Pairs Head 2015 – J18 2-

Arguably the flagship junior event of Pairs Head, and it looks to be hotly contested this year. With St Paul’s David Ambler and Freddie Davidson, winners of the GB Pairs Regatta in 2015, gallivanting off in Elite Pairs, the competition has been blown open and there are several pairs that will be looking to secure the top spot.

Westminster School – Plaut/Plaut
In my opinion, this will be the pair that takes first place in J18 2- tomorrow. Nick and James Plaut are not only fantastic rowers in their own right – both taking spots in the Junior World Championships GB 8+, and both being part of the fantastic Westminster 1st VIII that won all but Henley last season, but they’re also a stellar combination in a pair and double. Their proficiency in small boats cannot be understated – they’re both probably considered on the small side for rowers – but their technical skill and power to weight makes them a real force to be reckoned with in any boat. I fancy these guys will want to lay down a serious marker for the rest of the season, too – this will be the first time that St Paul’s and Westminster have met each other in racing since the Henley final, and I trust Westminster will want to right the wrongs of July from the get go. Watch out for these guys – the men in pink will be very quick tomorrow.
St Paul’s School – Jacquemot/Woodward-Fisher
These two were both part of the Henley winning St Paul’s eight, and both went to Coupe at the top end of the squad; Alfred Jacquemot in the pair, and Bertie Woodward-Fisher in the coxless four. St Paul’s were a strong squad last year, and had consistently high results throughout the season in whatever boat class they entered, and it seems that this squad is already showing its worth with strong performances in singles and quads at Wallingford Long Distance Sculls. I fancy this SPS pairing to be quick; although they won’t be able to catch the Plaut twins.
Westminster School – Edwards/Bentley
Jonathan Edwards was a mainstay of the Westminster 1st VIII last year, and Ed Bentley was chopped and changed with Alex Williams throughout the season before Westminster settled on Bentley for NSR and Henley. These guys are very tidy rowers, and Bentley brings a real physical strength to the pairing. Despite a fairly poor performance last year in the pair, insofar as they didn’t actually make it through the race-off to get a chance to attend final trials, they’ll be looking to come back strong. Along with the other Westminster returners, these guys have a lot to live up to from last year, and I’m sure that they’ll be desperate to keep the gap to the Plaut twins as close as possible. I fancy Edwards and Bentley may surprise a few tomorrow.
Royal Shrewsbury School
Shrewsbury have two entries here, and I fancy that both could put in some good performances. Shrewsbury didn’t quite live up to lofty expectations last season, where some good results in the head season and then early in the regatta season suggested that they might be a real force come the real racing at NSR and Henley. Despite hanging on in a desperate battle for the bronze medal at NSR with Eton, they were eventually rowed through and were resigned to 5th in a very close CH8+ final. However, at Henley, a first-round matchup with Hampton (that should, really, have been dominated by Shrewsbury) sent the boys in blue packing. Clearly, this would have been devastating for the oarsmen, and they’ll be eager to get the year off on the right foot. Pairs Head will be key to this. Shrewsbury often don’t perform great in small boats – trials last season proved this perhaps, when Shrewsbury actually had no representatives attend any trial – and I’m sure they’ll be looking to turn this around. They’ve got some big guys, and some pretty technical guys too – I can’t imagine they’ll be far off the pace.
St Paul’s School – Benzecry/Mitchell
This should be the next strongest pair after the Jacquemot/Woodward-Fisher combination. Benzecry rowed in the SPS 1st VIII last season, and he rowed in the eight at Munich and at Coupe. He’s paired with Mitchell, who was a member of the strong SPS 2nd VIII. These guys are pretty strong, and SPS totted up some very good performances in small boats last year, so I expect to see them some way up the rankings.
KCS – Oldroyd/Elkington
The KCS boys had a pretty poor season last year, after starting with some promise. They did, however, have some good talent at the top end of the squad, with a strong proficiency in pairs rowing. Alex Oldroyd was a key part of this, with his partner Nelson. They put some good results down in the GB Pairs Regatta, their technique holding up strongly under pressure. I figure that this will transfer through to pairs rowing this year. The KCS boys have been training hard in the eight for the Head of the Charles, too, so I fancy that they’ll be fit and up for the challenge of a long-distance pairs race. I hope, for their sake, they perform well; I’d love to see KCS have a good season this year, and this is really where it starts.
Latymer Upper School
Latymer have a fair few entries here, and they’re always pretty strong at this point in the season – particularly on their home turf. I fancy that they’ll put in some solid performances. Last year, Latymer had unprecedented success in both the Pairs and the Fours Head, so I trust they’ll be right up there this year. Coach John Moon has been working hard with a limited squad, and he’s really got a lot out of the boys. While I don’t think they’ll challenge for the top spot, they’re certainly ones to watch.
Other notable entries
St Paul’s have a few guys from GB France entered, and while they won’t have the experience of the seniors in the squad, they’re sure to be quick. Dulwich will also be racing on their home water, and they’ll be looking to step up after the disappointment of Henley last year, where they didn’t qualify for the Princess Elizabeth – watch out for the Sabeti/Large pairing. Shiplake should also put some good results down at this stage of the season, after showing good speed last year.

Prediction
Westminster School – Plaut/Plaut to win, with SPS – Jacquemot/Woodward-Fisher in second and Westminster School – Edwards/Bentley in third.

Good luck to all crews!

Five Man

Five Man