Quintin Head 2015 – J18 Preview

This Saturday’s Quintin Head will see a large number of seemingly mixed or second eights rowing in the ‘J18’ category, with some of the ‘big guns’ – the St Paul’s, Eton and Hampton top eights – racing elsewhere, in IM1 and IM2 respectively. This in no way will detract from what promises to be a close and exciting race in the J18 category.

I will begin first by commenting briefly on how I think some of the J18 eights in the other categories may fare: in IM2, it looks as if the Eton 1st eight is entered in a field including two Hampton mixed eights; unless Eton have a disaster, they certainly should look to put some significant distance on the Hampton boats. Eton had a fine race at BASHER last weekend, where they finished 1st and 3rd in S/J 8+, with their top eight looking rather impervious. While St Paul’s are the sole J18 eight in the IM1 category, it is easy of course to compare times across different categories; and I think that Paul’s will probably be the fastest J18 eight at Quintin, not least because of their home-water advantage, but also because results last term suggest that they will, as their 1st eight was last year, have some speed in this Spring season. However, Eton are certainly a force to be reckoned with, and the battle will be hard-fought.

For the preview at a glance, scroll down to the bottom to see my top-five-finishing prediction.

Onto the J18 preview:

Canford

Canford have entered two eights into this category that I assume are matched. Canford are not a squad that are known particularly for their depth, but at the top end, they have some very good athletes – Jonny Naylor and Aryan Sheikalian, winners and record-setters in the J18 pairs at Hampton Small Boats Head (as well as being silver medalists last year in CH2- at National School’s), will certainly be the driving forces in these boats. Their first eight last year was strong, winning 1st 8+ at School’s Head, placing in the Child Beale Cup at National School’s, and giving Eton (the eventual winners) a good fight in the first round of Henley. However, Canford simply don’t have the kind of squad depth that boat clubs like Hampton (or indeed Eton) do; and therefore if these are matched eights, then I think it will be difficult for either boat to challenge for the top spot.

Hampton

Hampton have made a good start to the season, performing pretty strongly at BASHER considering their very strict rate cap. They are always a force to be reckoned with – perhaps often lacking in their 1st eight the raw power to make them true contenders for winning National School’s or Henley – but certainly with significant speed in the head season, and some relatively fast lower boats: Hampton always seem to produce some decent 2nd and 3rd eights, and this is testament to a lot of depth in the squad. However, with two Hampton eights entered in IM2, it looks as though the two eights entered in J18 will be secondary to their IM2 counterparts, and therefore they are unlikely to have the sort of speed that the higher Hampton mixed eights will have. However, Hampton is a strong rowing school, and these boys should be looking to put in a decent result on Saturday.

King’s College School

KCS have two entries in J18 – under ‘Robinson’ and the enigmatic ‘JS.’ Operating under the assumption that these are matched eights, I think that they have the potential to perform pretty well. KCS are becoming a more fully established Champ Eight school with each passing year, finishing 5th in the CH8+ final at National School’s, and they performed pretty decently at the Wallingford Head in December: they should be looking to challenge some of the ‘bigger’ rowing schools on Saturday. If, like at Wallingford, they decide to field a first and second eight (with ‘KCS Robinson’ likely being the first eight) then I think these boys should do well; their cox, Freddie Preece, is becoming one to watch out for in the coxing circuit after going to Nantes on the GB Potential Camp, and will be looking to lead a 1st eight to a high finish on Saturday. It will also be interesting how this eight compares to the likes of Eton and St Paul’s in the other categories, as this will be an early indication for KCS of where they stand relative to other Championship eight schools.

King’s School Canterbury 

King’s Canterbury are never a hugely successful club, and it’s fair to say that they had a pretty disappointing National School’s campaign last year towards the top end of their squad, with their 1st 4+ and CH2- failing to qualify for their respective semi finals, and their Child Beale eight finishing 5th in the ‘C’ final. Given that this also appears to be their 2nd eight, with a King’s Canterbury eight entered into IM2, it seems unlikely that these guys will feature – but it’s still early days, and who knows what they might produce.

Kingston

It’s difficult to say how these guys will do as there are really very few results to draw on – Kingston J18 eights are seemingly a rare occurrence. Youth club eights often find it difficult to challenge schoolboy eights as it’s really impossible for a youth club eight to spend as much time in the boat as a school crew. I’m tentative with this crew though, as it’s always possible for an unknown crew to cause a bit of an upset – but in this case, I really can’t see Kingston challenging some of the established schools.

Latymer Upper School

This seems to be the Latymer 1st eight as the other Latymer eight is entered into IM3. I think if this is the case then these boys will have the best chance out of winning J18. Latymer had a decent year last year, coming fourth in the Child Beale ‘A’ final and beating King’s Chester in the first round of Henley. This season, they’ve had some really solid results in small boats – notably they were the third fastest junior 4+ at Four’s Head – and at Wallingford Head they placed 2nd in J18 8+ (although granted they were second to a King’s Chester matched eight). In any case, this is clearly a squad of some talented oarsmen, and while Latymer don’t have the same strength in depth that some of their Tideway counterparts do, this is still home water and they should look to put in a good result; I’m tipping them for the win in J18, and it’ll be interesting to see how far off the likes of Eton and St Paul’s they are in terms of time.

London Oratory School 

London Oratory, after showing some real promise with their J15s 2 years ago (who placed third at National School’s in J15 Ch8+) have rather slipped off the radar; with a severe dearth of rowers in the top year, they are relying on last year’s J16s, who had a rather unremarkable season and failed to make the final of National School’s in the Summer. They have recently seen some decent results, with a 4th place finish in junior 4+ at Four’s Head (although they were beaten by other schoolboy fours racing in other categories) – but I simply don’t think that they will make an impression this year. London Oratory is a club with a lot of potential and room to grow, but right now I just don’t feel it can compete with the more established rowing schools at the top level. For this reason, and the fact that they appear to be in matched eights, I can’t see London Oratory pushing the top boats in this category; unless of course they are fielding a 1st eight, where I think they could definitely aim for a top 5 finish.

Reading Blue Coat 

RBL had a decent year in their 1st eight in 2014, placing 5th at School’s Head in 1st 8+, and just getting pipped into fourth in their semi in the Child Beale. They lost out at Henley to a strong Pangbourne crew that they never really troubled, but their season was positive for the club nonetheless; they are a middle-of-the-pack 1st eight school that will be looking this year to put out some faster crews. Their recent performance at BASHER was encouraging; RBL 1 finished above a Hampton, Radley and Shiplake mixed eight. This could perhaps suggest a depth in squad that RBL hasn’t really seen in recent years; certainly their J16s performed respectably last year, going from 4th at School’s Head to 5th at National School’s; with the addition of these boys, and some focused training, they could be on to challenge some of the more established 1st eights out there. At Quintin, however, it again looks as if they are racing in three matched eights, and therefore will probably not be able to compete for the top spots if we assume each boat is a mixture of first, second and third eight rowers (or perhaps first, second and J16 rowers – generally Blue Coat don’t have the numbers to produce a third eight); but they should look to lay down a good early-season marker that they can build from.

Shiplake

Shiplake have had an promising season thus far. At the Head of the Schuylkill in October, they caused some upset by placing higher than any other British school crew – including St Edward’s, St Paul’s and Abingdon – and their mixed eights at Wallingford Head performed very solidly – finishing sixth and seventh in J18 8+, with a penalty costing Shiplake ‘Bumble’ what could have been a fifth place finish. They also performed decently at BASHER last weekend, with their higher finishing mixed eight only 0.4 seconds off Hampton’s higher finishing mixed eight. Shiplake have been showing some encouraging results since last year; they finished a strong third in 1st 8+ at School’s Head, and won a silver medal in Child Beale at National School’s, only 2 seconds off Pangbourne – a school who last year were arguably Championship Eight standard. They had a strong coxed four last year, who finished second just behind Monmouth in CH4+ at NSR, and a significantly weaker coxless four, suggesting perhaps that Shiplake had a small concentration of very good athletes – however, recent results suggest that their depth may transcend this view of a club with just a couple of talented oarsmen. I think that if this J18 eight is indeed the Shiplake 1st eight, they may well give Latymer a run for their money.

St George’s College

St George’s had a fine four last year – 3rd in J4+ at School’s Head and 1st in 1st Fours at National School’s being the major highlights. This was, however, seemingly the only boat that the St George’s senior squad could produce; and while it was of a good standard, it showed a troubling lack of depth in the St George’s squad. This year will hopefully prove to be different, and St George’s have two matched eights racing in the J18 category at Quintin. St George’s had a strong J16 contingent last year – 3rd place at School’s Head and 2nd at National School’s in J16 1st 8+ is no mean feat. While the squad will be young, this will allow St George’s to really grow and mature as a senior squad, and they should see Quintin as merely a stepping stone as they develop in bigger boats.

St Paul’s School

St Paul’s have had a very positive season thus far, but their matched eights have left something to be desired – certainly they were not quite up to the same standard as schools such as King’s Chester and Eton at Wallingford Head, and while they had narrowed the gap at BASHER, the Eton matched eights were still on average faster than their SPS counterparts. Whether this reflects on the 1st or 2nd SPS eight has yet to be seen, but it should be more obvious this Saturday. St Paul’s 2nd eight will be racing in the J18 category, and they will look to put in a good row on their home water. Whether they have the strength or not to challenge the top crews remains to be seen, and with crews such as Latymer and Shiplake rowing on Saturday, it does seem unlikely; however, they should definitely be seeking a top five finish.

Winchester College

Last but certainly not least are the two Winchester matched eights. Winchester, rather like Reading Blue Coat, are a mid-range 1st eight school – last year they had a decent first eight, but failed to produce any really exceptional results. This year, a weak performance at Wallingford Head will have hopefully been a wake-up call for the Winchester senior rowers – they were beaten by their own J16s by almost a minute. While I can’t see Winchester really storming the fort this Saturday, I have no doubt that they will have moved on from the Wallingford result, and will, like many other 1st eight rowing schools, be looking to put down a good, solid marker that they can build on this season.

TOP FIVE FINISHERS

1. LATYMER  2. SHIPLAKE  3.KCS (Robinson)  4. ST PAUL’S SCHOOL  5. CANFORD (Ellis)

 

This concludes my preview. Good luck to all crews racing!

Five Man

 

Five Man