Wallingford Head of the River 2015 – J18 4+

Wallingford 4’s and 8’s Head is in many ways a big milestone in the junior rowing calendar: it comes near the end of the term for many schools and is therefore the final race of the year for many people and it attracts many of the ‘big’ rowing schools and so offers a good gauge of speed in bigger boats ahead of more ‘big boat’ head races next year.

Setting off first in this category are Shrewsbury School, who have entered two boats in this event. It is unclear whether these boats are matched or not; the unimaginative crew names (‘A’ and ‘B’) would suggest not, however, it is impossible to be sure. Shrewsbury performed well at the HOR4s, but failed to blow anyone away. The Tideway often fails to give crews unfamiliar with it due credit, however, and so I reckon that Shrewsbury will be quicker relative to other crews on the more forgiving Wallingford stretch.

Second in the order are Winchester. It looks as if this Winchester squad is the strongest the school have had in a long time, given their impressive second place finish at the Head of the Schuylkill Regatta last month. The stroke man of this four, Tobias Schröder, put in a very good performance in the single at the Early ID trials earlier this month to finish 8th and he, alongside four schoolmates, participated in the GB vs. France match in July as part of the JM8+. Robbie Boswall, another member of the squad, was part of the England Home International Regatta coxed four and eight and brings a lot of power on the ergo to the table. Doubtless this crew will be fast, and keen to upset some ‘Champ 8+’ school crews.

Next up are Abingdon School. Given that they have also entered crews in Sen.4- and IM2.4+ in this division, I am not convinced that the two crews in this category represent the cream of Abingdon’s crop. This, coupled with Abingdon’s slow start to the season, doesn’t scream that these crews will be fast. However, you can never write off a crew from the Oxfordshire School and the results of their crews at the Early ID trials showed that they aren’t in a terrible position.

Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to see Latymer Upper School’s speed at the HOR4s, however, I expect that it will be quite good- perhaps good enough to challenge for a top three spot.

Norwich put in a decent row at HOR4s, and although I think they will field two good quality crews this weekend, it’s hard to see them breaking into the top 5, especially if their crews are matched.

Greater Marlow School are a bit of an unknown quantity at the moment; this weekend will be a good indicator of whether they pose a threat on the 1st VIII scene this year, or whether a top quad is their best option (as it proved to be last year).

Judging by the fact that St Paul’s have two eights entered in the IM1 category- also in the second division- I don’t suspect that this four will contain their best oarsmen. Nonetheless, St Paul’s rarely produce a slow crew and so it’s still worth keeping an eye on them.

My Prediction:
1- Winchester
2- Shrewsbury
3- Latymer Upper School

Good luck to all crews.