National Schools’ Regatta 2016 – Championship Girls Eights

Another flagship event at the National Schools’ Regatta, but a category that has been dominated by Headington School over the past few years. With seven wins on the trot under the masterful Ryan Demaine, the girls from Oxfordshire are so difficult to beat. We’ve got a more competitive line-up this year, with crews from Henley and LEH challenging the Headington monopoly throughout the head season, so it’s going to be a fascinating event to watch unfold. Here’s the preview…

 

Headington

Headington’s domination in Junior Girls girls rowing puts them as firm favourites to win Ch8+ on Saturday. If they succeed, it’ll be their eighth consecutive gold medal in this event, a truly outstanding achievement showing the strength of the system they have created there. Despite a few weaker performances earlier this season, when LEH beat them at Head of the Charles and Henley won Wallingford LDS, they’ve clearly learnt from those rare occurrences and come back stronger. They raced Elite Women’s eights at Wallingford regatta and came second to Imperials top crew, with a clear margin of 26 seconds on LEH. They had a tighter margin of 7 seconds over Henley when they won schools head, but then went on to win j18 4x at the Scullery the next day. Individually many of them are also involved in GB Trials, Lydia Currie who competed at Coupe de la Jeunesse last summer came 3rd in her pair with Rundle at April Trials, and Headington also had two single scullers in the A final, coming 4th and 5th. Their ability to use all their individual strength and skill and utilise it together is what brings them success, and I don’t think this year will be any different. The standard of crews who could beat them this year is definitely higher, but I’m not sure any of them quite have the speed yet to knock Headington off the top spot.

Henley

A stalwart of the junior rowing scene, Henley have been working their way up to this event for a few years now. Most of this crew can be traced back to their days tearing it up at J15 and J16 level. Despite the coaching controversy that has marred Henley as a club, the junior squad hasn’t unduly suffered and are still one of the dominant forces within women’s rowing. It’ll take a stunning row from these girls to wrest the Championship Girl’s eight title from Oxfordshire, but a row this crew are well capable of. They’ve already beaten Headington earlier this season and they’ll need to pull on all their collective resources to repeat that feat. If anyone can, Henley can.

Lady Eleanor Holles

So often existing in the shadows of Headington, LEH have slowly begun to come into their own over the past few years. They had a blisteringly quick eight a few years back, but failed to overcome Headington at domestic level. This year, they’ve had a promising run into the event, collecting a bronze medal at the Schools’ Head and claiming Headington’s scalp at the Head of the Charles in October. Under Jonathan Cheeseman, they’ve worked to build their development squads and I think they’ll be a force on Saturday.

Nottingham Rowing Club

Fourth place at the Schools’ Head of the River was a brilliant result for these girls, and one they’ll be looking to build on this weekend. I’ve practically massaged Nottingham’s ego over the past few years with all my crooning and I think this crew has the potential to medal on Saturday. Although the names within the crew aren’t exactly household, the overall speed is greater than the sum of all the parts with Nottingham produced crews. They won Women’s Junior 18 Eights at Nottingham City Regatta a few weekends ago, whilst girls from the eight won U23 quads at Ghent Regatta. Strong pedigree and a crew to watch at the weekend.

Lea

Lea is a successful adult club, but not quite as well known on the Junior scene. However this year they seem to have some very high quality athletes, with their top girls pair finishing 6th in the A final of GB April trials. They’ve also had strong results in their eight, winning the Novice pennant at Womens Head of the River, and coming a very respectable 6th at Schools Head, with a comfortable gap of 20 seconds ahead of Borlase. They didn’t enter a Ch8+ last year, so this will be a new experience for them, however they seem to have the speed to have a good chance of making the final. It’ll be exciting to see a smaller club like this produce an eight that can rival the big rowing schools, and even if this isn’t their year, as the depth of girls junior rowing improves these could be ones to watch in the future.

Bedford Modern School

This school seem to be trying to create a legacy of a successful champs eight school for the girls to match with the historic boys rowing there. At the Schools’ Head they came 7th in girls 1st eights, with a time which would have placed them 12th behind Portora in Ch8+. More recently their eight entered IM2 eights at not city regatta, coming third, and a coxed four of half these girls came 4th at Wallingford in WJ18 4+. They also have one standout athlete, ‘Graham’ who has been involved in the GB trialling process this year. These regatta performances show a pick up in speed over the Easter break, an encouraging sign, though unfortunately I don’t think it’s going to be enough this weekend, and I think these girls will struggle to make the A final.

Marlow

After asserting themselves on the sculling circuit, Marlow have switched their attention to sweep oar. This crew contains two-time Diamond Jubilee finalist Molly Harding, who will be instrumental in driving this boat forward. They finished fifth at the Schools’ Head of the River, only seven seconds behind Nottingham, but lost out to the latter a couple of weekends ago. They’ll be looking to close the gap and give themselves the best possible chance of making the A-final. I feel they’ve got enough power to make that final eight, but it’ll be a big ask to get on the podium. Marlow are fierce racers though, so expect a big effort from these girls.

Pangbourne

This crew didn’t race at the Schools’ Head and narrowly missed out on the final of the CHG8+ last year, so will be back with a vengeance this weekend. The Giambrone twins are formerly of Walton Rowing Club and achieved great success on the junior sculling scene, so will be expected to reproduce this form in a bigger boat. There isn’t much proof of the crew’s form on the domestic scene, but I have a feeling they’ll be going pretty fast come Saturday. Can they challenge for the podium? I doubt it personally, but I’m open to correction.

King’s School Chester

There was lots of potential for this crew, as they were an impressive force at J16 level two years ago. However, the crew appears to have tailed off a little and didn’t really perform to expectation at the Schools’ Head. finishing ninth. They too missed out on the A final last year, but with eight places available this weekend instead of six, they stand a better chance. They’ll have to have improved their speed since March though.

St Edwards School 

A consistent Champs Eight crew over the last few years, Teddies now seem to have an equal focus on their boys and girls rowing squad, with investment going into the girls program with new coaches and boats. They came 4th in their Semi-final last year, and will be looking to build on that performance and hopefully sneak into the A final on Saturday. They came a respectable 10th in schools head, clearly ahead of some of the other boats in the field, and not too far off from the top 8 crews, which is the crucial jump they need to make to be in the eight lane final. Their stroke girl, Tilly Caitlin, is a very accomplished athlete who competed at the Coupe de la Jeunesse last year, winning three silver medals in the eight and pair twice. She should lead this crew well, and if they put in a good performance a final slot is not off the cards for this crew.

Portora

Portora are an Irish school who don’t really race domestically in England apart from the big events. They did race WCh8+ at schools head, coming in 11th, but quite a way off teddies in 10th. However they seem to have better success in Ireland, winning both J18 8+ and 4x at Erne Head of the River. Portora usually have a good track record of getting girls vests to row for Ireland at Home countries and Coupe. Last year the Irish Coupe pair was from Portora, and one of these girls ‘E.Clark’ seems to be sitting in the middle of this eight. International experience is a great asset to any crew boat, and hopefully she’ll be bringing the rest of the crew on and raising the standard on Saturday. It’s hard to tell how fast this boat will be, and I’m not sure they’ll have the depth to compete with the best schools in the UK, but they should be putting in a strong performance and hopefully producing some quick semi final times to compete for the final.

Sir William Borlase

Silver medallists in this event last year, Borlase are known to field a strong women’s squad. However they have unfortunately lost some key athletes from last summer which may make it difficult to reproduce the same result. They produced some strong performances in head season, coming 2nd in Fours Head last November and then 7th in Schools Head, although with a 20 second gap behind 6th place Lea. Though they seem to have stepped on for regatta season, entering Women’s Challenge eights at Wallingford where they placed 5th in their heat, but only 4 seconds behind LEH, they may find the going tough come Saturday. Two of these girls raced for GB in the GB-France Match as J16s, and many of them are returning from last years crew. I think this depth of experience will secure them one of the 8 final spots, however I am currently unsure if they’ll have enough speed to get a medal this time round.

St Paul’s Girls School

Tatler named this school one of the most prestigious in the UK [99.1 per cent A*-B at A-level in 2013] but they’ve yet to make a real impact on the rowing scene. Despite the success of their Hammersmith brothers, St Paul’s Girls School didn’t enter a CHG8+ at the Schools’ Head nor did they race a crew in that category at the 2015 National Schools’ Regatta. That being said, a J16 eight from the school won bronze last year behind Henley and Marlow so this boat will have definite pedigree and potential. It’ll be interesting to see how they fare on Saturday.

 

Prediction

We’re opting for a Headington win, ahead of Henley in second and Lady Eleanor Holles in third.

GoingFastBackwards
  • RowingGirl

    Aren’t there 14 crews entered?? Is there a reason you’ve only previewed 13?