Head of the Trent 2017 – J18 8+

For some schools this is the pre-SHORR race of choice. Racing is over a similar duration, and often the more northern clubs will race here in the run-up to the climax of the spring season.

Eton College

Despite being distinctly un-northern, Alex Henshilwood has in recent years felt it worthwhile for Eton to take the trip up to Nottingham for this race. Last year the Eton 1st VIII was snapping at the heels of none other than mighty Cambridge, and with both clubs racing again in 2017 the schoolboys will no doubt relish the opportunity to see how they measure up against what are provisional Boat Race crews. The athletes are fresh (or rather really quite tired) off the back of some mixed results at GB trials last weekend, which saw some middling sculling and some even more middling pairs. The notable exception was Felix Drinkall, who, partnered with Casper Woods from St Paul’s, won the pairs on the Sunday. Charlie Pearson, a Worlds returner and all-round solid oarsman, was precluded from the trials by a back injury. That would suggest he is more likely than not sitting this one out, but we shall have to see. This boat will feature three Henley winners in Drinkall, along with Patrick Adams and Frank Baring. Noah Norman, who just missed out on the top eight last year is also sure to feature. Notably, Alex Boardman has emerged not quite from nowhere, but rather the murky depths of last year’s Eton 3rd VIII and looks to be challenging for a spot. The foremost of the J17s on the GB ergo ranking are Theo Hall, Aubrey Warley and Oscar Carr-Middleton. No doubt these boys will be paying their dues in the gym and on the water, fighting to earn a seat in the top eight. To succeed in doing so bears particular clout and prestige not only within the Boat Club but ubiquitously in this most traditional of public schools. I don’t mean to focus unduly on Eton, but their prominence affords me the most knowledge of them. Furthermore, they would be disappointed to do anything other than wipe the floor with the competition at this particular race.

Royal Shrewsbury School

…are a school that are never too far from the business end of junior rowing, though they haven’t laid claim to the top spot in 10 years or so. Be that as it may, Sam Grant (recently pilfered from Eton’s J16s) has reason to be quietly confident. Barney Fox and Matthew Rowe performed very well at trials to say the least, coming in 4th and 5th over the two days. Both raced for GB last year and looked to be rowing in a nice pattern in Boston. They also have two more guys below the ergo cut-off who performed less well. RSS have kept a low profile so far this year, racing matched eights at Weybridge Head in a hotly contested battle with Abingdon. Eton could be in for a surprise.

King’s School Chester

A Child Beale school, yes, but one that acquits itself admirably across both its boys’ and girls’ programs, and one that is capable of producing GB rowers. Sadly, this crew is weakened by illness, and we must wait a little longer to see the full might of Chester steaming down the racetrack. Trent will not be one for the ages, but rather a stepping stone to greater things.

A small note: Eton 1 are entered in Elite, so whilst I expect their time to be faster, the J18 pots will almost certainly go to Shrewsbury.