National Schools’ Regatta 2015 – Championship Girls Eights Preview

The premier domestic girl’s sweep event of the year is right on our doorstep, and the competition looks pretty fierce – although at the forefront remains the staunch, uncompromising and wholly dominant force of Headington, who like last year are looking to obliterate the field – although matching their winning margin of 10 seconds last year will surely be a tough feat.

For this preview, I’ll detail the top six crews in the category – the ones who I feel are most likely to make the final – before offering suggestions at the end of who else might make an appearance, and the likely finishing positions.

Headington School ‘A’ 

The stalwart of women’s sweep rowing will be making a surely insurmountable appearance on Saturday, in the eight that saw them take the School’s Head victory by a substantial 25 seconds over Sir William Borlase and that took second place in Women’s Elite Eights at Wallingford Regatta just a few weeks ago, a full 12 seconds ahead of their Borlase rivals despite the race being just over 5 minutes. Clearly, they enter as favorites, and I think something drastic will have to happen to stop these girls in their path to the National School’s gold. While they have lost some of the key athletes from last year’s eight, and they had a fraught time in the winter struggling with illness and injury, they have come back as the force we remember, and with wonderful new facilities and the deft hand of Ryan Demaine as head coach, there aren’t really enough superlatives that can be used here. Furthermore, as a testament to their depth, even their second eight managed to finish third at Wallingford in J18 Women’s Eights, in front Sir William Perkin’s and St Edward’s 1st VIIIs. Headington to win.

Sir William Borlase Grammar School

Off the back of an exciting and very encouraging second place at School’s Head, these girls should go in with a lot of confidence – I think of all these crews, Borlase will be the one to have a real go at Headington. They’ve got no paucity when it comes to fine athletes in the crew, and their results are really matching this – including their aforementioned School’s Head result, and a fine fourth place in elite eights at Wallingford, a full 25 seconds ahead of LEH. Split times would be useful here, as Borlase will have to study the race pattern of Headington vigorously if they are going to formulate an effective and mountable charge – they’ll have to try their best to find some sort of weakness in the Headington 2K if they’re going to really have a chance of taking them on. However, I think these girls are looking good for the silver medal at the moment, barring any disaster – they have been performing very well all season, as early as that win in the Junior Women’s Four at Four’s Head in 2014. They’re moving well at the moment, and I’m expecting this to continue on into NSR.

Lady Eleanor Holles School 

Another regular on the girls sweep scene, and another with the potential for a podium finish. These girls have been performing pretty well so far this year, with a strong result at School’s Head where they managed to overhaul Kings Chester, a crew that beat them at NSR 2014 into fifth place – we may be seeing a potential rivalry developing here… Be that as it may, I think LEH should be aiming high on Saturday. They seemed a little off the pace at Wallingford in Elite Eights, but a strong second place in Junior Eights quickly assuaged any doubts – a second place that was bumped up to first due to the disqualification of Marlow, a crew that we won’t actually be seeing race in this event at NSR. This really leaves LEH in the position of knowing that they are fast enough to medal – it is merely a case of having the confidence to perform in the way they know they can. Jonathan Cheeseman has been at the helm of LEH’s development, and I think they’re going to go from strength to strength in years to come – maybe this weekend we’ll see the start of something great from the LEH girls.

Haberdasher’s Monmouth School for Girls 

These girls have been performing well all season, and after a reportedly very successful camp in Seville they should be looking right to the top of the category, setting their sights high – I believe they’ve got the potential. They didn’t make an appearance at the School’s Head back in March, instead opting to field a four that performed respectably but that didn’t really produce any fireworks, but their eight is looking very strong at the moment – particularly judging by their result at Wallingford Regatta, where they finished only 0.3 seconds behind the LEH crew (that had admittedly rowed earlier in the day). This shows that they’ve got speed in the boat, and importantly, they are very competitive with the top crews. I think that they should definitely be on the hunt for a medal on Saturday – it’s well within their grasp.

The King’s School, Chester ‘A’

King’s Chester has been performing respectably this year, including a strong finish position at School’s Head – 7th place – although they were a long way off the Headington winners. Bolstered by the very strong J16s of last year, this is a young crew, full of enthusiasm, that have also proved their speed in the regatta format – strong results at Nottingham City Regatta in IM1 4- will give them a great amount of confidence coming into the regatta. I think it will  be a case of hanging onto some of the higher ranked crews off the start – if these girls can surprise off the start, then they can put themselves in a strong position through the race. I’m rooting for them on Saturday – I’d like to see them perform as well as they did as J16s last year.

Sir William Perkins’s School

I must say, I debated for a while whether or not to put Sir William Perkins or Pangbourne in this sixth spot, but ultimately, I’m going to go with William Perkins, despite their loss to Pangbourne at School’s Head. They are always there or there-abouts, having a strong season last year and racing well early this year. I think that their racing experience at Wallingford will stand them in good stead – they performed respectably to come fifth, and they had a pretty quick start to boot. Clearly there’s limited opportunity to fit in some solid racing practice before the event itself, so I think their showing at Wallingford will actually be very important, and may give them an edge when they compete for that final position. If they do make the final, I think they’ll struggle to really make an impression on the race – but they’re a strong crew, and I think they could do well on Saturday.

Other crews to watch out for in making the final are Pangbourne, who I’ve mentioned above, St George’s College, who have some exceptionally talented athletes in the eight, and Hinksey Sculling School who performed very well at School’s Head.

My finish prediction is the order that I’ve previewed the crews – Headington, SWB, LEH, Haberdasher’s Monmouth, Chester and Sir William Perkins.

Good luck to all crews racing!

Five Man

Five Man