Schools Head of the River 2014- 1st Eights Preview

19 entries and a pretty good standard here. Shiplake, having finished third last year, lead the division out but there are some notable absences. 4 out of the top 5 1st VIII’s from SHORR last year are either not racing or racing a different category. St George’s have chosen not to enter an VIII at all but are racing a junior 4+. The preview….

Shiplake College

These boys always feature pretty highly and I’m sure this year will be no different. They’ve racked up some decent results already this year, including the 2nd and 4th fastest times of the day at Gloucester Head. They beat Monmouth and Cheltenham College, two of their competitors in 1st VIII’s which will help them psychologically. They also raced at Quintin Head, placing fourth in IM3 VIII’s behind Latymer’s second VIII and Hampton School. Can they win this event? I can’t be sure. They were pretty much equal in speed with BMS’s first VIII at Quintin which makes the prospect of a rematch at SHORR all the more exciting. They have Harry Vardigans onboard, who raced at the Coupe last summer. Three other Shiplake oarsmen also raced there but I’m not sure as to whether they are still in the system. After Shiplake’s silver medal at NSR last year, they will be looking for a higher finish this year.


These boys had some excellent results in smaller boats earlier in the season. They placed well in a Jun 4X at HOR4 and set the fastest time of the day in a J172x at Hampton SBH. A superb achievement and it will be interesting too see whether they can turn these sculling results into sweep prowess. Jonathan Naylor, who was a spare for the GB vs France match last year, looks like a pretty handy sculler, coming 6th in J171x at Hampton. Their VIII raced at Exeter Head in early March, recording the second fastest time of the day in Senior Eights albeit against limited competitive opposition. Their top pair, containing Naylor, placed fourth at Feb Gb Trials, which was a superb result. I really can’t be too sure how fast their VIII actually is so I’m going to say top 5 for these boys.


I’ve seen a lot of these boys this season as a result of that excellent quad. They slightly underperformed at the Scullery, finishing seventh in J184x compared to second at the HOR4. Their VIII, which has 50% of the NSR silver medallist, Visitors 4+ from last year, raced at Wallingford in December and finished fifth in J18 8+. However they were beaten by Shiplake at that event. They have some excellent oarsmen onboard, including Ben Maxwell who raced at the Junior World Championships last year in the pair with Ali Douglass. Can they challenge? I think they’ll be up there as it is obvious that the four guys from the quad are very talented. However, I’m not sure about the disparity between the two halves of the VIII. Top 5 for these boys.

Reading Blue Coat School

I fancy these guys to do well next Wednesday. The reason I say this is due to recent results against related competition. At Hammersmith Head, they finished fourth in J18 8+ but only 10 seconds behind Radley’s first VIII and, crucially, 15 seconds clear of Dulwich College. They entered various crews into both the Head of the Trent and Quintin but I am not sure that these were their top crews as they were a long way off the pace. RBCS had a superb J16 1st VIII last year, which won gold at NSR so this integration to the first VIII will take time. Having been off the pace of 1st VIII’s last year, they will be looking for top 5 next week. Keep an eye out for their result at Kingston Head at the weekend as this will give a good indication too.

Bedford Modern School

Having stepped down from CH8+ last year following the loss of nearly their entire first VIII, BMS had a pretty shaky season in 2013. They chose not to enter an VIII at NSR and instead opted for a four, which arguably should have medalled. They were then beaten by Latymer on the Wednesday of HRR, results which head coach Ali Brown would have been underwhelmed by. They looked pretty good at Quintin, beating Shiplake by 0.1 seconds and I think they’ll do well at SHORR. It’ll be good to see them get back on track and the local rivalry between themselves and Bedford School, who start a place behind them, should be good to watch.

The last two crews to watch out for are Monmouth School, who made the final in 1st VIII’s at NSR last year and had an excellent four who won gold for Wales, and Bedford School, who are coached by Pete Mulkerrins and had a strong J16 contingent last year.

If I’ve missed anyone, let me know!

Good luck to all competitors!

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