Hampton Head 2017 – J18 8+

An unusually short event (usually taking less than 8 minutes to complete) that attracts its fair share of entries, Hampton will this weekend play host to a tightly fought contest in the most prestigious category of junior rowing.

Eton College

Eton have four VIIIs entered here, named after the Fantastic Four (Human Torch, The Thing, you get the idea). They don’t tend to be ones for racing matched VIIIs, so I have a hunch their top guys will be out as a unit. Fielding four VIIIs is not a problem for Eton, with regards resources or athletes; their 4th VIII regularly medals in 3rd VIIIs at National Schools. A good J16 contingent will need to have stepped on significantly as senior oarsmen to fill the shoes of their Henley-winning predecessors. I look forward to seeing how their six 2016 GB-France athletes slot in with Felix Drinkall, Paddy Adams and Charlie Pearson, all of whom are decorated world championship-level oarsmen.

Radley College

Under the watchful eyes of John Gearing and recent GB rowing team retiree Sam Townsend these guys put out a winning first eight for Quintin Head, despite being weakened by illness. I should expect this to again be a top boat, and one brimming with very physical athletes, the likes of Archie McChesney and Freddie Elwes. Given Eton’s reputation for building from April onward, I would anticipate Radley and Eton to be close, provided they are both fielding 1st VIIIs.

Winchester

Only just having enough rowers to field an eight has not proved any obstacle to Winchester in recent years. The school that produced George Nash, of Boat Race and Olympic fame, has churned out some serious engines in the form of Tobias Schröder and Luke Robinson. They easily bested matched VIIIs from St Paul’s at Wallingford Head in December, but Saturday will give us our first insight into Winchester’s early season form.

Hampton

Hampton are an unknown quantity here. Last year’s J17s were unremarkable, but they will have benefitted from an intake of exceptional J16s, impressive in J16A and J16B categories last year. Hampton have an unusual strategy for developing rowers – all the boys swap sides between J15 and J16, the idea being that by the time they enter the senior ranks they are more versatile oarsmen. It is the reason Hampton’s J16 VIIIs are often bow-rigged. Curiously, they seem to have all but opted out of GB trials, and the only scores they have submitted seem unbefitting of such an established champ VIII school. But, as any St Paul‘s J17 will tell you, they are not to be underestimated. On home water and at their own race, there would be cocked eyebrows abound if there wasn’t a Hampton 1st VIII going down the track on Saturday.

St Edwards were a force to be reckoned with only a few years ago, but have since failed to distinguish themselves. Child Beale schools fill the rest of the category, along with Molesey and Llandaff – it’s pleasing to see clubs facing up against schools directly in the sweep discipline.

My gut tells me that Winchester will take this one. If memory serves they performed well here last year, and will have benefitted from more drilling in their current combination than most all others.

BlueCollars