Schools’ Head 2016 – Girls 1st 8+

This event is a fantastic chance for perhaps slightly less established girls rowing systems to field a strong eight and race in a competitive environment against similar schools.

Surbiton are traditionally thought of as a sculling school, with a very successful quad last year, but they like many others they’ve chosen to compete in sweep crews as well this year. This isn’t the first time they’ve raced sweep, with a bronze medal in Girls 4+ at National Schools last year they clearly can be just as efficient with one oar not two. This eight came 8th at Hampton, losing to only one other Girls First Eight SPGS, so this should give them the confidence to go for a top three placing on Thursday.

Emanuel came 9th at Hampton, only one second behind Surbiton high school. This close margin will be one of their motivations to try and beat them on Thursday. They’ll also be racing on home water, an undeniable advantage with Schools Head as the wrong position in the stream can waste precious seconds along the course. They’ve already practiced the course with a 15th place at WeHORR, 8 seconds behind Bedford Modern School along the full course. This shows they may be slightly off the pace of the fastest five first eight schools, but likely still competitive in the category as a whole.

Bedford Modern School
BMS came 11th at Hampton, a little behind some of the other crews racing like Emmanuel, however they turned this out by beating them at WeHORR finishing as 14th school/junior crew. I would judge WeHorr as a better indication of their ability, as it was more recently than Hampton, but also shows a higher level of capability of rough tideway conditions, and good endurance over the whole of the course. A solid result shows they can maintain speed over this difficult racecourse, and I think this gives them a good chance to perform well on Thursday.

St Paul’s Girls School
SPGS are a mover on the junior girls rowing scene. After their move to Fulham Reach, they’ve got more space and arguably more time to train, and this appears to have been paying off for the girls in black and white. At Hampton Head, they fielded a decent eight that very narrowly beat Surbiton, and it’s clear that the margins are not big in this category; however, they were the fastest at WeHORR out of any of the boats in this category. SPGS will need a strong row to put themselves at the top of this category, but I don’t think this is beyond them. Given their Tideway experience (which is always a huge advantage), I’m predicting good things for SPGS.

Pangbourne are a club with a great deal of potential, that often doesn’t see it maximized when push comes to shove. They’ve got some strong athletes and they’re a dedicated unit, but they haven’t thus far demonstrated speed that could win them the category. They beat Bedford Modern at WeHORR, but were a little way off St Paul’s pace, possibly as a result of lack of Tideway experience. To these ends, I think that while Pangbourne could strive for a high finish here, they won’t manage to claim the top spot. Things are looking positive at the Pangbourne camp, and they may well become a force by the Summer, but as of now I think they’ll be fighting for the silver.

Other crews to mention
There are a variety of other crews who could pose a challenge in this event. LEH have fielded what appears to be their 2nd VIII, which is likely to be competitive given the size of the program at the school. Methodist College Belfast are a decent club that always put in good performances at the Irish Championships, so I’d expect them to put in a strong showing here. Shiplake College haven’t really shown their hand yet in terms of relative speed, but I’d expect them to perform well, particularly considering the upsurge their boys’ squad is experiencing.

Based off results thus far, I’d suggest that St Paul’s Girls will take the win, with Pangbourne in second and Bedford Modern in third, but expect the likes of Surbiton to pose a real threat on race day.

Good luck to all crews!
GoingFastBackwards and FiveMan