Schools’ Head 2017 – Championship Eights

Westminster School – Westminster haven’t had a perfect start to the season, underperforming at the Head of the Charles and the Four’s Head. They have won the Schools’ Head for the past two years and will desperately want to hold on to their title, but may struggle to do so

Shiplake College have a very strong upper 6th year, and beat St Paul’s and Abingdon by almost ten seconds at Hammersmith Head. They came second at last year’s Schools’ Head and with a number of returners, are up there as one of the crews that could take gold.

St Paul’s School are a young crew, mostly made up of last year’s silver medal winning J16 8+, and have shown good speed at some races this season. They beat Radley by 30s at Quintin Head, but lost to Shiplake by 8s at Hammersmith Head. With ten boys going to the spring assessments, they are clearly a talented crew, and could medal, or even win, if they row well.

Eton College – With three Henley winners and two worlds medalists in the crew, Eton are definitely the ones to beat. They were close to Goldie (Cambridge’s second boat) at the Head of the Trent, and are probably favourites to take this event. Their mediocre results at trials clearly show that Alex Henshilwood has prioritised the eight. He has also not shied away from the early-season Tideway racing, with the top guys dominating the field at Pair’s Head and Four’s Head. He was gutted that his crew didn’t win the Head last year, and will be looking to assert his dominance at this stage.

Abingdon School didn’t seem to be going very well earlier in the season, but have recently found good speed coming only 0.8s behind a fast St. Paul’s crew at Hammersmith Head. The eight that raced at Henley last year was a development crew comprised of some of the younger guys in their squad. They will be looking to upturn as many schools as possible, and prove that they can compete at the highest level.

Hampton School, although not quite as fast as Winchester or Radley at Hampton Head, they have a number of younger boys in their crew, mostly from the J16 8+ that won gold at NSR last year, and could be a very fast crew.

Radley College are a very big crew but seem to be a bit off the pace. There’s a lot of meat on board in the form of Archie McChesney and Freddie Elwes, and 2 radley guys will be heading up to Nottingham for GB spring assessments a few days after the head. They showed decent speed at Hampton, but were adrift of Winchester. There also tailed St Paul’s at Quintin. Amid rumours of injury in the ranks, can the boys of Gearing and Townsend pull it out the bag? We shall see…

Winchester College – With a number of returners and some of the top athletes in the country in the form of Tobias Schroeder and Luke Robinson, they’ll be looking to overturn some of the more traditional Champ eight schools. They have been training in the eight for the large part of the season and won J18 8+s by a decent margin at both Wallingford Head and Hampton Head. Watch out for these guys!

Royal Shrewsbury School – They have some very high quality athletes in the form of Barnaby Fox and Matt Rowe, but could suffer from a lack of depth. They are, however, well equipped and invariably well drilled, so we expect the Royals to do respectably.

Kings School Chester typically do not challenge for medals at the Schools’ Head. However, they have recently brought in an experienced Coach (Matt Jump – coach of the 2015 GB junior worlds double), and so should not be underestimated.

St Edwards School have flagged in recent years, whilst never going completely off the rails. 6th at NSR is no shame whatsoever, and was markedly better than Abingdon’s B final finish.

Molesey BC did not race the School’s Head last year. They have four guys attending the Spring assessments on the 28th of April, and could prove dangerous if the other four guys are up to par.

Idroscalo Club ASD (Italy), Enniskillen Royal Boat Club (Ireland) and Aberdeen Schools Rowing Association

All three of these crews are unknown quantities. However, it would take a superhuman effort for them to make the top five. ASRA have two trialists and got their coxed four into the GB vs France match last year. Sadly for them, the combination here is likely to feature some younger guys making up the seats.

We’re now used to seeing an Irish school or two make the trip over for SHORR. They have struggled in recent years though to make any lasting impression. Let’s hope they use this race for experience.

An Italian entry at the School’s Head is a less common occurrence. They could be first, they could be last, but we’re adamant that British domestic junior rowing is unmatched (it’s been over a decade since a foreign crew won at Henley).

Ninth Seat & Blue Collars