National Schools’ Regatta 2016 – Championship Quads

The top multi-lane event for junior quads, and arguably the highest profile sculling event of the entire regatta, this year’s championship quad has the potential to be an extremely memorable affair. Prior to last year’s event, Borlase had established themselves as clear favourites, and it had been widely acknowledged that it would take something truly extraordinary to prevent them from taking the gold medal. This year could not be any more different. At the Head of River Fours, The Schools Head of River and The Scullery different victors emerged in Northwich, Claire’s Court and Glasgow Schools, leading to a very open and exciting field for the National School’s Regatta.

Claire’s Court School
Whilst no club were able to dominate the Junior Quad during the head season, Claire’s Court have certainly had the strongest start to their domestic regatta season. Their most impressive performance so far this season certainly came at Nottingham City, in which they beat rivals Windsor Boys and Leander in a time of 6:13, only one second slower than the National School’s record. This, coupled with a reasonably comfortable victory at Wallingford, suggests that if anyone is going into the regatta as favourites it’s these boys. The school will look to build on their domestic success, and a boat comprised of experienced triallists and fully fledged internationals has given Claire’s Court an excellent chance to take the gold medal here.

Northwich
Over recent years Northwich have really started to make a name for themselves in the world of junior domestic sculling, producing crews that have achieved silver and bronze medals in the Championship quad in the last two years alone. Northwich started the season strongly, recording an excellent victory at the Head of River Fours, but have been unable to maintain this form going forward it would seem. Limping home in fifth at The Scullery was hardly the climax to the head season they will have been looking for, though recent signs of improvement have been there, beating The Scullery’s bronze medallists (King’s School Worcester) at Nottingham City. No doubt Northwich will look to carry this momentum into National Schools and potentially look to claim one of the minor medals, if not gold.

The Windsor Boys’ School
A school with real pedigree in this event, Windsor will be looking to reaffirm themselves at the summit of junior sculling, and a gold medal here would go a long way to doing this. Results on the national circuit this year have generally placed Windsor in the top three, with The Scullery being the only real exception to this rule. Battling twice (both successfully and unsuccessfully) with Leander at Nottingham City, it is clear that there is little to choose between these two crews, and they look to be the ones that will be challenging for the gold medal. The very experienced Harry Oliver, who has a Henley Final with Windsor Boys’ to his name, will look to drive the crew onto their first gold medal in this event for quite some time.

Leander Club
Whilst they may be the most recognisable club in world rowing, in terms of juniors Leander are still yet to really display the dominance that such an illustrious brand demands. That said, this year’s crew looks to be one of the most technically proficient they have put out in many years, and will allow the sheer force that athletes like Cameron Forsythe and Tom Mortimer so clearly have to be put to good use. Strong performances at Wallingford and Nottingham City have displayed that they will look to be competing right at the top level; whether or not they quite have what it takes to take gold remains to be seen, but no doubt they are one of the favourites to be on the podium.

Glasgow School’s Rowing Association
Despite what many predicted, Glasgow have entered a quad that is without Britain’s outstanding junior sculler Josh Armstrong in it. Naturally, this means that their entry here is unlikely to have anything like the speed that the crew which so comfortably won The Scullery did, and as such will not go into the regatta as favourites for a medal. Having said that, Armstrong did not make that boat move on his own and there will certainly be some talent in that crew that helped produce the result it achieved in March. Clearly however whilst an A final may be within reach, anything more than that looks to be unlikely.

Sir William Borlase’s School
With a Coupe athlete and a Henley winner on board, Borlase still have experience at the top level of the sport and will look to make it count here at National Schools. It seems almost unfair to compare the results of their current quad to the outstanding crew of last year, as it is very rare for a club to be able to boast the raw strength and ability that they could, though perhaps these comparisons are inevitable as losing these athletes and head coach appears to have had a lasting impact on the club. Despite this, whilst retaining the gold medal might be out of reach, an A final is not by any means, and I would expect this to be their primary target going in to the regatta.

Marlow
An impressive crew that has some shades of Marlow’s outstanding 2012 quad about it. Whilst they are yet to show the dominance their predecessors did, there is no doubt that this crew has the physical capabilities required to compete for medals at championship level. Ben Simon has proved himself to be the top athlete, and will look to drive his crew towards a podium finish. Whilst I don’t think they quite have the experience to take gold, a minor medal is not out of reach by any means and would be an exceptional result for them.

Maidenhead
Perhaps an outside bet for the medals, Maidenhead are starting to establish themselves as a club to be reckoned with. An outstanding performance at The Scullery led to a silver medal that ranking them above the likes of The Windsor Boys’ School and Northwich. Despite this, consistency appears to be an issue for the club, with Windsor recording a very comfortable win over them at Gent Spring. Perhaps with multiple J16’s in the boat this is down to a lack of experience, and the fact that Sean O’Mahoney is racing the single rather than the quad probably won’t help this, but a strong performance on the day could lead to a surprisingly high finish for Maidenhead.

King’s School Worcester
Certainly a developing programme, the King’s School Worcester have surprised many by their performances on the national circuit this year. A bronze at The Scullery displayed that last year’s J164X gold medallists may carry a threat at the championship level, though a disappointing fifth place at Nottingham City shows a lot of work is still yet to be done. Like Maidenhead, King’s School Worcester are an outside bet for a medal and will look to turn as many heads as possible on the day.

Bedford Modern School

Traditionally a school that focus on sweep oar, Mark Bavington appears to have plucked his four best athletes and placed them in the quad instead. The move has so far been a promising one, with a top six finish at the Schools’ Head, an A-final at Wallingford Regatta and a win in J184x at Bedford Regatta. They were a long way off the pace at Wallingford in the final, but will have been looking to improve their speed for the Dorney showdown.

Prediction
Going into the event Claire’s Court look to be the favourites to take the gold medal here with their outstanding performances on the regatta circuit this season, and the outstanding talent their top end athletes have. The minor medals on the other hand could go anywhere, and could well be dictated by which crews are fittest and manage to hold on to their technical accuracy as the day progresses. As such I would expect Leander and The Windsor Boys’ School to be the most likely to take silver and bronze, with Leander just edging Windsor for silver.

Mr T