National Schools’ Regatta 2015- Championship Quads Preview

One of my personal favourites, and one of the most competitive events on the schedule. CH4x has moved to the Saturday, which has drawn some of the sweep crews away to scull- I cite Pangbourne as my clearest example. The event is stacked with all the big names and I’m eagerly awaiting this clash; Saturday promises to be the most exciting of race days. Here, I will preview the six crews who I believe will make the final. After this, I will take a look at some of the outside runners before predicting a winner. The preview…

 

Sir William Borlase

Key Athlete- Chris Lawrie

Coach- Robin Dowell

The Rolls Royce of junior rowing, Borlase have had yet another brilliant season at the helm of quad sculling. Their top crew stands undefeated in national competition, taking headships at the Fours Head, the Schools’ Head and the Junior Sculling Head; it is worth noting that they finished third at Hampton in February but the crew was weakened. They have such a superb calibre of athlete, with three seasoned junior internationals, and I fancy them as firm favourites this weekend. The event certainly isn’t decided though, as last year proves; Borlase were hot favourites to claim victory in 2014 but lost out in a frantic sprint to the line with Westminster. I must also congratulate Chris on his bronze medal at the Munich International Regatta- that is the third occasion he has medalled at international level.

 

Leander Club

Key Athlete- Will New

Coach- Livinia Cowell-Sheriff

Another club that consistently turn out quality crews, throughout the age ranges. Much has been made of Leander’s importation habits but I see nothing wrong with a high performance facility developing young athletes and helping them reach their potential within rowing. Leander is the number one destination for British international rowers and I think their development squads are key to the sporting success of this nation. With regards to the weekend, Leander will be one of Borlase’s closest challengers. They have phenomenal horse-power to call upon and four guys who will have been training specifically for this weekend and Henley. Leander’s last great triumph was in the Championship Single Sculls, with Seb Devereux. They’ll be looking to up-size this achievement on Saturday.

 

Northwich

Key Athlete- George Lawton

Coach- Jed Barlow

A crew, and a club, that I have a lot of time for. Last year, Jed was the only unpaid coach on the start line of the Championship Quads start-line, and his crew went on to take the bronze medal in impressive fashion. This year, they stand a chance of bettering this result. Despite the fact that only Leon returns from last year’s crew, they have a fantastic array of talent through the younger years- George Lawton, brother of Finn, recently represented Great Britain at the Munich International Regatta. I remember when Northwich first burst onto the scene at the Scullery in 2013, winning a bronze medal in a very competitive J174x field. Since then, their ascent to the summit of junior sculling has been incredible to witness. This crew took the win comfortably at the Nottingham City Regatta last weekend and will be a good bet for a spot in the final.

 

Pangbourne College

Key Athlete- Luke Towers

Coach- Mark Woodcock

My thoughts on Pangbourne are something of a duality. I find it admirable that a crew who pre-dominantly row with one in hand can so effortlessly switch to two, and I find it annoying that they make it look so easy! They’ve had another impressive season and their choice to focus on the quad ahead of the eight, despite decent results in the latter, shows the confidence they must have. They finished second at the Scullery, ahead of Leander and Northwich, and this result demonstrates what these lads are capable of. They are an outside bet for the win and I certainly think they’ll be in with a shot of a medal.

 

Glasgow Academy

Key Athlete- Josh Armstrong

Coach- Iain Somerside

Although I’m unsure as to exactly how fast these boys are going in the quad, they’re impossible to ignore. Josh and Gavin have had a breathtaking season, racking up wins at multiple events and representing Great Britain at the Munich International Regatta. Iain Somerside must be credited for the development of the athletes up in Glasgow; he had five athletes representing Great Britain last summer, with the promise of more this summer. Described as an ‘inspirational coach’ with ‘a passionate devotion to rowing’, he’s masterminded one of the success stories of the year, and it could bring them domestic success of the highest calibre. Having already been tipped for the CH2x prize, I think they stand a very good chance of making the final on Saturday too.

 

Claire’s Court School

Key Athlete- Jono Cameron

Coach- Tom Jost

This last spot was particularly difficult to select, with a number of crews all vying for a place. I’ve gone with Claire’s Court because I think they are a crew who not only deserve a spot in the final after a couple of years of waiting but also merit one on performances. They finished third at the Fours Head and were the second fastest qualifiers into the un-raced repêchage behind Pangbourne. They combine technical skill with raw power and I think they’ll be in good form on Saturday. Naturally, the final slots depend on semi-final draw but if these six crews finish as the fastest in the time-trial then I fancy them to progress. Key lesson here- race the time-trial properly!

 

So there are my predictions for spots in the final. Let’s have a look at some of the outside players who could upset the form book.

Grange School

A crew that made the final last year, finishing in fourth place. The crew is probably weaker this year, with the notable absence of the older Ozsanlav-Harris brother. Nonetheless, they’ve been racing well through the season- they finished second behind Northwich at Nottingham City last weekend and came sixth at the Scullery. Perhaps I’m being unfair in not selecting them for a final spot but I think they’ll be a major player on Saturday and certainly have the potential to upset my form book

 

Gloucester Hartpury

Another crew who made the final last year, although they certainly aren’t as quick this year. They were the slowest qualifiers into the repêchage at Wallingford and they don’t have the fire-power that they could call on last year. Nonetheless, they’re still a very decent crew at junior level and could well be an outside bet- they’re well coached, very fit and good racers.

 

Norwich Rowing Club

These boys have had a brilliant season, as I mentioned in my CH1x preview. Fourth place at the Scullery was unexpected and they’ll believe they stand a chance on Saturday- and rightly so. They fell off the pace slightly at Wallingford, qualifying fifth fastest into the repêchage, but they’ve got a lot of power and experience to call upon. Tom Scale, Ed Youngs and Seb Matthews have been racing together for over two years now and will know what it takes. Sandwiched between two quick crews for the Time Trial, they’ll need to use this to push on.

 

Windsor Boys School

I don’t like to predict Windsor Boy’s results any more- I still haven’t worked out how they made the final of the Fawley cup last year. Nonetheless, this crew contains two returners from that boat in the form of Harry Oliver and Henry Smith. Windsor haven’t had a breathtaking season in terms of results, with a few decent performances at the Scullery and the Schools’ Head, where they finished third. They won at Bedford Regatta two weeks ago and I think they’ll be an outside bet for the final. They didn’t even enter a quad at National Schools’ last year, so this is already an improvement!

 

Wallingford Rowing Club

Another classy outfit, which carries remnants of that excellent J16 quad from last year. Most of these boys have got another shot next year, so they may not be as concerned as many of the athletes around them. They raced well at Wallingford despite losing out to long term rivals RGS High Wycombe and they’ll certainly qualify out of the semi-finals. Wallingford haven’t had a really fast junior quad in a while and it’s about time that changed.

 

Thames Rowing Club

With Oscar Bird, now a junior international, onboard, this crew ought to be fast. They, somewhat surprisingly, qualified for the Fawley Cup last year, which has since acted as a springboard for their season. Following good performances at Reading, the Thames Valley Trial Head and the Scullery, where they finished ninth, they’ll be eyeing a spot in the final. It’s a tall order but you just never know with junior quads…

 

High Wycombe Grammar School

This crew is almost identical to the outfit which won J164x in 2014, and so they’re a crew in transition. J17 is always a tricky year to handle- you get carried along with the top crews at J18 level but are often unable to match them for speed [with the exception of Borlase, who won the Fawley Cup…]. As it were, High Wycombe will be looking to carry on their strong season- they won their heat at Wallingford but were denied a shot at the final by inclement weather. They’re an athletic crew with decent technique- they’ll need to bulk a little to compete with the very best though. A semi-final for these chaps.

 

Reading Rowing Club ‘A’

These boys have taken me by surprise with the results they’ve been putting down. They were quick in their heat at Wallingford and finished eighth at the Schools’ Head. They won’t make a final but will be difficult racers to stop.

 

So that’s my preview. A winner? I’m going to have to stick with my guns and say Sir William Borlase- but it’ll be close.

 

 

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.