Reading Small Boats Head 2015 – Review

Reading Small boats Head this year saw a great day of intense racing, culminating in some fine wins for well established and fledgling programs alike. While many of the results were unsurprising, a few performances really stood out last weekend.

J16 1x, 2x
In the singles, Windsor Boys’ Ellery lived up to expectations and delivered a fine win – 12 seconds ahead of the next sculler. Ellery performed brilliantly in his single last year, and he seems to be taking this success seamlessly through to his J16 season. He’s a very promising sculler, and I think he could make some serious waves in the J16 sculling scene this year, as Windsor Boys’ sculler Harry Oliver did two years ago. Contrary to expectation, Star and Arrow’s Pizura managed a strong second place. Star and Arrow always produce some decent scullers at this level, and it’s good to see Pizura performing so well here. Henley’s Turnell also put in a strong performance, as expected, after a good showing at Wallingford LDS the weekend before. He’s increasingly looking like he could become a serious presence in the J16 sculling scene.
In the double, Henley took the win, but with two presumably matched Falcon crews not far behind. It’s a good result for Falcon, who beat the second Henley crew into fourth place; They showed good pace at Reading, and tidy form. They may well prove to be a club to watch this season in J16 sculling. However, Henley has struck again, and with consistently high results in both the boy’s and girl’s side of junior sculling, they are truly becoming a powerhouse of the sport.

J16 2-, 4+
The form crews here proved to be, as predicted, the SPS boats. SPS – De Graaf, as predicted, put in a really good performance to absolutely dominate the event. What’s particularly exciting about the nature of the De Graaf win is the fact that not only did they dominate J16 2-, but they would also have posted the fastest J18 2- time, beating Luke Hillier’s pair by 6 seconds. These guys were so successful last year in their J15 CH8+ it’s not surprising that they’re doing so well now. The bottom SPS pair, judging from the results, is a little off the pace, however – one can only assume they suffered a crash or malfunction; otherwise, SPS will have to work hard to bring up everyone in the squad to the standard of the J15 CH8+ of last year.
St Paul’s dominance transferred across to the coxed four, where they won the event strongly – but not by as much as in the pairs. While this solidifies their position as a strong group, they might be disturbed by the relative proximity of the Reading Blue Coat top crew, who weren’t a massive amount of time behind, considering the length of the course – this is particularly notable considering Reading Blue Coat’s lack of outstanding performances as J15s last year. This could either mean RBL are experiencing some sort of upsurge, or the SPS guys shouldn’t be resting on any laurels – gaps between boats will only get smaller come summer!

WJ18 1x, 2x
St Edward’s Tilly Catlin dropped out of this event to fill in for another Teddies rower in a double scull, so it was left wide open for Mossbourne’s Kes Roe to really blow the field away with a very strong performance, that caps off a successful two weeks of long distance sculling at Wallingford and Reading. Two wins in two big, competitive races in two consecutive weekends isn’t a bad way to start off the season! Both of the Giambrone sisters performed well, as expected, but I’m sure the large time difference between them will be the cause of a bit of sibling tension! Shiplake’s Walker also put in a good performance, the fastest Shiplake WJ18 sculler by a good 40 seconds. This should be encouraging for her; she’s not far off the very top end of the category, and she should be aiming high in the single this year.
The doubles was a predictable affair, with the strong Pangbourne athletes from last year’s eight putting in a great performance to demolish the Reading crew. These Pangbourne girls have a good amount of experience under their belts by now, and I’m excited to see what they can achieve in their sweep boats this year.

J18 1x, 2x
In the singles, a no-show from Harris of Pangbourne left this event at the mercy of Windsor Boys’ Harry Oliver, who proved his class in demolishing the rest of the field. He’s undoubtedly a classy sculler, and though he’s had his ups and downs through his career, it seems he’s really finding his feet now after a good stint on the GB team at the Coupe de la Jeunesse, in the men’s quad. He’s a class sculler, and it showed on Saturday. Kingston Grammar’s Luke Hillier performed strongly to come second – he was, in his J16 year, touted for a great deal of success that never really fully materialized. He remains KGS’s top oarsman, and he’s adept in both the scull and the sweep-oared boat – this might just prove to be Hillier’s year. Beating Borlase’s Ben Wright is no mean feat – Wright rowed in the Borlase top quad last year for several events – including the School’s Head and the Oarsport Sculling Head – in which Borlase totally dominated. He represented GB at the Coupe in the men’s eight in the summer, proving his skill in both disciplines. He performed well, too, but this does show how well Hillier performed to beat Wright into third.
It seems that for the actual event the doubles category saw a few dropouts, and in the end, only three crews contested the J18 2x title. As expected, Star and Arrow proved the form club, and they posted a quick time in winning. It’s a strong program that these guys have slotted into, and it will undoubtedly bring them on well. Emanuel performed decently to bat away the challenge of Henley RC, who trailed in this event.

J18 2-, 4-
KGS put in another great performance in the pairs, winning the event over Sir William Borlase, who generally produce some decent sweep boats and who have seen success in the discipline in recent years. Interestingly, Luke Hillier’s pair came third, which would suggest that perhaps these pairs were matched, as I’d expect that Luke would still be at the top end of the KGS squad. St Edward’s looked a little off the pace, which should trouble them. They’ve lost a lot of their talent – Sam Gillingham, Albert Mitchell, Sam Hamilton-Peach to name but a few – and they’ll need to make sure that they’re rising to the challenge of suffering such heavy losses. They’ll have a lot of ground to make up this season, but they always show promise come the summer and I fancy that this will be no different this year.
In the coxless four, both Radley fours dropped out and Reading Blue Coat was left to row the course by themselves. They posted a decent time in the process, which should certainly spur them on to build on last year’s results and aim as high as possible this season.

Five Man