Quintin Head 2017 – J16 8+

With the cancellation of BASHER, this will almost certainly be the first race of 2017 for all the boys in this category. The larger public schools will have seen the return of any athletes who directed their efforts towards rugby in the autumn and hence will be sporting full strength squads for the first time.

Westminster School

The pink palace is said to be suffering from a lack of numbers in this year group, and that is reflected in their solitary J16 entry and paltry 4 eights throughout the whole race. This does, however, mean that the eight boating on Saturday will likely contain their best talent and should be better drilled than their opponents. Racing on home water, Westminster have no excuses.

St Paul’s School

Paul’s bested Westminster at National Schools last summer, and they have a history of strong results in J16. Three of the seats in the two presumably matched eights will be filled by Oliver Parish, Holden Eaton and Albert Doyle, who have been making waves in the early stages of the GB trials process. Albert is the younger brother of Arthur Doyle, now of Harvard University, 6 man of the SPS Henley-winning eight of 2015 and legendary boat mover. A matched offering from the Hammersmith-based club would need to race out of their skins to beat a top boat from their arch-enemies downstream, but with neither having shown their hand far this season, anything is possible.

Radley College

Somewhere with rowing heritage abound, Radley fielded a tidy unit in J15 last year, whilst marrying their J16 and senior squads. Said senior squad secured a bronze medal in Ch8+ at Nat Schools and the J15s matched that performance, 0.8s behind Westminster. Matched eights is often the way of things at Quintin, and Radley will be no different. They have every reason to be mixing it up the sharp end of the category. Named as the strokemen are “Redley” and “Nelson”, members of the aforementioned J15Ch8+ of 2016.

Hampton School

Last year’s cohort of J16s from Hampton was a formidable force, coming first in J16Ch8+ at NSR 2016 and gaining selection for the 4- at GB-France. In 2017 we’ll see if the young bucks from the Molesey stretch can fill their shoes. The crews are named “Bridge” and “Seear” – oarsmen from last year’s J15A and J15C boats respectively, indicating that these are – you guessed it – matched eights. Last year these guys placed 5th in J15Ch8+, but many a crew and oarsman have turned up to race as J16s unrecognisable from their junior selves. Though, on unfamiliar water, I’d be surprised if Hampton came first.

King’s College School, Bedford Modern School, London Oratory School and St George’s College all only have one eight racing, suggesting a top boat, and so could nudge the matched crews back a few places. That said, with all respect to them, it’s not often they manage to finish ahead of more “establishment” schools. Dulwich College again have matched eights on home water, and Reading Blue Coat School will do the same whilst “playing away”, as it were.

Were I to hazard a prediction as to who will take the pennant, it would be Westminster. They’re a known force in junior rowing, and I suspect they will be carrying the most speed at this point.