GB Trials 2015/2016 – Top 10 JM Sweep

To mark what ultimately turned out to be a very successful Early ID trial despite predicted bad weather, we’ll be doing previews of the top 10 athletes for Junior sweep and sculling, both girls and boys.
These are the guys we believe will form the top 10 sweep athletes this season, and who probably stand the best chance of representing GB in Rotterdam in the Summer of 2016:

Tom Digby – Abingdon School
Previous GB Representation: 2014 Junior World Championships (4- silver), 2015 Munich Junior International Regatta (A4-, A8+ bronze), 2015 Junior World Championships (4- silver)
Abingdon’s Tom Digby is right at the top of the British junior rowing circuit, and he’s been there since late 2014. After quickly rising through the ranks at Abingdon, making the 1st VIII as a J16 and then coming really out of nowhere at Final Trials to make the top GB boat – the coxed four – at the JWC, he’s gone from strength to strength, and has now the under-19 British 5K ergo record to his name. Last season, Tom was never troubled at the top of the pile; he and Charlie Elwes of Radley occupied the rather privileged position of essentially trialing as a formality (although, to be fair to the GB coaches, at Finals Tom was seatraced a fair amount). He won a fine silver in Rio in a strong four, and with this wealth of international experience, the top GB boat will be built around Digby this year. He’s the main player, and his influence will be paramount.
Note – there are rumors that Digby may be trialing this year as a sculler, after his fantastic result at Early ID. While nothing is confirmed yet, however, we’ll assume he’ll be trialing for JWC as a sweep oarsman.

Gregor Duncan – Aberdeen Schools Rowing Association
Previous GB Representation: 2015 Munich Junior International Regatta (C4-, B8+), 2015 Junior World Championships (8+)
Gregor Duncan started last season as a keen oarsman who was really desperate to make the step up from Scottish National rowing to Team GB for Junior Worlds. Throughout the season, he was repeatedly doubted – probably due to his comparatively small stature, and while his ergo is strong in terms of power to weight, it’s not going to blow any GB coach away. What is noticeable about Gregor is his tremendous mental attitude towards the sport; a real intensity and willingness to succeed, and this is evident from the way he attacks races. He’s a real example of how far hard work can take you, and his labour was rewarded last season with a spot in the 2nd GB boat – the 8+ – at Junior Worlds. What is particularly impressive is the fact that Gregor doesn’t come from a massively well-funded club with a host of strong athletes to push oneself off; while ASRA is well-established, it certainly doesn’t compare with the likes of Eton in terms of size and depth. So for Gregor to have got himself into this position through sheer willpower is no mean feat. I fancy him to do very well this year, and the top boat at Worlds certainly is on the cards.
Note – along with Digby, it appears that Duncan might be trialing this year as a sculler; as this is not yet confirmed, we’ll leave him here.

Freddie Davidson – St Paul’s School
Previous GB Representation: 2015 Munich Junior International Regatta (B4-, B8+, A8+ bronze), 2015 Junior World Championships (8+)
Freddie Davidson is a great athlete, and combines strength and technical efficiency to make both small boats and eights move well. He had a strong season last year, not just in terms of GB representation but, of course, domestically too – he was an integral part of the strong St Paul’s eight that took the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup in the Summer. He’s going to be gunning for a place in the top boat at Worlds this year, for sure; but he’ll have a tough time on his hands considering the calibre of other strokesiders this year. Certainly in terms of GB, strokesided is stronger than bowside, and this will mean that if the powers that be decide that a top four should be fielded, competition will be tough indeed. Watch out for this guy, though – he’s a great sculler as well as sweep oarsman, and he’ll feature highly this year.

Nick Plaut – Westminster School
Previous GB Representation: 2015 Junior World Championships (8+)
Another returner from last year’s GB 8+, Nick also have his eye on the top boat this year. He and his brother formed our crew of the month this year, and there’s good reason for this: both Nick and James are fantastic athletes, proving time and time again that they’re a force to be reckoned with in small boats. In singles, Nick is the faster of the two, and when on top form he may well be good enough to make the Worlds sculling team. He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s got fantastic power to weight – a common theme, seemingly, across the top GB strokesiders (barring Tom Digby perhaps) – and his athleticism will serve him very well come the Summer. Certainly, he’s looking like he could be an influential presence in GB rowing this year.

Oscar Lindsay – Eton College (no preference on side)
Previous GB Representation: 2015 Junior World Championships (2-)
Oscar really came from nowhere at Final Trials. Having spent some of the domestic racing season in Eton’s 2nd VIII, and not really having made much of an impression, he showed a tremendous amount of strength at Final Trials and managed to sneak the last space at Worlds, in the pair with Lucas Rodd. He’s a very talented oarsman, but unfortunately has allegedly got an injury and will be out for a couple of months – months that can be crucial in the season for building fitness coming into the real racing in 2016. Hopefully Oscar can bounce back strongly, as he could be a real force this year and a leading man in the Eton squad. Eton have some really strong guys this year, Oscar included, and I expect a very strong domestic season from the boys in Eton blue.

James Plaut – Westminster School
Previous GB Representation: 2015 Junior World Championships (8+)
With the majority of the bowsiders from last year’s Junior Worlds having graduated, James Plaut takes the position as, in my opinion, top GB bowsider. He’s slightly smaller than his brother, Nick, and his ergo score is on the weaker side in terms of trialists this year, but what he lacks in size he makes up for in technical prowess and sheer willpower. He’s incredibly hard-working, and gets great length in the boat despite being fairly short for a rower. Rumor has it on telemetry he pulled the most wattage in the GB 8+ at Worlds on bowside. He’s a great athlete, and I fancy he’ll be looking at the top boat this year, if all goes to plan. He did pretty well at Early ID trials, but perhaps under-performed slightly, considering his potential; however, his discipline is sweep, and it’s sweep where James excels.

Harry Higginbottom – King’s Chester
Previous GB Representation: 2015 Coupe de la Jeunesse (4+ silver)
Harry is a hugely strong athlete, and brings a great deal of physical power to the list of potential GB bowsiders. He had a pretty good season last year; early success with his talented pairs partner, Alex Slater, earned him a trip to Nantes for the GB Potential Camp, and after a disappointing run at Springs Harry really stepped on and finished up as one of the top Coupe bowsiders. He rowed in the 4+ at 2, along with Slater, David Bewicke-Copley of Eton and Francois Gouws, also from Eton, forming a formidable unit and performing the best of any of the men’s sweep GB crews at Coupe, winning a silver on both days behind a very strong Italian four. Higginbottom will certainly be vying for a seat in a highly ranked Worlds boat this year. He’s got power in droves, and his boat-moving ability has increased drastically since this time last year. Certainly, Harry will be one to watch this year.

Oswald Stocker – Westminster School
Previous GB Representation: 2015 Munich Junior International Regatta (B4-, B8+, (2)B4-), 2015 Junior World Championships (4+)
Stocker can probably assert himself as the next fastest Westminster rower behind the Plaut twins, and certainly this was reflected in his results last season, representing GB both in Munich, and in Rio. With the new season, however, Oswald has brought both a new hairstyle and new expectations. He’ll certainly be gunning for a place in the top sweep boat this year on bowside, hoping perhaps, if it’s a four like last year, he and James Plaut could be two Westminster bowsiders in the top GB boat. Obviously this would be quite an achievement, and I’m looking forward to seeing what this guy can do this year.

Charlie Newbold – Itchen Imperial RC
Previous GB Representation: N/A
Charlie enters here as an unknown, really, having not attended trials last year, and apparently having not raced at NSR either. He does, however, have a great ergo for his age – 2nd on bowside in the GB system behind Higginbottom – and he appears to be someone who could be a serious contender in the Summer. It’s always exciting to see new guys enter the system and really shine, and I’d suggest that Newbold could be one to watch strongly this year. He’s not from a big rowing school, but this makes his success thus far all the more admirable – clearly, he’s been working under his own steam a great deal, and this will give him a really superb mentality that he can carry through to racing later in the year.

Alfred Jacquemot – St Paul’s School
Previous GB Representation: 2015 Munich Junior International Regatta (2-, (2)B4-), 2015 Coupe de la Jeunesse (2-)
Alfred was part of the very strong St Paul’s eight last year that won Henley, and he formed a fantastic partnership in the pairs with Marco Hughes; they were successful in trials, raced together at Munich and finished the season with an A-final spot at the Coupe de la Jeunesse, in an incredibly strong field. Indeed, technically he was the highest ranked bowsider at Coupe, and was the spare man for Worlds; for a period, while Lucas Rodd was ill from the JWC pair, it looked as if Jacquemot might have to race at both events. Jacquemot will be attempting to go one better this year by making JWC proper, and he’ll be backed up by a strong St Paul’s squad. His ergo isn’t the strongest, but he’s got good power-to-weight and this will stand him in good stead at trials.

This concludes our preview for the top sweep oarsmen in the GB trialing system this year. Take it with a pinch of salt; much can change through the year, and certainly last year relatively unknown J17s really showed their strength at trials, contrary to all expectation.

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