The Schools’ Head of the River 2015- Junior Quads

Regarded as one of the flagship events for any major race, junior sculling always throws up excellent contests throughout the category. With holders Westminster opting not to enter a junior quad, the battle between a number of other clubs and schools comes to the fore. Meanwhile, in the women’s category, the depth at the top of the field is arguably stronger. Two of the three WJ4x medallists from the National Schools’ Regatta are racing along with local favourites Latymer Upper. Onto the preview….

J4x

Sir William Borlase

Despite their slight dip in form over the past few weeks, Sir William Borlase are still the front-runners in junior quads. With four seasoned internationals in their squad, they’ve got a fantastic chance of taking the win on Monday. That said, it remains to be seen as to whether they will have boated their top guys in the quad. Two years ago, Borlase raced in the 1st Eights category, as they are doing this year, and placed their eight strongest in that crew. However, my feeling is that the eight will contain the remnants of the J16 crew from last year thus leaving the door open to the senior squad. My understanding is that hris Lawrie has been suffering with illness over the past few weeks, explaining his absence from racing at the Hampton Head. Fraser Russell also contracted glandular fever in late November, and that blow to the top end of the squad will have been heavily felt. I think SWB will come back stronger- they’re my stand-out favourites for the title.

Gloucester Hartpury

Quarter finalists in the Fawley Cup last year, Gloucester Hartpury are a club on the rise. Under Tom Pattichis, they have achieved national medals, Great Britain representation and a Henley win in the third year of the Diamond Jubilee Challenge Cup. This year, they’ve lost some of their best names but remain a force to be reckoned with- they’ve achieved some good results in smaller boats, with Will Kemp leading the charge. They’ll be a definite challenger for Borlase on Monday and will be out to medal, having just missed out to Star last year. Gloucester often begin their charge at the Schools’ Head as a steady build into the summer so it’s difficult to predict their speed at this stage. Nonetheless, I fancy them to feature highly.

Claires Court School Boat Club

Another form crew who’ve been on the scene for a couple of years now. The real advantage that these boys have had is that they’ve essentially raced in the same combination with the same people, with the exception of the odd change, since J16. This has allowed them to build up a concrete understanding of race patterns, rhythms and plans- athletes such as Dan Gordon and Alex Richardson have been involved for the entire period. Jono Cameron is the powerhouse for Claire’s Court and his ergo scores have been attracting the attention of the GB junior team- he’s a name to watch for the future. These boys finished third at the Fours Head and I think they’ll come close to repeating that feat in a weakened field. Top five for these guys.

The Windsor Boys School

A real stalwart of the junior scene, Windsor consistently turn out quality crews year on year. I remember watching Windsor at the Head of the Trent last year as they were overtaken by crews in their category and fearing the worst. However, the school pulled off what can only be described as the result of the regatta in reaching the final of the Fawley Cup, with the White twins rounding off a particularly successful season in style. Can they re-produce this success in 2015? The future looks bright for WBSBC after a particularly strong campaign at J16 level last year- if they can integrate their best athletes into the senior squad quickly then they will be a front-runner in the summer. As for Monday, that remains to be seen- I think they’ll be in the top ten but it’ll be interesting to see what speed they’ve gained on top of that.

Thames Rowing Club

A crew with speed in the boat, having just won at the Reading University Head. Oscar Bird has been making waves on the circuit this year, with a number of impressive performances at the GB Trials. His pair with Alex Balgarnie finished second on the Saturday and Sunday, which by any standards was an excellent result. Throw Oscar back into the Thames mix and you have a pretty fast quad. Alex Kelly, who was also victorious in the J16 trials, may also be involved so you can see why I fancy a fast crew from these boys. Hugo Storey, whose name I mis-spelt to much dismay in a previous article, and Rob Norey are also excellent scullers so I think, on home water, these boys could produce a surprise on Monday. They beat Reading and Windsor Boys at the Reading University Head- a form indicator if ever there was one.

Marlow Rowing Club

Marlow are another surprise package this year; their result at the Fours Head was a real looker and they’ve obviously got good speed among the ranks. Ben Gray has moved across from Maidenhead and, with a number of scullers from the younger years, they look like a good bet for a result on Monday. I’m presuming that Ben Simon is the younger sibling of Marlow alumni Charlie Simon and, if so, then rowing runs in the family. I don’t think Marlow will catch the likes of Borlase but they’ll be looking for a top ten finish.

Reading Rowing Club

Reading have never really been at the forefront of junior sculling- their crews over the past few years have struggled to get out of qualifying at the National Schools’ Regatta. However, they look like a crew in form this year. They recently won at the Hammersmith Head, a result which backed up their 9th placed finish at the Fours Head. Racing in a Hudson shell, they’ll be looking to step up to the plate this weekend and put down a good result among stern competition. I see them as competitors for a top ten finish.

Notable mentions go to Grange School, who had an excellent junior quad last season, Kingston Rowing Club A, who have a number of decent scullers in the ranks, Molesey Boat Club, whose top guys are racing a Championship eight on Monday and Great Marlow School, who usually produce decent athletes through the age ranges.

 

WJ4x

Marlow Rowing Club

If junior women’s sculling had a class system, Marlow would be a firm member of the aristocracy. They’ve dominated every age group they’ve raced at for the past two years, picking up multiple national medals and a Henley final to boot. They’ve got four returners from last year’s crew along with a number of very talented girls in the younger squads. The next gen Devereux has been recording good results at the GB Trials, which bodes well for the future. It’ll be interesting to see whether they try to integrate Saskia into what is already a star studded line-up. The performances of Erica Holmes have also been very impressive this year- she finished eighth at the Feb GB Trials. I think these girls are favourites on Monday, having not raced here last year. However, they face stiff competition…

Gloucester Hartpury A

…From the holders of the Diamond Jubilee Challenge Cup. An excellent crew, who have a few returners from last year’s crew. Alice Bowyer has been performing at a very high level this year, finishing second at the Feb GB Trials in impressive fashion. Gloucester traditionally don’t race very much before the Schools’ Head so it’ll be good to see what they’re capable of. Their starting position will be advantageous too, as they lead the category out. Having Latymer chasing them will be useful too, meaning that conditions are well suited for Gloucester to succeed. However, they’re going to have to produce a stellar row to beat Marlow Top three for these girls.

Latymer Upper School

Once again, I want to offer my condolences to everyone concerned with Latymer Upper School after the tragic news about Michael Hill. Having met Michael at Henley last year, he was a wonderfully enthusiastic coach with a real desire to inspire and develop the next generation of rowers. He will be sorely missed.

On a lighter note, Latymer’s girls squad look to be back in business. After a slightly disappointing season last year, they’ve raced well this season, finishing second at the Fours Head and picking up a win at the Hammersmith Head. Georgia Hellard Timm has been key in moving the crew on, after some good performances in the single scull. The crew contains a newly promoted J16 along with a J17 and two J18’s, making for a range in age categories. They’re not the most powerful crew but over the longer course their technical proficiency, a factor which defines Latymer crews, may come into play. Watch out for these girls.

Surbiton High School

Surbiton finished nine seconds back on Marlow at Hampton Head in February so there’ll be looking for a strong performance on Monday. I called Surbiton out on their racing last year- they didn’t seem to have made the transition from J16 to J18 level. This year however, they’ve been in fine form and look like a very sharp, well drilled crew. Lola Anderson is instrumental in acting as a talisman for the crew after her GB France exploits. I think they could sneak into the top five on Monday with a good row- they’ve laid down all the right benchmarks. They beat two matched Latymer crews comfortably at Hampton and will be full of confidence.

Shrewsbury School

Some may see this as an odd choice as Shrewsbury aren’t exactly a traditional junior women’s powerhouse- so hear this. RSSBC boated a crew at the Fours Head which came home in fifth place; an impressive achievement as a stand-alone but the crew, on paper, was missing their most influential sculler in Lettie Tay. Add the considerable talents of Miss Tay to the fold and you have a pretty handy crew- word is that they’ve been going well in training and I think Monday could be the start of something special. Watch this crew- they are what I would conventionally refer to as a ‘dark horse’.

Notable mentions go to Kingston Grammar School, who have had a very good junior women’s squad over the past couple of years, Putney High School, who finished third at the Hampton Head and King’s school Worcester, who have also boated strong crews in the past and Nottingham Rowing Club, who have a wide range of strong athletes to choose from.

Good luck to all competitors!

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.