Schools Head of the River 2014- Junior 18 Quads Preview

A slightly weaker field than the Scullery was earlier in March but it should be very competitive nonetheless, with 3 of the top 10 from the Scullery competing, including the top 2. The preview…

Sir William Borlase

So far, so good for these boys. Their run at the Scullery really showed a crew in form and they looked powerful, sharp and dynamic. I watched them warm up at Dorney and their front end really is superb. They were paddling with square blades and the precision at the catch was exquisite- back-splash, a relaxed placement coupled with pressure through the middle of the stroke. They’ve answered all the questions asked of them so far including a pretty intrusive one posed by Bill Mason’s unit from Westminster. They certainly take the tag of favourites and I think they’ll be looking to widen their margin over Westminster.

Westminster

Starting three boats ahead of Sir William Borlase, the men in pink will fancy this on their home stretch. Looking at the weather forecast, it is going to be pretty choppy on Wednesday which will play into Westminsters hands. They don’t look as technically sharp as they did last year but that will have a lot to with the loss of James Gunn and Nick Scott. They’ve brought two lads from the gold medal winning 1st Four from last year into the quad and that will take time. On their home stretch of water, I can see Westminster doing well. They know the lines to take, especially with the experienced Cam Kerr sitting in the bows, and are used to ferocious conditions on the Tideway. They entered an VIII, made up of the J18 and J17 quads, last year coming an impressive 6th. Can they wrestle the title of top junior quad away from Sir William Borlase on the second time of asking? We shall see! A top 3 finish for these boys is highly likely. 

The Windsor Boys School

Despite the photos from the Scullery suggesting otherwise, these boys chipped down the Olympic course to finish in 9th place. This was, in part, due to the return of the other half of the White clan, a valuable addition for his experience and all-round sculling ability. With a pretty strong J16 contingent, I think these boys will return to the summit of junior quads next year after slipping off slightly this season. For now though, they will be looking to consolidate their performance at the Scullery with another good one here. I don’t think they’ll challenge SWB or Westminster but they’ll be looking for a top 5 finish.

Gloucester Hartpury

I put these guys here because they had two guys in the top 10 at Early ID Trials plus they had a double finish fourth at, an albeit depleted, Feb GB trials. They won bronze in a composite with Wycliffe in J18 4x at the British Championships in July and they are a specialist sports college which operate a large sports programme at both university and U18 level. I think they’ll be challenging in the top 5 as they are a strong group of lads who focus on sculling as their discipline. I’ll be interested to see what they can do at the top level and I expect them to challenge the likes of Windsor. 

Walton

Another crew racing on their home turf, these boys have struggled a bit this season. They had a poor run at the HOR4 but look as if they have improved since then, recording a comfortable win at Gloucester Head. It is interesting to draw comparisons between their opposition. At Gloucester, they beat a Monkton crew by 38 seconds over the 4000m course. Presuming that Monkton crew is the same one that raced at the Scullery, Windsor Boys beat Monkton by 48 seconds over 3600m while Star beat them by 44 seconds over the same distance. It looks like Walton will be somewhere in that region although their ability to cope with the rough conditions will play a key role. Top 8 for these guys.

Claires Court School A

A good season for these boys so far, with a silver medal from J174x at the Scullery to add to their collection. They finished 8 seconds behind Marlow and were the joint 10th fastest boat of the day. Based in Maidenhead, their water-time will have been limited and so I expect them to get faster as the season goes on. Their battle with crews like Star will be a good one to watch. Claires Court are in that band between being absolutely top end and not competing and I expect them to step up to the top level next year. They had a fantastic J16 season, making two national finals plus winning a silver medal at the British Championships while also racing at Henley. Top 8 for these boys. 

Kingston Grammar School

I would not have included these guys in my preview had I not seen their result at Kingston Head. They won Junior Quads ahead of Molesey and Windsor Boys which is an impressive result. Luke Hillier, who apparently rowed in the J16 VIII, has been moved to the quad and this has obviously had a big effect. As they are also racing a J16 CH8+ at Schools Head, I’ll be interested to see whether or not they can compete and which crew they boat. Top 10 is very much achievable for these lads on the presumption that they are boating the fastest quad possible.

Other notable mentions go to Dart Totnes, who raced at Henley last year, Star A, who under-performed at the Scullery relative to their ability but still came in 9th from the British crews, Emmanuel, who won at Hammersmith Head, Kings School Worcester, who were a pretty decent crew last year and had a good result at the Scullery, Hinksey Sculling School, who won at the Thames Trial Valley Head but slipped back slightly at the Scuillery, losing out to Star whom they beat at the HOR4 and Norwich, who may have the fantastically talented Stephen Parsonage onboard [They are also racing two junuor fours].

Good luck to all competitors!

This photo was taken from- http://www.britishrowing.org/news/2012/march/23/dazzling-week-junior-rowers

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