Wallingford Regatta 2015- Junior Quads Preview

Wallingford Regatta is such a personal favourite of mine- it’s the perfect blend of fantastic racing, superb organisation and, usually, great weather. The 2015 edition looks to be no different, with hundreds of crews taking to Dorney Lake to test their dawn-season speed. The junior categories are testament to the strength of schoolboy rowing; the allure of close racing is promised in pretty much every category. I’m looking at the junior quad events- it’s a well documented fact that they are my personal favourite! Onto the preview…

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Five heats, with a range of good crews across. Last year, two heats were particularly stacked so it’s good to see a range of crews across the board.

Heat A

Arguably the strongest heat, with Fawley holders Sir William Borlase looking like early race favourites. It looks as if Robin Dowell has opted for the same line-up that devastated the field at the Scullery- Alex Haynes has been confined to the single so I’m guessing Ben Wright is slotting into the seat alongside Chris, Fraser and Rufus. This won’t be an easy ride for the boys in blue and red though. Gloucester Hartpury, who had their most successful season ever last year, will be looking to put a few winter blues behind them. Although they don’t quite have the strength that was afforded to them last year, they’ll be looking to stick with Borlase during the opening exchanges. Star & Arrow ‘B’ close out the opening three lanes as the third entry from Leander- the Leander C crew finished an impressive fourteenth at the Scullery in March so I expect a good showing.  Borlase’s stiffest opposition through the event may come from lane six of their own heat though. Pangbourne College, renowned for their ability in eights, were in fine fettle at the Scullery, finishing second. Like Borlase, they will have already raced during the morning so legs will not be fresh. That said, I fancy Pangbourne to come through strong; I’d love them to carry the quad through to the National Schools’ Regatta.

Heat B

There are a few very strong names crammed in the second heat, not least Claire’s Court School. I’m a self-confessed addict to the technique these boys exude when they scull- I raced them several times when I was a junior and I’ll hasten to add that they beat me on more occasions than I care to remember. Their top crew finished third at the Fours Head before consolidating this with a fourth place at the Schools’ Head. In second place at this event were Marlow Rowing Club, who are undergoing something of a sculling renaissance. Their younger juniors have really come through and laid down the hammer- the future is bright for a club who are now enjoying the pleasures of a new boathouse. Maidenhead, winners of J174x at the Scullery, are another club who have burst onto the scene with a fresh disregard for the statutes of junior sculling. Having impressed at J16 level last year, don’t be surprised to see these boys towards the front on Sunday. The favourite tag for this heat should really attach itself to Leander though. Consistently a front-runner in junior sculling, the pink palace will be looking to claim the scalps of junior rowing royalty on Sunday- namely Borlase. I fancy them to take the win in the heat and progress directly to the final.

Heat C

Norwich Rowing Club are my favourites here. A classy crew which carries the remnants of last year’s Fawley boat, these chaps gave Leander a run for their money at the Scullery by finishing a second behind in fourth place. They had some excellent J17 scullers last year, including a National Schools’ finalist in Seb Matthews, so it’s no surprise to see them excelling. Racing in what I expect to be their wake will be Wallingford. These boys played second fiddle to RGS High Wycombe at J16 level last year but there’ll be stronger with the addition of Dan Wilkinson. This is perhaps the contest to define a set of competitive heats; two old rivals battling it out on the Dorney stretch. I just fancy Wallingford to nick it. Norwich School, who are prioritising the quad to my knowledge, will also be a good bet for speed with Coupe representative Adam Crafer on-board. Norwich to take this.

Heat D

Perhaps the hardest heat to predict in terms of star names, so there’s a case to be made that it’ll be the most engaging. The King’s School Worcester usually boat a decent quad and they finished eighth in Junior Quads at the Schools’ Head of the River. These boys have a real chance to make the final on Sunday, although there’ll be pushed hard by Hinksey and London Oratory. KSW to claim this one.

Heat E

Another intriguing contest, which features five clubs from the Thames region. Star & Arrow A and Thames Rowing Club will be the front-runners; they finished seventh and ninth respectively at the Scullery. Thames, led by Oscar Bird, are a crew who have been knocking on the door for a while. However, it hasn’t all been plain sailing- I remember a J164x processional at the National Schools’ Regatta in 2012 when a quad carrying young Oscar was overtaken by a quad containing, well, me. Oh, how the times have changed! Star & Arrow will be a force and will be looking to take that golden ticket through to the final. I expect minor places to be contested by Henley and Reading, who both contain decent oarsmen.

I expect Borlase to take the win- they were dominant at this stage last season and have had a better winter this year. I think Leander will nip in ahead of Norwich to take second place, ahead of Star & Arrow ‘A’, Claire’s Court School and King’s School Worcester. 

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Heat A

Quite the barn-stormer. Three to progress to the final, and carries all the hallmarks of a gut-buster. The quality of the crews, with three of the top five from the Schools’ Head present, makes this race a right old hair-raiser. That’s three emotive phrases and I think any number over this would be futile- pretty much like these heats. Gloucester Hartpury have got to be the favourites here- they finished second at the Schools’ Head but were 38 seconds clear of Latymer. Headington have boated a quad and I expect their duel with Latymer to be of a brave nature- both crews are well matched. I think Headington’s speed will depend on how much time they’ve spent sculling beforehand. Those three to qualify.

Heat B

Marlow Rowing Club, who must feel it’s their time to claim the top prize in junior sculling this year, will be clear favourites here. Starting in Lane 3, they’ll be the crew to catch. Shrewsbury School, who finished seventh at the Schools’ Head, will be strong and I expect them to compete with King’s School Worcester, who finished five second ahead of them at the latter event. SASRU are an unknown quantity- to name, they are the South African Schools Rowing Union. Not sure how much weight that title carries but I would expect this crew to contain some of the SA National squad. Expect them to be quick.

I fancy Marlow and Gloucester Hartpury to be front-runners in the final, with Marlow taking the win. Latymer, Headington and SASRU will occupy the following three spots, although their specific order is open for contention. Shrewsbury to bring up the year.

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.