in two coxed fours in the afternoon, so it will be interesting to see how they fair transitioning from the eight to the four, as this will be a similar tactic seen for the Sunday of NSR.
Shiplake are the only other crew from the top 5 from SHORR that have chosen to race at Wallingford. With a win at Henley 4s and 8s Head earlier in the season, and an Easter Training camp in Temple Sur Lot, these boys will be hoping to replicate the success of their Temple Eight from last year. For Wallingford, these boy's aim will be to close the gap that Eton and Westminster created on the Tideway, to keep alive their chance of medals at NSR.
King's College London, Dulwich, Radley, St Edward's and St George's all have eights entered in this category, but not reading into their lack of a top 5 finish at SHORR, a big step-on from the Head season is needed if they want to secure silverware come NSR. However St Edwards came 5th at Hammersmith Head, where the majority of the field turned up, so potentially this crew has more to offer than the SHORR results suggest.
As well, the South African School's Rowing Union are over for the start of their period of racing on British waters. It's always great to see other countries enjoying the high quality of racing that Junior rowing in Britain can produce. Not much is known about them, so only time will tell if they are able to compete with these J16 crews, and we will get more of a picture when they race at Bedford Regatta next week. Shiplake also have entered a four entered in the afternoon, which supports the rumour that they'll be targeting the Sunday of NSR and GB representation at GB-France.
We would've expected an entry from St Paul's J16s seeing as Bobby has chosen to take the seniors, but they are missing from this field. Aberdeen's School's Rowing Association aren't present either, but most probably due to the distance of travel, especially during a time of public examinations for these student athletes.
Again, Hampton, Abingdon and Bedford are also missing from this field as they are opting to rather race at BASHER. For the first time in a few years, BASHER will field crews from all 6 schools, with all J16 A crews present, despite a lack of J18 1st VIII's at the event. There's also a lack of other schools, as occasionally schools such as Reading Blue Coat make up for any lacklustre entries.