Schools Head of the River 2014- Women’s Championship Eights Preview

A huge 24 boat entry to this event although I have a few favourites in mind. The preview…

Headington School Oxford A

After their performance at the Scullery, where they won the WJ184X by 21 seconds and recorded the second fastest women’s time of the day, they have to go into this event as favourites. They’ve been the pinnacle of junior girls rowing for a couple of years now and their versatility always amazes me! They seem able to produce a winning CHG8+ then can transfer their skills across to a quad effortlessly. They’ve racked up some good results abroad this year, winning Women’s High School First and Second Varsity Eights at the Head of the Schuylkill in Philadelphia in October. Their first VIII also came 10th at the Head of the Charles earlier in the year. Ryan Demaine has done a superb job at moulding these girls, year on year, into world class crews and I just think they’ll be too strong for the rest of the field.

Haberdashers’ Monmouth School for Girls RC

On the Haberdasher School’s website the post race report on their NSR performance last year claimed that they would be ‘the crew to beat’ this year. Thus far, I haven’t seen too much of them racing but I think their claim could well have some validity. I can’t see them beating Headington but don’t be surprised to see them feature highly. They have seven returners and national silver medallists in multiple events onboard. They have a new head coach this year and performed well at the Scullery, finishing 5th in WJ184x. Can they  challenge? With the quality they had last year, I can see them finishing in the top 5.

The King’s School, Chester A

This looks like it is going to be a wonderful year for Kings School Chester. They have, by the looks of things, a very strong junior men’s and women’s VIII judging by recent results. At Runcorn Head, their WJ18A 8+ won their event by a huge 3 minutes [Admittedly the opposition was not that tough] but they also recorded the fastest women’s time of the day. At the Head of the Trent, they won WJ18 8+ over an LEH crew by 14 seconds which was a much more significant result. I honestly cannot understand where their strength has come from! It is remarkable and I cannot wait to see the progress they make through the year. Can they challenge at the very top? That remains to be seen and SHORR represents the first big test for these girls.

Lady Eleanor Holles Boat Club A

 Under Head Coach Jonathan Cheeseman, LEH have had a good season so far. Their racked up some good results at Wallingford LDS and HOR4 before boating two matched VIII’s at Quintin Head which finished first and fourth. That is a good set of results and demonstrates real strength in depth, a sure sign of a prosperous club. Can they catch Headington? I don’t think they can at this stage. Headington really are a class act and despite the presence of athletes such as Amy Polglase, who rowed at the Coupe De La Jeunesse last summer, I think LEH will fall just short. I think they’ll make the top 3. For a good read, have a look at Martin Cross’s preview of the SHORR in Rowing & Regatta which mentions LEH.


A local derby is on the cards here as Marlow are starting a place behind Sir William Borlase. Marlow, for the second year in a row, recorded the fastest women’s time of the day at the Scullery on Friday, winning their event by a lovely 44 seconds. If this VIII has those girls in, it is sure to go fast. Marlow had a decent WJ164x too, which finished 6th in a large field. I will be interested to see what these high performing girls can produce as their season is on a high at the moment. Having beaten Eton Excelsior at the Thames Valley Trial Head in the quad, they had a number of athletes in the top 10 at Feb GB Trials. As for their VIII, the speed is uncertain. Marlow have entered a number of VIII’s, winning at the TVTH and performing well at Quintin. If this is the same crew then they look good for SHORR. I expect top 5 from these girls.

Sir William Borlase

Sir William Borlase have been quietly building a crew for this event and their results at recent races should give them hope. They finished third in WJ184x at the Scullery, won WIM3 8+ and WIM3 4+ at the TVTH and finished second in WJun 4+ at HOR4. Can they challenge Headington? Again, I doubt it but the match-up between them and Marlow should be fantastic. They have some really strong girls, including Becca Taylor, who rowed in their quad at Henley last year, and Megan Barry, who recently competed at Feb GB Trials. They’ll be looking for a top 5 finish and I think they can achieve that with a solid row. Clubs like Sir William Borlase are a superb basis for young rowers as, year after year, Borlase turn out extremely strong crews. The ongoing duel for Thames Valley dominance between themselves and neighbours Marlow is fascinating to watch and I expect it to continue at the SHORR.

Great Marlow School

It has been a pretty solid year for these girls so far, with a number of good results. They beat an LEH crew at Wallingford Head in December to win WJ18 8+ and recorded a time 2 seconds slower than Sir William Borlase. The lack of racing really has made writing previews difficult as I have very little to go off. However, they raced an VIII at TVTH in WIM3, placing 3rd and under three seconds behind winners Sir William Borlase. They were slightly off the pace at the Scullery, finishing 7th in WJ184x but over a minute behind winners Headington.I can’t see them challenging at the very top but don’t be surprised to see them feature in the top 10. 

Mentions must also go to St George’s College, who finished 9 seconds behind LEH at Quintin in January, Kingston Grammar School, who finished 6th at the Scullery in WJ184x and had a very good junior quad last year and Sir William Perkin’s School, who finished third in this event last year.

That’s all the major players that I can see. If I’ve missed anyone, please let me know!

Good luck to all competitors!

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