Wallingford Long Distance Sculls 2015 – Review

There was fantastic racing to be seen at Wallingford last weekend, and some big upsets. Attempting to predict winners this early in the season would always be a tricky task, but some of the results that were thrown up at Wallingford were surprising to say the least.

WJ16 1x, 2x, 4x
While the win for Orr was an easy prediction, the margin by which she dominated the field was unprecedented in the single scull. To take apart a strong field by almost 40 seconds is a true feat, and Orr is a sculler that appears to be going from strength to strength. This will be an exciting year for her, undoubtedly; she might well be thinking already about trialing for GB in December. Orr’s time was the fastest set by a junior woman in the single out of WJ16, WJ17 and WJ18 – and while conditions did get slower from the morning to the afternoon, the result is truly impressive. As a testament to Henley’s incredibly strong program, the club’s own Robinson-Ranger came across the line in second; it’s a good result from the young sculler, and she may be one to look out for in future years. It’s worth mentioning that all the Henley scullers in this event came in the top four – any club would envy such success. Third went to Lea RC sculler McCourt-Cox, who beat Henley – Wright by just a second.
Henley saw similar success in the double sculls, where the two doubles entered took both first and second place. Not only this, the crews were within .1 of a second of each other – those are some well matched boats if I’ve ever seen any. Lea took third again here, showing just how dedicated the Lea athletes are even this early in the season. Latymer Upper took fourth, but finished almost a minute behind Lea – clearly, Latymer will have some catching up to do if they want to assert themselves again at the top of junior women’s sculling.
The quads saw our prediction totally fulfilled, with Henley RC coming first and second – clearly there’s a pattern developing here – and a strong Ross RC quad in third. It’s worth noting that the top Henley quad set a very quick time, that would have been comparable with the boy’s J16 quads. I sense a very bright year for Henley sculling is already on the cards.

J16 1x, 2x, 4x
In the J16 single, our strong favorite for the win, Victor Kleshnev, was roundly beaten by his teammate, Marshall. Whether this is an anomaly or there genuinely is a bigger talent at Maidenhead than Kleshnev remains to be seen, but these guys were certainly well ahead of the rest of the field. This is encouraging for Maidenhead, but we often see strong performances from these guys in the younger yeargroups. There is also a rather large divide between the top two and bottom two scullers from Maidenhead in this category, so Kleshnev and Marshall will have to work hard to bring up the rest of the squad. Henley put in a decent performance, but both Henley scullers couldn’t quite live up to the results set by their WJ16 contemporaries in the morning division.
The four entries in the J16 2x were fairly easy to predict, with an already strong Wallingford duo racing on their home stretch. The other entries were not nearly of the same standard, and Wallingford have massively widened the gap to Kingston RC since NSR. This will be encouraging for them, and it should spur them to tackle this year head-on.
In the quad, RGS High Wycombe took the win with some class; the real surprise here was Stratford-upon-Avon BC, that set a fast time and took second in the category. Stratford, after performing with mediocrity at NSR in 2015, will be looking for a rise in form this year, and judging from their performance here, they might see it.

WJ17 1x
This was an exciting contest between some, relatively speaking, unknown scullers, but one that proved to be incredibly exciting, and rather close. Contrary to expectation, St Edward’s – Mottram took the win, who was only a couple of seconds in front of Lea – Downey. Only one second back from Downey was a Stratford-upon-Avon sculler, Booth. This is another fantastic result for the club, helping it on the road to becoming a more established institution for junior scullers.

J17 1x
A big win here for Shiplake – Newman sets his career this year off to a cracking start. This guy hasn’t really been around much on the sculling circuit, so it’s great to see him perform so well outside of a sweep oar environment. Shiplake recruit Rollet-Manus managed second place – he’s got good pedigree in the scull, having rowed at Henley RC for most of his career, and this showed on Saturday. Maidenhead’s O’Mahoney, who won the J16 single at NSR in 2015, showed his talent at Wallingford, but cemented the idea that he is more of a sprint racer than a head racer. Behind these top three, a host of athletes populated the field; Dart Totnes fielded some decent scullers, Maidenhead saw some good results, and even Eton managed some good performances here and there.

WJ18 1x, 2x, 4x
The WJ18 singles saw a fantastic win for Kes Roe from Mossbourne Academy, a school that is actively attempting to break convention in challenging the more established, large public schools that have for so long dominated the sport. This is a huge result for Roe, who beat Hattie Orr, reversing the result from GB Early IDs last December. These are two strong scullers, and it was exciting to see them battle it out. Stratford-upon-Avon also fielded a strong sculler in the form of North, who only beat Nottingham’s Holgate by less than a second. This clearly shows how tight it is at the top end of the category. While obviously some of the main players in the junior women’s sculling scene were not present at Wallingford, this is certainly an early indication of form that could be taken through the year.
In the doubles, St Edwards was the only real surprise at the top end of an event that Henley RC dominated by around 30 seconds, with Teddies in 2nd. It’s a strong result from the school, who will be looking to improve on their results from last year. Latymer Upper will be frustrated, perhaps, by the results: while their crews may have been matched, they’ll need to be going faster if they want to have a shot at replicating their form from 2013. They’re technically very tidy, and I trust that they’ll pick up speed following this initial showing.
The quads saw Henley taking 1st and 3rd, showing just how much depth the squad has. Latymer will be encouraged by their second place finish, but again, they’ll have further to climb during the season. Kingston RC seemed to under-perform slightly in spite of their experience in the Champ Quads category at NSR, but generally, the finish order here was fairly predictable.

J18 1x, 2x, 4x
The real surprise in the J18 singles category was the performances by St Paul’s scullers, who despite not generally being considered a ‘sculling’ institution, performed admirably in this event; indeed, SPS – Waller, a J17, managed to beat Matt Swiss from Dart Totnes – a sculler who represented GB at the Junior World Championships last year. Indeed, Swiss only managed 3rd place – a sculler from the American School in London – Skow – took the win in this talented field. Its impossible not to speculate that Swiss must have run into some difficulty during the treacherous course; he crashed last year in J17 1x after being on track to win, and this might well have happened here. He remains an exceptionally talented sculler that will be a big player in the scene come the summer.
The double was a predictable affair, with RGS High Wycombe outclassing the field. Hinksey finished strongly in second, and two SPS quads followed.
In the quad, a very close race saw Lea just take the win over an SPS quad and an ASL quad. Lea’s experience in sculling boats clearly paid off here, but St Paul’s performed well to finish in second. They’ve got a strong squad, based on these results, this year: indeed, an SPS quad set the fastest time of any boat at Wallingford, winning Elite Quads by almost 30 seconds.

All in all, Wallingford LDS this year was an exciting affair that saw some old rivalries flare up, and some results that were completely contrary to expectation. Let’s hope we’ll see more great racing in the events to come up to Christmas.

Five Man

Five Man