National Schools Regatta 2014- Championship Eights Preview

After the slight distortion of my poll, I thought that the time was right for me to turn my eye to the flagship event for this weekend- Championship Eights. Nine entries and I think this could well be one of the closest CH8+ events in recent years. Abingdon are the holders and these boys look strong coming into it but can they retain their title? Can St Edwards go one better than last year and take the win? Can St Pauls recover from a poor showing at Wallingford to regain the type of speed I know they’re capable of? Can Eton demonstrate the ‘Henshilwood’ effect? Questions, Questions, Questions. This is going to be a truly sensational event and I’m looking forward to watching it on Saturday evening. To the preview….

Hampton School

Coach- Neil Double

Key Athlete- Tim Nugent

Most Notable Results- Winner of J182- and J172- at Hampton SBH, 7th place at SHORR

From what I can tell, Hampton have no returners from last year which means that they have had to start from scratch with a whole new set of athletes. Hampton had a decent second VIII last year, which won at NSR but they’ve struggled for form this year. The disruption from the flooding has obviously hit them hard and they didn’t make the final at Wallingford. In retrospect, this wasn’t a terrible result as they were less than a second away in a tough heat and it will be interesting to see how much speed they’ve gained since then. Abingdon beat Hampton by half a length at Bedford Regatta two weeks ago so it looks as if Hampton have gained some speed. Can they make the final? It’d be the first time in four years if they didn’t and I have a sad feeling that, this year, the competition will be too fierce.

Kings School Chester

Coach- David Blackham

Key Athlete- Jack Webber

Most Notable Results- Winners of J18 8+ at Head of the Trent, 4th place at Wallingford Regatta in J18 8+

Another excellent crew who have pushed themselves into the upper echelons of rowing this year. They’ve been competing at CH8+ level for a couple of years now without ever making much of an impact but this year they’ve really turned some heads with a few great performances, including the scalp of Eton at the Head of the Trent. They have an extremely quick four, which is racing CH4- on the Sunday, and they’ll be looking for a place in the final. It is going to be exceptionally tight and I don’t they are in a position to compete for a medal yet- they need to work on their first 500m speed as they were a little off the pace in the final at Wallingford. Their battle with Shrewsbury will be fascinating to watch.

St Pauls School

Coach- Bobby Thatcher

Key Athlete- Arthur Doyle

Most Notable Results- 1st place at the SHORR, wins at Quintin and Hammersmith Head

St Pauls will be a little concerned by their racing at Wallingford. They were beaten twice by St Edwards and also by a strong Eton crew, both of whom they beat at the SHORR. Have St Pauls peaked too early? There is a lot of talk on rowing forums to that ilk but I’m not so sure. These boys are certainly on the back-foot now and Wallingford will have come as a wake up call but they’ve got class throughout their first VIII, including the fastest pair in the country. They’ll be challenging for the win on Saturday and, although they may no longer take the favourite tag, this may actually work in their favour. It was obvious from the SHORR head results that other crews were catching them up but I still fancy them to be quick on Saturday when it matters.

 Eton College

Coach- Alex Henshilwood

Key Athlete- Charles Thurston

Most Notable Results- 1st place in J18 8+ at Wallingford Regatta, 4th place at the SHORR

Eton are such an enigma- 100% of the time! They had a series of mixed results through the winter and were actually 11 seconds off the pace at the SHORR, which wasn’t the best of results. They had a tough training camp in Portugal, the hardest sessionn of which was a 60 minute free rate race- in pairs! They’ve entered the regatta season in good form, seeing off a growing Abingdon force and beating St Pauls in Challenge Eights. Eton’s sudden increase in speed will typically be attributed to the genius of Henshilwood but it is important to note that Eton had a J16 CH8+ which was dominant last year along with a pretty strong second VIII. Their speed this year should come as no real surprise and I reckon they’ll be challenging for the title on Saturday. My gut feeling is that they won’t win it- I think they’ll peak at HRR as Henshilwood has a real affinity with that competition. 

King’s College School Wimbledon

Coach- Patrick Duggan

Key Athlete- Charles Buchanan

Most Notable Results- 2nd place in J18 8+ at Quintin Head, 9th at SHORR

A number of very good athletes in the ranks, including James Clarke and the aforementioned Charles Buchanan. They’ve had a fantastic last couple of years at NSR, winning the Child Beale in 2012 before making the CH8+ final last year. Their tactics in the 2013 event came under a lot of scrutiny as they paddled their heat before blitzing the rep to qualify for the final. Was this unsportsmanlike behaviour? Not in a million years. The primary aim of sport is to win and compete at the highest level possible and KCS employed a plan which allowed them to do that. This year, they’ve struggled a little at the higher end finishing 9th at the SHORR. They’ll have had their heads down over the Easter period in pursuit of more speed but I don’t think they’ll have the power to make the final.

St Edward’s School

Coach- Jonny Singfield

Key Athlete- Oli Knight

Most Notable Results- 2nd place at SHORR, 3rd place in ELI 8+ at Wallingford Regatta

These boys have really really taken me by surprise. With three returners from that HRR finalist boat last year, I didn’t expect much from them this year. However, they’ve really picked up speed through the year and haven’t let the flooding significantly affect their preparation. They performed admirably at the SHORR, finishing in second place before a stunning performance at Wallingford led them to beat Eton and St Pauls in the final of Challenge Eights. These boys have to be my favourites to win the event on Saturday and I’ve got real admiration for the way in which they’ve attacked this year. According to some reliable sources, they are even faster than last years boat, a staggering achievement which will be proven by a strong performance on Saturday. Oli Knight has been instrumental in leading the line and his move from Walton to Teddies has paid dividends. These boys will be gunning for the win on Saturday.

Shrewsbury School

Coach- Athol Hundermark

Key Athlete- Toby Thomas

Most Notable Results- 1st place in J18 8+ at North of England Head, 3rd place in J18 8+ at Wallingford Regatta

Shrewsbury are a club in transition. Following the appointment of the South African coach Athol Hundermark, who masterminded the 2011 and 2012 Abingdon victories in the PE, they had a difficult year last year with some disappointing results through the head season. They picked up a little speed coming into Henley and pushed KCS close on the Wednesday of Henley with a limited squad but this year they’re looking strong. With the addition of Hundermark’s trademark boat, the carbon rigged Empacher, they’ve racked up some good results including a couple of wins over Kings School Chester and other Child Beale crews. Their result at Wallingford is promising for progression and I think they’ll be knocking on the door for a spot in the final. They have a lot of strength in depth with 2nd, 3rd, J16 CH and J16 2nd VIII’s. I can see them making th
e final.

Abingdon School

Coach- Dave Currie

Key Athlete- Jonathan Lord

Most Notable Results- Joint 5th at SHORR, 1st place in J18 8+ at Bedford Regatta and 2nd place in J18 8+ at Wallingford Regatta

The current holders of CH8+ at NSR and they’ll be looking eagerly at retaining their title for the second year in a row. You have to look, once again, at the astonishing power Dave Currie has produced among his athletes; 6 of their athletes are below 6:32 over 2k and 5 are on or below 6:25. That has got to be the strongest average ergo for any CH8+ this year and it remains to be seen whether they can reproduce this in the regatta season. They were badly affected by the flooding but came back strong after a long Easter break to finish second at Wallingford behind Eton College before they retained their J18 title at Bedford Regatta. They looked strong at Bedford and it looks as though their start speed is particularly quick again this year. Dave Currie is gaining a reputation for producing astonishingly powerful crews which are simply too strong for the opposition. I think these boys will make the final although I’m not sure if they are capable of winning the event just yet.

Radley College

Coach- John Gearing 

Key Athlete- Charles Elwes

Most Notable Results- 3rd place at SHORR, 1st place in J18 8+ at Hammersmith Head

An accomplished unit who have challenged consistently over the past three years. They made the PE final in 2012 but were knocked out by a very strong Hampton crew last year on the Friday. Their result at the SHORR was a very good one and showed how strong their program is at the moment but they slipped off the pace a little at Wallingford, finishing last in the final of J18 8+. They may have been down to fatigue as they won their heat in a very quick time. However, they had an issue with their 1st VIII at Bedford after their race against Winchester and have apparently damaged their Filippi [Can anyone confirm?]. If this is true, it will have hindered their training leading up to this event. I still think they’ll be fast on Saturday as they have some seriously powerful units, including the second fastest junior 2k in the country [Charles Elwes]. Their ability to make the final depends on the state of their boat and the quality of training leading up to this point.

My prediction to make the final- Eton College, St Pauls, St Edwards, Abingdon, Shrewsbury, Radley [Dependant on boat issues]

My prediction for the win- It’s incredibly tough to adjudicate between about four crews but I’m going to go with my hunch and say St Edward’s for the win.

Good luck to all competitors!

This photo was taken from-


  • David

    Someone told me KCS had three pairs at the Boston trials in April (more than any other school). Their top boat was in the A final. Is this true?

  • George

    Is it possible to get the junior ergo times you have access too?

    • marcus

      anyone who trialed has acces to them you mong.

  • Alex

    That would be great thanks.


  • Alex

    Dear Juniorrowing,

    Is there any chance you could also e-mail me the erg rankings?


    • Hi Alex,

      Thanks for your feedback. I didn’t actually email all the rankings, only the top 5 ergo scores from the trialist list. Would you like this?


  • lewis

    kings chester key athlete is ralph, went to coupe last year.

    • Hi Lewis,

      Thanks for your feedback. I’ll look to amend the preview.


  • toby

    Are there any new comers that we haven’t heard of coming up in WJ17x1 at nat schools

  • Alex

    Will you be doing 2nd8s?

    • Hi Harry,

      Thanks for your feedback. I’ll certainly be looking to produce something for 2nd VIII’s.


  • Mark

    i can confirm radley had a whopping great hole in their fillippi just by 3 seat above the water line caused by an abingdon octo

    • Hi Mark,

      Thanks for your feedback. I heard something had happened, cheers for confirming!


  • domvasey

    Also how many juniors right now are sub 6:20

  • domvasey

    Where do you find all the data for the ergo times of the athletes in the boats, would you be able to post a link if possible?

    • Hi Dom,

      Thanks for your feedback. I’d rather not post a link on my website as it isn’t my data to publish.

      Was there any particular score you were looking for? I can possibly email you some of the scores I have access to.


      • domvasey

        You said that Charles Elwes had the second best junior 2k in the country, would you be able to email me the top 5 times, I’m interested to see the current standard of our juniors?

        • Hi Dom,

          Thanks for your feedback. I’d be delighted to, he has the second fastest 2k on my database at least.