Wallingford Regatta 2017 – J18 Eights

The race over the 2000m course at Eton Dorney on bank holiday weekend will be the first real indicator of the straight line speed and power of some of the top schools in the country. This preview will analyse the crews in their respective heats due to the format of racing; the first from each heat garners automatic qualification regardless of time. This takes into account the fact that one heat is a little more ‘stacked’ in terms of establishment crews. In terms of the draw it should be noted that St Paul’s are not in this event, instead taking the 8 out in Challenge 8s before going in to fours. Also notable is the abstention of Shiplake from 8s racing completely.

Heat A

St. Edwards School

Teddies are the sort school that always turn up with 8 tall guys who aren’t always individually in the GB system, yet they are almost without fail a strong coherent unit. This season we have seen a decline of the Teddies form to always be in the mix, with a disappointing Schools’ Head performance, albeit the conditions caused upsets all around. This being said we may yet again be surprised by Teddies if we see former Abingdonian, Max Thompson make his return to the eight since he injured his back at the Schuylkill. He could add some further power to this boat which it needs if it wants to be in contention to make the final from this tough heat.

Bedford Modern School

Modern are certainly racing with the ‘big boys’ in this heat as they are the only 1st eight school on this side of the heats. Bedford had a decent result at SHORR coming 6th in in the category in a boat which doesn’t favour the waves quite as much as the bulky empacher. The lake on Sunday should allow the boys from Bedford to get the most out of their training from their camp. However even with the watts coming from Ventisei and Kavanagh, I think this boat may be hard pressed to keep up with the other crews but they will be eager to try and maintain some sort of contact to show first 8 schools they aren’t to be messed with.

Winchester College

Winchester’s J18s have had the feeling of always being the bridesmaid and never the bride, coming second to Eton at J15 and J16 level which in fairness was exceptional regarding their training situation on the Itchen. I believe and I think Winchester believe that this race could be their chance to step out of the darkness again to try and get one up on Eton. Whilst the SHORR results weren’t that favourable we must remember the factor the conditions played; we should not forget some of the firepower which Winchester has on board. Schroder is obviously the stand out guy in the crew (he’s tipped to being put in the top GB boat this year whatever that may be), but there are other big names in this crew such as Wythe who went to worlds in the 2- and Goodman and Robinson ,the latter of which is off to Munich. I certainly expect these guys to make the final.

Radley College

Radley had a good SHORR and will mostly likely do well this weekend if the forecasted headwind remains. This is due to the rumours that they are packing a lot of weight into that Filippi with the crew average said to be in the high 80s low 90’s, this even with a lightweight ‘Watt Ripper’ in the bows. If this is true its certainly extraordinary and should actually prove useful in the strong headwind. Radley have some good lads in their team, notably the younger brother of C. Elwes, Freddie and McChesney, the latter of whom did well enough at springs to see himself off to Munich with GB. Radley may not win the heat due to tough competition from Eton, but will be one of the fastest qualifiers to the final.

Shrewsbury School

My opinion is that Shrewsbury have a good range of athletes to choose from, evidenced by their putting out a 2nd and 3rd eight, both of which are performing well at their respective categories. So not only do they have some new depth, but they also have new coaching under Sam Grant who will want to get the most out of them. They also have a pair of athletes who are performing well in the Trials process in Fox and Rowe both of whom should be gunning for a seat at Worlds this year and won their B final at trials. Their power and ability should set this boat up nicely as Shrewsbury continue to get in tune with their new programme over this season and build upon their SHORR performance.

Eton College ‘A’

This is without a doubt the strongest boat in the field, and there would need to be a major upset to see this crew rolled over on Sunday. With people in this boat like Drinkall, Adams and Pearson, Eton are quite clearly the title contenders for Nat Schools and Henley. I think what makes Eton so strong is that they have a combination of  excellent coaching and  facilities along with not only a large enough athlete pool for four eights, but extraordinary depth, meaning that even when they were missing such a big name as Pearson, they were able to still come second at Schools head. There isn’t really much else to say about them that you don’t already know as the odds are in their favour this season.

Heat B

Dulwich College

With the other heat stacked with Champ 8s and this heat with two in itself, Dulwich (a school famous for its 6, 7 tandem in the good old days of racing) may find it hard to win this race or qualify as fastest loser. That being said, with a 4th place finish at SHORR and not being miles away from the champ 8s in terms of time they could make it a close race for the automatic qualification spot especially with Brown and Craig in that engine room.

King’s School Chester

After another year of tailing off in the championship division, Chester have brought in a new coach from the Grange and GB junior experienced Matt Jump. We haven’t really seen much of Chester this year with their 1st 8 not turning up many events apart from SHORR where their performance had something to be desired. This could be attributed to the conditions affecting them more than most due to their clearly smaller stature in comparison to their chunkier CH8 colleagues. So this still leaves us in the dark as to how Chester will do with the loss of big ergs in Higginbottom and their only triallists coming from their two coxes who have performed well with both making springs and Le Brocq being selected for Munich. So Chester could either be the dark horses of school boy eights this year or fall flat as in the past.

Eton College ‘B’

As I was saying before, Eton’s squad has some very good depth and put in a very strong performance at SHORR coming in right behind the CH8s. So whilst I think the results won’t be as close come the regatta season, I think they should really add some flavour to this race making it a close one as they have nothing to lose and the other crews will be concerned that they may be beaten by a schools second 8 albeit a second 8 which would find itself at home in 1st 8s.

Llandaff RC

I cannot remember any time in my rowing career that I have seen a crew from Llandaff in Cardiff enter an 8 into a junior category, but I would like to mention that in sculling they won the Fawley in 2000 in a composite with Leander. They have a historically strong sculling programme, and it isn’t to be taken lightly that they’d abandon such a programme in favour of eights.

Molesey BC

Molesey are known for churning out some exceptional senior athletes, and even some junior ones like Oli Ayres, . Previously they really haven’t had enough people to form a competitive eight, with any put forward to race being at the back end of 1st eights. However this year they have got a really good bunch of boys who have been excelling at GB trials, with 4 of them going to springs. Special mention should go to Darlow who has been selected to go to Munich despite having only been rowing for a few months so he really is a rising talent. I think within the heat they may just pip Chester to the automatic qualification space considering they beat them at SHORR, but it will be a close race.

Overall Prediction

1st Eton ‘A’

2nd Winchester

3rd Radley