Wallingford Long Distance Sculls 2014- The Preview

This article represents, in my eyes at least, a number of beginnings. It is the official launch pad of my new website which makes this a piece I have been waiting to write all summer. It marks a debut for a number of my fantastic new writers, all of whom will be imposing their impartiality onto a brand new junior rowing season. Last, but most importantly, this is the beginning of a new rowing season. National Schools may seem like months away now but every mile in the scull, every bit of conditioning in the gym and every second spent on the ergo will count in May. We all have our own idea of the favourite crews and I’m sure there are those out there who believe that there is little left to be decided. But last season stands testament to the fact that rowing, as a sport and a spectacle, is unpredictable which makes my job that bit more challenging. The four, sometimes five, way tussle for the accolade of top schoolboy eight in the country made for engaging and exciting racing throughout the season and I expect a similar, if not better, standard of competition this year.

Although this event may not signal the beginning of the new season for everyone, it is certainly the first major event in the new season and it often draws some of the top crews from around the country. The entry list is as large as ever although there are some notable absentees from the junior scene. This event is often said to arrive too early to be a real indicator of speed but I always say that class is permanent and St Pauls, who dominated the winter events last year, were in hot form at Wallingford LDS 2013. RGS High Wycombe, who are the current holders of the J164x at the National Schools Regatta, are also racing alongside silver medallists Wallingford Rowing Club. To the preview…

 

J181x

Although there aren’t any superstar names that jump out at me, we have a number of strong scullers who are competing next Saturday. Jonathan Naylor of Canford finished well at the November GB Trials and represented Great Britain at the Coupe De La Jeunesse during the summer albeit in a sweep boat. Canford are a good bet for form this season as they’ve retained their two star oarsman in Aaron Sheikalian and Naylor. They are both capable scullers and I expect to see them featuring highly. There are a number of Lea Rowing Club scullers although we haven’t seen much of them recently. They didn’t enter a single crew at the National Schools Regatta in May and often look to develop athletes who haven’t rowed before so I’m not sure that these athletes will be competent at the highest level. As mentioned before, RGS High Wycombe are out in force and three of the four who represented Great Britain in the GB-France Match last July are racing here. James Beagles is perhaps my call for speed and I expect these guys to take up the mantle left behind by Rob Eyres and Tom Commins. Look out for their quad too. Harris Asher, current 1st Four Champion at the National Schools Regatta, is also racing and I expect him to put in a good performance. I’m going to call Naylor to win this.

J182x

I can’t say that I can spot any immediate or resounding favourite for this event, which should make the racing highly competitive. Mossbourne have entered two crews, with the Elias Raymond boat looking like the favourite. Raymond raced in a double at the National Schools Regatta, narrowly missing out on qualification for the CH2x. He also raced in the ‘A’ quad so I think his double will be pretty quick. St Pauls usually enter a pretty good set of crews and the Thorpe crew, of whom the namesake raced in the silver medal winning J16 Championship Eight, look the stronger of the two on paper. I’d also watch out for the Reiser crew from Dart Totnes- Luke Reiser raced in the J184x from the club last year. I’m picking Mossbourne for the win.

J184x

The beginning of the season may be one of my favourite times for racing! I know many people consider the summer regattas to be the best, but personally I find it interesting to see what clubs do once their top J18 rowers have flown the nest. It allows new rivalries and combinations to arise, then take to the water for the first time to see how they fare against everybody else. The J18 category is a prime example of this; many of these clubs will have lost members from their quads or eights (some even losing international medallists!) so these combinations will be the time for coaches to create crews and set bench marks for the proceeding season of racing.

The name Jonathon Naylor immediately shows this boat is going to have some class to it, Naylor picked up a Bronze medal at the Munich Junior International Regatta in the eight this spring. Canford School tended to be most successful in sweep boats throughout last season with some impressive results from National Schools’ Regatta with a Bronze place finish for the 1st 8+ and a silver medal for Naylor and Aaron Sheikalian in the CH2-. Aaron also was part of the GB squad who went to Coupe this year, but most impressively winning the 1st 8+ at Schools Head of the River. Despite Canford not racing quads as regularly, this boat is definitely going to have some pace in it. This is certainly one to watch.

I have to say there has been a distinct lack of older juniors racing from Lea over the last season, they didn’t enter any older athletes into many of the big races throughout the best past of last year. This being said, they may not have been racing loads but they were definitely somewhere; as they entered The Fawley Challenge Cup with a respectable mid place finish within the non-qualifiers. The now J17’s from Lea are working their way up, after placing in the top 10 at the Oarsport Junior Sculling Head, then progressing to 5th place in the final of the J16 4x- at the British Championships. Let’s hope these lads will continue to improve and maybe even push for medals this season.

This should definitely be a fast boat, three of the scullers that they are fielding this weekend are three of the scullers that raced at Henley reaching the Thursday. Not only did they reach Thursday, but they managed this in both their A and B boat. The boat racing seems to be made up of their single scullers Sam Williams, Alasdair Butler and James Beagles, all who were part of the B crew at Henley and achieved Bronze at the Junior Sculling Head in the J16x. For a J16 crew to even make it to Henley is impressive, let alone to Thursday. Last season they had a strong J18 crew, so these younger boys will soon be filling their shoes.

Firstly, I would like to congratulate St Pauls on the sheer number of junior entries that they have made! Always a good thing to see. This being said it does somewhat confuse thing when trying to work out who is doing which event when all you get is one name for the quads. There are two entries from St Pauls, one under the name Gething and the other Ripley. Despite not knowing the exact identities of all the scullers in these quads you can be sure that they are of a high standard. St Pauls are synonymous with first class oarsman, most recently Arthur Doyle who placed 11th at the World Championships in the 2-. In 2013 they went over the pond to come seconds Head of the Charles, so it’s clear that these boats are going to be of an extremely high standard. I could continue to list their successes such as winning Ch8+ at Schools Head and so many more, but I could be here a while. What is a theme though; the majority of these successes are in sweep boats, so it will be interesting to see them out with sculls instead.

Again, this is the only other club to qualify two crews into the Fawley this year, so we can only assume that the level this quad is will make it a contender. Tom Brock and Daniel Wilkinson from Wallingford put in a good performance in the final of the OJ2- at the British Championships this year, but missed out on the medal positions. The club also has a strong set of J16’s who will be making their way into J18 boats this season, they got silver at The National Schools regatta and I’m sure will want to build on this in the upcoming season.

All in all, this is looking to be an exciting race! Most of these crews could legitimately be in contention for the top spot here. I have been sitting here looking at the crews for literally an hour just trying to work out who I think will take this, but after long deliberation I have finally concluded that St Pauls will just win this. Then closely followed by RGS High Wycombe and Wallingford and Canford, but apart from the victors I could not pick between the others.

WJ18 1x

Ones to watch:

Edwards, Orr (Henley)

Stevens (Reading)

Pickering, Cole (Weybridge).

Quite a difficult field to predict from as only one sculler (Stevens of Reading) has raced at a major competition in the single before. However, we do have some well experienced scullers in the field as well with many of the Henley girls, who topped the NSR medal table, as well as two girls from last seasons Weybridge Quad who were quite successful. Edwards and Orr (who I believe are from last seasons J16 4x (correct me if I’m wrong)) have often been reported as not managing to find the comparative speed in the single that they found in their quad, hence they did not compete at the J16 February GB trials last season. I reckon they could potentially have spent most of the summer in singles though and this will have greatly increased their pace. If they have been training more in the single, this could not only benefit them in this boat, but also the quad. Stevens is our only sculler to have competed at NSR in the single. She came a respectable 11th after getting knocked out in the semi finals. While she may not have a comparable amount of Nat Schools medals to the Henley girls, her experience in the single scull might be enough to over haul them. The Weybridge Quad were well respected in girls sculling last year after getting an impressive 4th place at HOR4s as well as a finalist place at NSR. I think these girls could potentially be very fast, however it is impossible to say which is faster, having never (to my knowledge) competed in the single. I think these girls should be very technical as they aren’t regarded as being big girls, and this will really benefit them in the singles. However, the Henley girls are also highly technical, it will depend on who can transfer the speed found in crew boats, into the single. For me, I think it will be close, but one of the Weybridge girls will probably win (depending on current form), closely followed by the Henley girls.

WJ18 2x

Weybridge are likely to be quite fast as they are well experienced scullers. This is the other half of the Weybridge quad who picked up some good results last year at HOR4s (4th) and NSR (6th). While they may not be as experienced in the double, the quad and the double do tend to cross over quite nicely, as you often see from international crews as well as junior level crews. I believe this combination could have some serious speed, but the steering will be what counts, especially with the very sharp ‘S’ bend. However there is some relatively sharp bends on the Weybridge reach where they could have been practicing. Henley are notoriously fast in the doubles, even when they haven’t necessarily been set it as their primary focus. Take for example the J16 girls double who raced to silver at last year’s NSR. I believe that these girls are from the very successful coxed four from last season. They could be very fast, but it will all depend on whether they are able to scull as well as they sweep. Weybridge (Fraser) These girls were supposed to be racing the double at NSR last year but didn’t turn up to the start unfortunately. This should mean however that they’d been practicing the double more and so should have the experience that many of the others don’t. While they may not be as good scullers as their comrades in the other double, they should still be quick. I think the pots will go to Weybridge (Wheeldon) followed by Henley and the other Weybridge crew.

WJ18 4x

Ones to watch:

Henley LEH (Kelly)

Henley are (as per normal) high favourites for this event and are very well known to most juniors. I expect they should be on their way back to top form at this point in time and are unlikely to be quite a while off full fitness. But this also likely of the other crews. Henley have always been fast in the quad, think back to the HRR 2012 quad who were the first ever winners in a junior girls event. I expect to see this event go to Henley, but I’m interested to see if there has been any crew changes. LEH are often very quick in the quad, but their primary focus is normally the Eight. I expect these girls could potentially have some serious speed, but it will really depend upon their sculling ability, as well as their current form. I went with Kelly, as this is the name I remember coming up time and time again when I was reporting on J16 crews last year. I have to say though, I think its unlikely they will beat Henley, but who knows, stranger things have happened. I think Henley for the win, followed by LEH.

J171X

This year sees a large, competitive field in the J17 single sculls; a total of 44 boats populate the event, and it goes without saying that the sheer quantity of boats will create excitement; the Wallingford course is renowned among rowers for it’s sharp bends and narrow river, as well as the ever-present threat of overhanging trees! Indeed, it has been said that the way to win your event at Wallingford is to not get stuck in the bank; however, with competitors of this quality, it will take a great deal more than good steering to take home the tankard…

There are several ‘main players’ in this event; Cambridge 99’s Sam Champion will certainly be a favorite coming into the race. A gifted sculler, Champion produced a strong result at GB Trials last year, securing fifth place in the J16 event; he went on to finish fourth in the hotly contested J16 single sculls final at National School’s. However, Matthew Martinez of Globe RC will be hot on Champion’s heels; after some very promising results in early heads such as Hampton Small Boats, Martinez was a major contender coming into GB Trials. However, Martinez finished 12th and was around 20 seconds off Champion. At National School’s, Martinez finished fifth behind Champion, but at the British Championships, Martinez turned the tables, winning the ‘B’ Final, with Champion in third. Perhaps,then, Martinez will view Wallingford as a chance to attempt to establish himself as the current J17 sculler to beat.

If Champion and Martinez make up the front of the pack, there are many other scullers who will be chasing high finishes. Maidenhead’s Sam Hoxley is a talented sculler, part of a strong double that won the J16 2x at the Pair’s Head last year, and then went on to repeat the victory at the British Championships in the summer. Tiffin’s Cormac Molloy is another contender, with a strong 7th place at GB Trials, as well as St Paul’s Freddie Davidson, who won the J16 single sculls event at Wallingford LDS last year, and finished 8th at GB trials – he will certainly be keen to establish himself as an ‘all-rounder’ – predominantly a sweep oarsman, who is also adept in a single scull. Indeed, it will be interesting to see how the scullers from ‘rowing schools’, such as St Paul’s and Dulwich, fare against the more experienced scullers from clubs that focus mainly on sculling, such as Hinksey or Henley.

Of course, there may be some fantastic talent among the ranks of competitors this year – but if past events are anything to go on, I would predict Sam Champion for the win, Matthew Martinez or Cormac Molloy for second, and Sam Hoxley just behind them. However, Wallingford is famously unpredictable, as it requires far more concentration and care than other head races; this can often produce some surprising results!

WJ171x

It is slightly harder to preview the girls’ event, partially because it seems that some of the most talented of these scullers have not had many recorded results in single sculls; however, there are some stand-out names that are likely to feature highly on the finishing order.

Firstly, I should mention Weybridge’s Truett and Wheeldon as they won the W.J16 2x at Pair’s Head last year by over ten seconds, and performed very well at the British Championships. This duo are clearly ones to watch going into this race. Reading R.C’s Sheyi Blackett is also likely to compete for the top spot as she is the highest placed sculler in terms of National School’s Regatta finish, winning the silver medal behind another sculler from Reading. This puts her in a strong position coming into the race, and her previous results should give her great confidence.

It would, however, be wrong to write off scullers such as Saskia Devereux of Marlow, who despite a a disappointing result at National School’s (fifth in the semi-final), went on to win the ‘A’ final of the British Championships W.J16.1x, with Blackett winning the ‘B’ final. This is a potential rivalry that could really express itself in this race as both scullers will be eager to come out on top.

Like in the boy’s event, this is a characteristically volatile event, and relatively unknown scullers can end up coming out on top; however, personally, I would place either Truett or Wheeldon as likely first/second, with either Blackett or Devereux battling it out for third and fourth. Behind them, North from Stratford-upon-Avon BC is likely to finish strongly, and the scullers from Hinksey may well be contenders; often Hinksey scullers have excellent pedigree, and Meg Cooke was part of a very successful W.J16 8+; we shall see how this sweep-oar success translates into sculling prowess.

This will certainly be a tough battle for all of the competitors, on a daunting course to say the least – good luck to all of them!

J16 4x

There is a very small selection of boats in this category, as most J16 boys seem to have opted for singles and doubles. St Paul’s School BC have taken the decision to race two novice coxed quads made up of J16s along with a coxless quad in its respective J16 category. These boats should all have a good amount of speed, and I fancy them for taking the win. King’s School, Ely have been fairly successful in this category in the past, but I don’t think anyone will come close to the St Paul’s boys.

J16 2x

In the run-up to Pairs’ Head, it looks like many J16s are racing in this event to try out combinations, and gain some racing experience in the double. There is a good selection of fast scullers here, and they will be looking to prove themselves in this competitive category. Maidenhead have some outstanding small boat credentials from last season, with a sculler coming in fourth place at National Schools’ Regatta in J15 1x, and a double picking up a silver medal in J15 2x. I have no idea whether these scullers will be present in the double event, but if any do compete then they should pull out a good result. Shiplake College had a strong J15 4x+ last season, picking up a bronze medal at NSR in that category. Going into this season, they’ve put out a double made up of half of this quad, so expect a high placing for this crew too. St Paul’s current J16 squad are not the strongest scullers as shown by a disappointing result in NSR last season, but they’ve entered two doubles who should be reasonably competitive in this event. I would expect either Maidenhead or Shiplake to take first place here.

J16 1x

Another hugely competitive event; there are a selection of both experienced scullers, and rowers new to competing in the single. A clear contender for first place here is RDG-Pizura. Ollie Pizura has proven himself as a fantastic sculler, performing well in the J15 1x event at NSR, despite being J14 at the time! St Paul’s have entered eight boats into this event, five of which were part of the J15CH8+ who won their event at Schools’ Head of the River and achieved a fourth place in the same event at NSR. However, as previously mentioned, they have not performed at the same level in sculling events, so it will be interesting to see how these rowers rank up against the more experienced scullers. Also watch out for MHD-O Mahony, who was part of the silver medalist J15 double at NSR last season, so he should know how to move the scull with some impressive speed.

WJ16 4x

Usually a fiercely competitive category, the only competition here looks to be here will be between the two Henley RC quads, featuring two halves of the National Schools’ Regatta (and British Rowing Championships) gold medalist and record holding J15G8+. Although these two will be well matched, HEN-Wiggins may be the stronger sculling boat, having also picked up the silver medal in J15G4x+, provided the 8+ is split up similarly. However the other half raced in the J16G4+ category, so it is difficult to gauge how they match up against the other quad. Wallingford will also put out a reasonably strong quad, so I’m interested to see how they’ll match up against the Henley RC boats.

WJ16 2x

This looks to be another Henley-on-Henley battle. It is even harder to call who the stronger of the two boats, as the club currently has twelve national gold medalists in their current J16 squad. However, at an educated guess, I would say HEN-Wiggins will probably take the first place. Again, Wallingford will be trying to put a strong boat out on their home water, but they may be contested by the double from King’s School, Ely.

WJ16 1x

While Lady Eleanor Holles were a little off-pace last season, they have entered an extraordinary 11 WJ16 single sculls into this event! However, only two of these scullers have made a national small boat appearance. LEH-Cole and LEH-Haskins should be the stand outs of the LEH cohort. Maidenhead BC also have two national finalists from their three boat line-up, with MHD-Bird and MHD-Holgate having just missed out on a medal in the J15G2x at National Schools’ Regatta. One of these two scullers should take first place. Also watch out for MAR-Mottram, who was part of a strong Marlow WJ15 4x last season.

Good luck to all competitors!

Powerhouse

Dora.

Five Man

HighTide

JuniorRowingAdmin

 

This photo was taken from- http://wallingford-sculls.org.uk/

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JuniorRowingBlogger

I am the editor of a rapidly growing blog based around the junior rowing circuit within the UK. From launch in June 2013, the website has experienced vast growth in both its reader count and view count while the article range has expanded. I currently work with a team of 10 people, all of whom voluntarily write articles for the blog. In our first year, I looked to expand from the standard previews and reviews that had gained initial success to building relationships with clubs and conducting interviews. This move proved successful and we are currently exploring new routes to further improve our platform. The blog has led to involvement with Regatta Radio, Rowing & Regatta, Row 360 and British Rowing.

  • Lee

    Do you think you could do some j15 age group previews for reading small boats once the draws out?

    • Hi Lee,

      Thanks for your feedback. I’d be happy to- the draw doesn’t appear to have arrived yet but I’ll have a look when it does.

      Thanks.

      JuniorRowingAdmin