National Schools’ Regatta 2016 – Championship Pairs

This year, the Sunday of NSR will see the majority of the top Championship athletes throwing down the gauntlet in the coxed and coxless fours, leaving the pairs category a fairly open field, ripe for the taking. Apart from a St Paul’s crew that should clearly dominate, this looks like it may be a hard-fought race indeed.

St Paul’s School – Ambler/Davidson
This pair should breeze to a comfortable victory, if all goes to plan. Their experience and strength is undeniable – both are Henley winners, both rowed in the GB 8+ at the Junior World Championships this year, both look to be at the top of their game. They were the quickest pair last year at GB Trials, winning the April pairs regatta, and Davidson continued the feat this year with a J17 partner, Casper Woods, with Ambler too old for junior trials and instead trialing at U23 level. Barring major catastrophe, I can’t see anyone standing in the way of the SPS pair’s victory – and it should be by a considerable distance, too.

Eton College – Adams/Lindsay
Oscar Lindsay brings the experience to this strong pair, having rowed in the pair at Worlds last year. Despite having taken some time off earlier in the year, Lindsay has thrown himself back into the mix wholeheartedly and looks to be back on top form. His pair with Adams performed respectably at GB Trials, placing a close 2nd in the B final with a pretty quick time, and one can assume that the pairing has made some big steps on since then. They won’t have the strength to challenge Ambler and Davidson, but certainly they should be aiming for the silver, and looking to emulate what is sure to be a strong performance from the Eton ‘top’ coxed four.

Glasgow Schools R.C. – O’Neil/Urquhart
This Glaswegian pair has shown good speed at GB Trials and will enter NSR with a clear view to getting into the medals. The boys are racing in the Glasgow Schools quad on Saturday, but they’ve certainly had a great deal of practice together when compared to some of the more ‘scratch’ pairs from the Championship schools, which will undoubtedly work in their favour. They’re certainly a pair with clear stylistic differences – where Urquhart brings smoothness and poise to the stroke seat, O’Neil contributes with considerable physical power in the bow seat – and perhaps this is the secret to their success thus far. They won’t be fast enough to catch the SPS pair, but I have a feeling that the bronze and silver will be a hard-fought battle between Eton and the Glaswegians. While Eton showed a more consistent speed at trials, Glasgow have a certain unpredictability that makes them dangerous over 2K – Eton will have to watch out for what will promise to be a storming finish from the Scottish pair.

Molesey B.C. – Hardy/Ayres
While this pair hasn’t had any recent results of particular note, they’re likely to be a main contender in this category. The absence of some of the top Champ Eight rowers leaves it a much more open category, and as the top Molesey junior men’s boat, these boys will want to do justice to their position as a true rowing institution. Oli Ayres takes the lead in this pairing as one of the top strokesiders in the country. After a successful stint at the Coupe de la Jeunesse last year, where he won bronze in the 8+, Oli has been performing admirably in the GB junior circuit once again, and a few weekends ago took a bronze in the top GB 8+ at Munich. His strength shouldn’t be underestimated, and with a good row, these guys could certainly challenge for a medal.

Other crews
Aside from the top four crews listed above, it’s a tough call to make trying to choose between the rest of the pack. There are several crews within the category that could well line up with the top four on the start line of the ‘A’ final; Kings College School is fielding two strong athletes for the pair out of their 8+, and they’ll obviously be looking for a spot in the final – they’ve certainly got good pedigree and are well-versed in 2K racing. Great Marlow School have a wealth of experience at this point and sound technical ability that will likely see them challenge for a place in the final. Windsor Boys School have been rapidly improving in terms of sweep-oar rowing considering their main strength lies in the sculling squad, so I fancy they may be in with a shout here too. One should never discount Abingdon School either, considering the sheer physical strength of their athletes – although pairs rowing is not generally regarded as an Abingdonian forte. Dulwich College have entered two boats, and their top pair with captain Dara Sabeti has the technical prowess to overturn several of these crews – watch out for them on the day.

Prediction
St Paul’s School will take the win by a good deal of open water. Eton College will follow in 2nd around a length up on Glasgow Schools R.C. The rest of the A final will see Molesey, KCS, GMS – and that last spot will be hard-fought, but I think Windsor could take it.

Good luck to all crews!

Five Man

Five Man