Quintin Head 2015- J16 Preview

J16 8+

At the front of the pack, three crews will be battling for the first pennant of 2015. Hampton School “A” look to be the strongest crew coming into this race having placed 2nd to Winchester College at Wallingford Head in December. With the absence of their fellow National Schools’ Medalists, this crew is an immensely strong contender for taking the 1st position here, given their impressive victory in J16 8+s at Eton’s “BASHER”.

It cannot be stressed how important home-water advantage is on the tideway, and that it something both Westminster School and Dulwich College have over Hampton. Evidence from both National Schools’ and Schools’ Head last season points towards Westminster being the faster crew, although there wasn’t much between them during last head season. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Westminster challenging Hampton for the top spot.

Unfortunately I can’t predict St Paul’s School accurately as it is unclear whether they are racing matched eights or not. With a top eight selected I could see them easily coming out ahead of Hampton and their fellow tideway crews, having won both Quintin Head and SHORR last season. Their matched eights did not perform as well as I would have expected from this strong squad at Wallingford Head, but on home water they might well achieve at least one top 5 placing.

Further through the pack, King’s College School should lead the charge for a top 4 placing. Although they haven’t been seen competing as a crew yet this season, a dead heat 2nd at Teddington Head with a top quad suggests they’ve been working hard on their technical sculling proficiency, and if they can take this back into the eight, they’ll be able to build on their close 3rd SHORR placing from last season.

I said before Wallingford Head that what I assumed was Hampton’s 2nd 8+ should not be discounted from being competitive with the 1st 8+s, and that was only cemented by the result; turning heads with an astonishing 3rd place- two seconds out from their 1st boat! This boat could easily challenge KCS and has already proven its dominance against the mixed 8+s which St Paul’s are most likely boating again on Saturday.

The crew who could also compete with KCS for a top 5 placing is Reading Blue Coat school who particularly excelled during head race season last year, snapping at the heels of KCS at Schools’ Head. However they may be contested by fellow National Schools’ semi-finalists Emanuel School and London Oratory School.

WJ16 8+

Based on results from last year, Canford are one of the stronger crews coming into this race. At National Schools’ Regatta they came 5th in the final last season, although they sat well behind the close race for bronze playing out further down the course. This season they have had some fairly unexceptional results in the double sculls with 17th and 41st of 46 at Hampton Small Boats Head and 6th of 12 at Pangbourne Junior Sculls. They also had a lackluster result at Schools’ Head last year (12th of 15), so they may not be so suited to head races as they are to regattas.

Lady Eleanor Holles seemed to have the opposite issue last season. They were one of the top three boats at SHORR, leaving the closest opposition almost a minute behind. Despite this strong start to the season, they failed to qualify for the National Schools’ Final, so last term was particularly important for them in trying to bring some impressive results back in. They have particularly excelled in the small (but competitive) coxless pairs category, most notably winning at Upper Thames Autumn Head ahead of a Henley Pair and placing second at Hampton Small Boats Head. If they can bring their evident technical prowess from racing the pair back into the eight, I would expect them to be a strong challenger to Canford.

Challenging for a top three placing will also be Godolphin and Latymer School, who finished ahead of Canford at SHORR last year, but failed to achieve the same feat at National Schools’. Their most significant result this year was a 2nd and 3rd placing in coxed fours at Teddington Head, behind a strong Emanuel boat. However the distance between the two fours suggests that there may be a particularly large gap in strength between the two halves of this boat, which could impact their performance as a crew.