This is the first year in the new location for BUCS 4s and 8s Head, Gloucester, having previously been on the Tyne in Newcastle. This should provide a shake up to the competition after the last few years, and so it will be exciting to see which crews emerge at the top in the new set up. There are 4 Women’s Championship events where medals and BUCS points are available and they are the coxed fours, coxless fours, eights and quads. There are also two lightweight Championship events, coxless fours and quads.
In the coxed fours there are eight entries, from Bristol, Durham, Edinburgh, Exeter, two Imperial, London and Newcastle. The UL crew is the same one that recently won Henley 4s and 8s and so we can expect them to repeat a similar performance with the excellent strength in depth UL have. Looking at results from the last major head race, Fours Head, Bristol are stroked by the same Ward-Allen who’s crew performed well then and make up half of their women’s first eight. The two Imperial crews also appear to make up their first eight, stroked by Helen Kirkpatrick and the other by Cayol who led their Fours Head crew to a strong second place back in November.
The standout women’s crew so far this season has been Cambridge, with dominant results at Fours Head, Quintin Head and Henley 4s and 8s, although they are absent here in the run up to the Boat Race. Looking to take their place in Women’s Champ Eights are seven strong crews coming from Birmingham, Durham, Edinburgh, Imperial, London, Newcastle and Nottingham. Going off first is the UL crew, stroked by last year’s standout junior athlete Georgie Robinson-Ranger, who placed a close second in W Champ 8s at Quintin Head behind Cambridge so should be feeling confident coming into this weekend, building off good results at Henley 4s and 8s, where their second eight placed a very promising third too. Good strength in depth can be expected from some of the larger programmes too, including Edinburgh and Newcastle who can be relied on to produce some very speedy crews and are going off second and third respectively. Imperial have been busy racing Cambridge’s rivals, taking on Oxford in a series of pieces on the Tideway, where they also placed Second at Quintin Head in W Sen. 8s.
Newcastle and Edinburgh are two of the universities also making up the list of crews in the coxless fours, along with Bristol, Durham, Exeter, London, Nottingham and Sheffield. The Durham crew is stroked by U23 trialist Helena Barton, and so this is likely their first crew and so we can expect some strong racing from them off the back of their winter training camp. Newcastle have been involved in a series of pieces with the Oxford Lightweights recently, and so this crew should have some good racing under their belts in this combination. Finally Sheffield- this is their only women’s champ crew, and so they are likely to be the best their programme has to offer and should produce a good performance as a result.
It looks to be a tight competition in the women’s quads with entries from Bath, Durham, Edinburgh, Hartpury, Newcastle, Nottingham and Reading. Hartpury are well known for their successes in junior women’s quads, winning Henley four years in a row, and it will be interesting to see how their champ women’s quad shape up here on home waters. Newcastle came first at Rutherford Head with a strong performance, beating Edinburgh by 6 seconds in a strong performance, and last summer Newcastle’s women’s quad had some excellent results, and this crew can be expected to continue this as we come towards the end of this year’s Head season. Last but not least are Bath University. Bath have had some outstanding performances in women’s sculling over the last few years under their coach Dan Harris. With their second crew racing in the women’s intermediate category, this quad is their only women’s champ entry and is stroked by Laura Macro, HWR winner and recent member of the GB team at the U23 European Championships.
Lightweight 4x & 4-
On the lightweight side, De Montford, Exeter and Nottingham are racing twice, in both the quads and fours, joined by Worcester in the former and Bristol, Durham and Nottingham in the latter. Exeter are stroked by Danielle Semple, off the back of a strong performance at Henley and representing GB last summer so this combination will be experienced and fast. They head off first in the quads and second in the fours, behind Newcastle. De Montfort, Durham and Bristol have both consistently produced good lightweight crews over the last few years. Newcastle meanwhile will be looking help their heavyweight counterparts to go one better than their 2nd place in the Women’s VL last year, although they won’t have the home advantage this year.