National Schools’ Regatta 2015- Junior 16 Championship Eights Preview

For the first time this season, there are eight entries into this category and between six of the crews, there’s really not much of a difference. The final of this event will be an intense race, and one where I can see all six crews being neck and neck through a large portion of the race. I’ll go through all the crews in order of the draw for each heat.

Winchester College

Winchester exemplify the change in depth of the competition in this category over the last 6 months. They failed to pull out the victory they had hoped for at Wallingford Regatta, with St Paul’s again establishing some dominance over them. This can only be partially compensated for by their winning of the J16 trophy at Bedford Regatta, taking a half-length victory over a strong South African crew. Their place in the final is essentially guaranteed, but even with the presence of powerhouses such as Hugo Durward, I can’t honestly see them being able to match the likes of Westminster and Eton, and as a result I would predict them to take (for them) a disappointing bronze.

Eton College

Up until Eton’s BASHER (an invitational regatta event hosted at Eton Dorney for a crop of school boat clubs), it was pretty unclear what kind of speed Eton’s eight would be producing in the summer, as they entered a first coxed four at Schools’ Head and did not attend any races before or after. However, they certainly made an impact at Dorney in April, not only being the first placed J16 crew in the time trials, but also the first placed crew overall in the multi-lane racing. If their speed here is anything to go by, Eton will be going out fast, and they’ll be contending for the gold medal.

Shrewsbury School

It would be fair to say that Shrewsbury School have had a relatively disappointing regatta season. They failed to qualify for the final of both the Junior Inter-Regional Regatta (losing out to Norwich School) and Wallingford Regatta where they sat well over a length behind Dulwich College by the time they reached the finish line. They seem to have drawn the short straw in terms of heats, as Winchester, St Paul’s and Eton have all proven their dominance over this crew over the last month. I can’t see a scenario where they make it through to the final.

St Paul’s School

This crew have continued to surprise me since Schools’ Head, where they unexpectedly came out ahead of Winchester to claim second place. The greatest of these surprises was their continuing dominance over Winchester at Wallingford Regatta, holding them at just under a length at the finish line. This evidence would suggest that St Paul’s are certainly within the chance of a medal if they maintain this momentum through to Saturday. There should be a good battle between them and Winchester for one of the minor medals.

Westminster School

While they haven’t raced in their eight yet this regatta season, this crew’s sheer dominance during head race season alone should pose Westminster as the crew to beat. On top of their obliteration of the rest of the field at Quintin Head and Schools’ Head, the two fours made up of members of their eight won a convincing 1st and 2nd place in J16 4+ at Wallingford Regatta, leaving a strong KCS crew and NSR bronze medalists Latymer Upper School a fair distance behind. If Westminster have a fraction of the lead they held over the rest of the field at Schools’ Head, I would expect nothing less than a medal from them; a gold medal being well within their grasp.

Abingdon School

Despite their senior eights being notoriously fast, this crew will unfortunately suffer a similar fate to Shrewsbury. These boys lost to a South African crew in the quarter finals of Bedford Regatta, and missed the time needed to qualify for the final at Wallingford Regatta by quite a margin, again beaten by SASRU and also Shrewsbury. They are in the unpleasant position where I am almost certain that they are not fast enough qualify for the final.

Shiplake College

Shiplake have impressed me immensely this season. Their jump up to championship eights could not have been predicted this time last year, where they failed to medal in J15 1st eights. They will almost certainly appear in the final here, having only lost to Hampton by a four second margin at Wallingford, and hosting the fastest J16 double at GB trials in February. Their performance at BASHER was also promising, being the third placed J16 8+ and also securing a comfortable 4 second victory against Hampton in the time trials. While I don’t think they are capable of a medal placing this season, their progress this season is undeniable and I’m looking forward to seeing how they perform in this final race.

Hampton School

Contrary to St Paul’s proving my Wallingford prediction entirely wrong, Hampton continued along their trend at Wallingford, coming third in their heat after Winchester put in a massive sprint in the last 500 metres. In the presence of such strong competition, I don’t Saturday will be their day to break free of their third and fourth place constriction. I would go as far as to say they will have to fight hard for the third and fourth places that they usually find themselves in, and I can’t see them challenging for any other medals given their defeat at the hands of Shiplake at BASHER.

Good luck to all crews racing! It should be one of the highlights of the day.