The Schools’ Head of the River 2015- Second Eights

It is often the case that the CH8+ schools dominate the 2nd VIII category, due to the incredible strength in depth that they have, which is no doubt a result of the intense competition for seats in their schools’ top boat; a luxury that many Child Beale schools are without. It is therefore definitely worth reading the CH8+ preview also on this sight, for a closer insight into the schools that I will mention. I have highlighted what I believe to be the top 8 crews coming into this race, and will predict the top three places at the end.



These boys had a good start to the season at Wallingford Head, coming 7th and 9th in the IM2 8 category in what one assumes were fairly evenly matched eights. This has more recently been followed up by a more established 2nd VIII performing well at both Wycliffe Head and Hammersmith Head.



Eton also performed well at Wallingford, with their 2nd VIII (at least their second fastest- the gap looked too big to infer matched eights) placing 9th in the J18 category. The performance of what I suppose to be the 2nd VIII at Quintin also foreshadows good things: Eton were runners up in the IM3 category. Some recent tideway training as well as competitive paddling with the Oxford University Women’s Blue boat will have brought these boys on further still; starting first on Monday, they look to be in a strong position.



The ‘EENIE’ and ‘MEENIE’ matched eights that Hampton put out for Wallingford Head came 6th and 8th in the IM2 category, finishing only 2.4s apart. The names of the matched eights turned to ‘Crockett’ and ‘Tubbs’ for Quintin head, but the result was much the same, with both crews coming in the top half of the IM2 category. Hampton took 2nd and 3rd in the 2nd VIII category at their home event; there were, however, for Breaking Bad fans, two matched Hampton eights in the 1st VIII category by the names of ‘Walter White’ and ‘Jesse Pinkman’ who rowed to 3rd and 4th, with only 0.2s splitting them this time. Another very strong performance across the senior squad at Reading Head puts Hampton in an enviable position for the Schools head.


King’s Chester:

The performance of the King’s Chester matched eights at Wallingford Head got some heads turning: they came 1st and 4th in the J18 category, recording the quickest aggregate times for any school’s two best eights and so look to have a particularly strong squad this year. It looks like King’s also entered matched eights at Wycliffe, which finished very strongly. The question is whether the second eight that turns up to race on Monday will have spent enough time together to match some of the more established crews such as St. Paul’s and Shrewsbury.



Coming in 6th and 7th in the J18 category, Shiplake’s ‘BUMBLE’ and ‘BEES’ matched eights successfully portrayed the message that Shiplake were going to be a force to contend with this year. This trend continued at Quintin head, where Shiplake again put out matched eights, both of which commendably broke the 13-minute barrier. Shiplake came behind Radley at the Reading University Head as far as second boats go, and so should look to gain ground on them on Monday, something which I think they are capable of.



It looks like (I don’t know whether conditions changed markedly between divisions) Shrewsbury had the fastest second eight at Wycliffe Head and repeated the feat at Hammersmith and so should not be underestimated coming into this race, as they have shown good speed on the tideway.


St. Paul’s

The St Paul’s 2nd VIII appeared slightly off the pace at Wallingford, but this could be because they were one of the only schools not to match up their eights more evenly. Nonetheless, these boys performed well at Quintin Head, taking the scalps of some 1st VIII crews and showing on their home water that they shouldn’t be ruled out. More recent performances have also been good, with what I believe to be the second eight posting a good time at Reading.



Westminster waited until Hampton Head to unleash their 2nd eight, who cruised to an impressive 17 second victory in their category, setting a time that would have placed them 5th in the 1st VIII category. I don’t know what the boys at Westminster are being fed this year, but it has been transformed into very fast boat speed across their age groups! The Westminster J184- were the quickest four at Hammersmith and will, I believe, form the core of the second eight come Monday. If they can reciprocate their performance at Hampton, I expect they will be serious contenders on their home water. These boys are starting last in the 2nd VIII category, and so should look to take as many crews as possible on the way down the course.


My prediction:

1st– Hampton

2nd– Eton

3rd– Shrewsbury/Westminster