The Fawley Challenge Cup- Draw and Reaction

So, after much anticipation and a savage day of racing yesterday, the HRR 2014 draw has been released and we’ve got some fascinating match-ups already in the junior events.

The selected crews were mainly as expected although the stewards selected seven British crews in the Fawley. The crews that qualified yesterday were mainly as expected although I must pass on my congratulations to Wallingford Rowing Club, Leander/Star and Arrow and Royal Grammar School High Wycombe Boat club for qualifying an ‘A’ and a ‘B’ quad into a very competitive regatta.

I’ll take a look at the first 8 races here and I’ll be updating my blog daily with various snippets from the regatta- I’m working for Regatta Radio during the week and will hopefully have time to watch racing, blog and get some interviews done.

Norwich Rowing Club vs Molesey Boat Club

Two pretty well matched crews, both of whom have some pretty oarsmen onboard. Norwich have the formidable Steve Parsonage, winner of CH1x and member of the J4x that won gold at Munich International Regatta, while Molesey have the talented duo of Alexander Browning and Andrew Aitchison, who finaled in CH2x at National Schools. Less than two seconds separated these guys last weekend at Marlow Regatta and Norwich arguably look like the crew on the rise, having gained a few seconds speed over the last few weeks. However, into the Henley headwind and with the Molesey support on the bank, I just fancy the more powerful Molesey crew to take this.

Verdict- 1 length to Molesey

Thames Rowing Club vs Star and Arrow

Star and Arrow were one of my favourites to qualify after their impressive performance at Marlow, where they made the ‘A’ final. They are essentially Leander’s ‘B’ quad with a number of development athletes. Thames had a great row yesterday and looked very sharp coming down the course; their lacklustre performance at Marlow obviously galvanised them. However, I can only see one result coming out of this race. Star and Arrow to take this, especially with the advantage of home water.

Verdict- 3 lengths to Star and Arrow

Wallingford Rowing Club ‘A’ vs Frankfurter R.G, Germany

The Wallingford crew is a mix of J18’s, J17’s and J16’s and is the same crew that made the final at Reading Amateur Regatta. They raced in smaller boats through most of the regatta season but have come together to produce a pretty fast quad; they qualified well yesterday. I don’t have much information on the German quad but the club had some junior athletes racing at the Munich International Regatta in May and several of their athletes are ex junior internationals. The fact that they pre-qualified shows that they must have some speed and I feel they will be too strong for Wallingford.

Verdict- 2 lengths to Frankfurter R.G, Germany

Wallingford Rowing Club ‘B’ vs RGS High Wycombe ‘A’

A B crew against an A crew and, on paper, this isn’t much of a competition. The RGS High Wycombe crew are pretty much the same crew that raced at HRR last year, losing out on the Wednesday to semi finalists Cornelius Tromp. The Wallingford crew are the same J164x which finished second at National Schools a month ago. Both crews have good speed and, despite the A/B tags, I think this will be a very close race. The Wycombe crew are renowned for their speed out of the start and this could give them the psychological edge over their opponents, particularly in the context of match racing. I think RGS High Wycombe will take this.

Verdict- 2 lengths to RGS High Wycombe

The Windsor Boys School vs Malvern Preparatory School

A really cracker of a Wednesday encounter and it looks as if this one will fall roughly after lunch, drawing big crowds. Windsor Boys, after a pretty unimpressive start to this season, have captured form over the last few weeks, winning the ‘B’ final at Marlow Regatta while also winning qualifiers last night by some 8 seconds. The White twins have been instrumental to this season; their silver medal in CH2x at National Schools was a real personal success. We also get our first look at one of three foreign crews in the Fawley Cup. Malvern have had a pretty successful season state-side so don’t be surprised to see them give Windsor Boys a good run. I saw them out training yesterday afternoon and they looked sharp. Nonetheless, I’m going to back GB and go with my instinct; Windsor for the win.

Verdict- 1/2 length to Windsor Boys School

Claire’s Court School vs Marlow Rowing Club

Another cracker with two pretty well matched crews who have performed well all season. Claire’s Court were probably a little unlucky not to warrant pre-qualification after making the final at Wallingford Regatta and the ‘A’ final at Marlow Regatta; they are a well-drilled crew with three of the guys who raced in this event last year. Nonetheless, Marlow actually went faster in their ‘B’ final by 2 seconds so this promises to be a fantastic race. These two were probably eyeing each other up as a crew to avoid as they are well matched and actually raced each other at the Oarsport Junior Sculling Head earlier in the year; Marlow took the win by 8 seconds. I think Marlow will take this but it’ll be damn close.

Verdict- 1/2 length to Marlow Rowing Club

Warrington Rowing Club vs RGS High Wycombe ‘B’

An interesting clash between two strong crews. Warrington have been in the ‘chasing pack’ category for J184x this season although their 10th placed finish in the CH4x time trial at National Schools was a very good result. They’ve got some good athletes and often get faster through the year. The RGS High Wycombe crew are the J164x champions at National Schools and they actually beat their A crew into the ‘B’ final at Marlow Regatta; they ended up 6th. However, they’ve obviously gained speed since then as Henley ‘A’, who beat them at Marlow, did not qualify last night. They are a crew in form who have consolidated their position following a brilliant National Schools campaign. I think they can take this.

Verdict- 1 length to RGS High Wycombe ‘B’

Star Club vs York City Rowing Club

The last race in the draw, and another one which promises a fierce encounter. Star struggled a little at Marlow Regatta last week, finishing second in the ‘C’ final, but came back strong yesterday to qualify well. They have had a re-jig in the last few weeks which has brought them more speed and, with the experience they have of the Henley course, they’ll be a good match for most. York haven’t raced much since the Head of the Trent and didn’t boat a quad for National Schools so to see them qualify was a real surprise. They look to have retained several of the crew that made the Thursday last year so expect them to be quick. Nonetheless, I feel Star will be too strong on this occasion.

Verdict- 1 length to Star

Good luck to all competitors! The previews for the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup will be out later today.

This photo was taken from-