Pairs Head 2015 – WJ18 2-

With a fairly small but competitive number of entries, this looks like it’s going to be a tight race for this season’s first head of the river. The tideway presents many challenges, especially in small boats such as a pair, but there is a lot of experience in this line up and I believe many crews will be ready to overcome any conditions and make this a very exciting race.

I will go through the main crews in the draw and then make a prediction at the end.

SPG- Thomson/Valt
St Paul’s girl’s school has come far in the last few years, and is now consistently entering huge numbers of girls into National Schools and other regattas, showing their depth is getting stronger. Thomson and Valt are both J17’s, and reached the final of the J16G4+ at Nat Schools last year. They have the advantage of home water and knowing the course, and more importantly the right line for the stream, which is where seconds are often lost. These girls probably won’t be fast enough for the top spot, but they should be able to put in a good row on their own stretch.
TSS- Saunders/Cossey
Another tideway club hoping to gain seconds from knowing the course, TSS seem to have entered a top junior pair this year. The standout athlete in this crew is Megan Saunders, with a 5k close to 19 minutes she was high up on the GB trials rankings back in January. She then came 29th at Feb trials in her single, but after this didn’t seem to progress further. Even so, she is incredibly strong, and if she can utilize this in a pair they should be posting a fast time on Saturday.
PHS- Andrews/Lofstedt
Andrews and Lofstedt are an old pairing, with experience having come second in this event last year behind Weybridge. They also had success in the J16 G2- two years ago, with a bronze medal, the same event that the Borlase pair won. These girls are fast and seem to be leading the rise of Putney High School as a competitive boat club. Andrews was Putney’s first girl to be selected for the GB team, and competed at the Coupe de la Jeunesse in the Women’s eight this summer. This puts this crew as a possible standout above the rest, however more recent results saw these girls come 6th in the final at national schools, behind other girls competing in this event. There are rumours this may be down to Lofstedt being ill on the day, and so it may not be a true reflection of their speed. Even so Putney should know the river and will put in a strong performance close to the top, but unfortunately for them competition looks much tougher than it was last year.
Henley’s women’s J16’s had an almost unbeaten season last year, and although I believe Henley has entered a top double, these athletes are definitely amongst the top of their strong group. Both won gold in the J16 Champs eight at National Schools, with Pearson receiving another gold in the J16G4x. If this crew remains unchanged she would have come second at Women’s Henley, after a crab at the start. A J16 Henley quad also made it to the Friday of Henley Royal in the Diamond Jubilee Challenge Cup, extremely impressive against girls two years older. Edwards came 5th in the four at National Schools, but again if crews remained unchanged she may have won the J16 4+ at Women’s Henley. These girls have lots of success and will be looking to continue that into the new season. Henley row technically brilliantly together, I think this pair is the one to watch.
SWB- Bruce/Roberts
These girls are a very experienced pair, winning a gold medal in 2014 in J16 G2- at National Schools, and now they are racing again two years later. Last season they were both in the Borlase eight which came in silver. Roberts was then also part of the Borlase top quad, which made it to the Friday of Henley Royal Regatta, knocked out by the eventual winners Gloucester.  Bruce entered ChG2- with another partner at Nat Schools and came 4th, a very impressive result for what is assumed to be the clubs 5th and 6th athletes, as the top four were in the quad on the same day. These two have a very good chance on Saturday, they row well together, and are clearly both accomplished athletes in their own right, products of Borlase’s very successful program.
MCA- Bernstein/Roe
Chasing them down will be this pair from Mossbourne Academy. This seems to be a London Youth Rowing inspired pairing, as Bernstein rowed for Globe last season, but has now switched to Mossbourne possibly because of the potential of this crew. Bernstein was 5th in J16 G2x at National Schools, but has also been involved in the GB trailing process. She was invited to J16 sculling camp in the 2014 season whilst still a J15, which shows faith in her ability and potential. Kes Roe has a very good season last year, with a silver medal in the CHG2- and a large presence in the trialling system, narrowly missing out on a GB vest. She did however represent England at the Home Countries Regatta. In the single scull, she topped Wallingford LDS two weeks ago, and went on to win Reading SBH last weekend against some strong competition. If these girls can get the practice in following the Bernstein’s change in club, they should be able to move the boat very quickly.
It is worth mentioning the strong showing of LEH in this event. However all of these girls are J16 and seemed to be a mix of LEH’s A and B J15 eights last year, where they came 2nd and 6th respectively. I don’t believe J16s will be able to compete against the crews two years above them and also am unable to pick out a top pairing, so for this reason have not covered these crews in detail.

SWB- Bruce/Roberts in First, Henley-Edwards/Pearson second and PHS-Andrews/Lofstedt or MCA- Bernstein/Roe in third.

Good luck to all crews racing!