National Schools 2014- Championship Singles Preview

With one week to go until the largest junior regatta in the country, the excitement is barely containable. The culmination of all that training rests, for many clubs, on next weekend and the lures of silverware. The standard of entry, particularly in the sculling events, is superb once again and my first preview will focus on single sculls and double sculls.

My CH8+ preview will be out later this week as I have some more plans for those!

For now, I’ll name my favourite scullers, predict a final line up and an outright winner.

To the CH1x…

Chris Lawrie [Sir William Borlase Boat Club]

The talisman of the Sir William Borlase quad and recent winner of JM4x at Munich International Regatta, representing Great Britain. Chris is my favourite to take the win here- his accomplished performance at April Trials stands testament to that. Chris first burst onto my radar when he raced to a silver medal in J151x at NSR two years ago. Since then he’s gone from strength to strength, winning a gold medal in J164x last year before racing for GB at the Junior World Championships at the age of 16. He’s a truly talented oarsman and another product of Robin Dowell’s efficient system down at Borlase. His 6:12.4 2k is an outstanding score, bettered only by three other juniors. I think, in the absence of Rowan Law who is racing J171x, he’ll win this event. I fancy him to beat Rowan anyway- the conditions at Nottingham however are notoriously unpredictable hence my reluctance. The final looks like it could be a cracker though- be there at 19:25 to see it!

Matt Aldridge [Christchurch RC]

A huge unit from Christchurch BC with a rather large ergo to match it [6:11:6]. He’s been rowing the single for as long as I can remember and has notched up wins at the British Championships and Wallingford Regatta to name but a few. He competed for Great Britain in various sweep crews at Munich last weekend but I still fancy him to tick it along in the small boat. His style isn’t the most elegant but his strength is probably best utilised in the way he sculls- speed is everything! A quality athlete who will prove a difficulty for the likes of Chris Lawrie and Alex Haynes. Can he win it? Probably not but I expect to see him in the final, even in a field of this class.

Alex Bain [Northwich RC]

His move to Northwich from Royal Chester at the beginning of this season has had a profound impact; Northwich have become an absolute force and have thrown the gauntlet down with a series of classy performances at the Scullery, Wallingford Regatta and, most recently, Nottingham City which they won yesterday. He’s moved into the stroke seat of the quad recently and this paid dividends, pushing his crew onto a 2nd place at Wallingford. Can this ability to provide rhythm translate to speed in the small boat? I certainly think so. He won a silver medal in J171x this time last year and he’ll be looking to maintain the standards with a strong performance in the single as a warm-up to the quad on the Saturday. He’s been training with scullers of prowess all season [Finnian Lawton, Leon Langmead] and so I’d watch out for Alex as a dark horse. Can he medal? Don’t rule it out although the field is an outstanding one.

Connor Gamble [Nottingham RC]

If Connor was at pretty much any other club, he’d be the outstanding sculler.Unfortunately, he’s chosen to row for Nottingham, home of Rowan Law. This lad has been a high profile oarsman for a long time and used to have a national title winning double with Dominic Parnell, now of Shiplake. He’s the current holder of OJ2x at the British Championships, having won a 2x title at this event for the past three years. He missed out on the A/B semi’s at the GB Trials by 0.1 seconds to Will White but he’ll be looking for a final spot at the weekend. I’d also like to pose a question to the powers that be at Nottingham- why don’t you guys boat a junior quad?! Connor Gamble, Rowan Law, Jack Smith…. Just a thought. Expect to see Connor pushing on in the fight for a final spot. A real small boat specialist.

Steven Parsonage [Norwich RC]

An awesome sculler, who I am told is close to lightweight. If this is true, his achievements in the scull are all the more remarkable. He burst onto the scene earlier this season by racking up some titles at local events before winning November GB Trials in spectacular fashion. His selection for the Munich International Regatta in the bow seat of the A Quad was well deserved and he raced as Nautilus A at Wallingford Regatta, winning ELI 4x. If you want to see speed through the opening stage, take a look at their first 1000m split! He fell off a little at April Trials, losing out to a number of scullers but I expect him to be among the medals. Can he take on Lawrie? He’s one of the few in this event with any chance but I still fancy the Borlase man to take it. 

Harry Leask [Leander Club]

We haven’t seen much of Harry in the single this season; what we have seen though has been impressive. He destroyed the field at Henley LDS earlier this season to win J181x, beating Ben Maxwell and Chris Lawrie to boot. His Leander roots mean he’ll have had a lot of training and coaching along with plenty of financial support so I’d watch out for this lad. He rowed in the Leander A quad in 2013 along with Seb Devereux and Sam Mottram. These boys won at Met and Marlow Regatta so Harry is experienced. Leander currently hold this title and the question remains as to whether or not they can retain it- watch out for this lad as I expect him to be there or there abouts.

Alex Haynes [Marlow RC]

A giant of a junior and a real racer. I spoke to Bret King [More on that to come soon] who stressed the importance of Alex to the junior set-up down at Marlow and his indisputable talent is evidence of this. He too raced for Great Britain at Munich, reuniting with his old Marlow partner Fraser Russell to finish 5th in the B final. It becomes hard after a while to find new things to say about athletes such as Alex as I’ve covered them too many times. He’s been involved with the GB set-up for a long time now and his prowess in a single is well known. He made the A final at April Trials and he stands a real chance in this event. Do I think he’ll win? He’s got as good a chance as any and I think he’ll certainly make the final.

Notable mentions go to Rufus Dobson, who finished 3rd at Wallingford in J181x, Toby Heaten, who has competed at a high level in GB Trials before and Hugo Coussens, who sits in the SWB quad.

My prediction for the final as follows- Chris Lawrie, Alex Haynes, Steven Parsonage, Matt Aldridge, Harry Leask and Alex Bain.

My prediction for the win- It has to be Chris Lawrie.

CHG1x to follow.

Good luck to all competitors!

This photo was taken from-