National Schools’ Regatta 2017 – Championship Girls Eights

The National Schoolss Regatta is undoubtedly the most competitive event of the year for championship girls eights, and this year should provide some close and exciting racing. With Headington facing one of the biggest ever threats to their eight-year winning streak, Saturday should provide an intriguing finale to a season that has threatened to buck the established narrative.

 

Headington

Headington have had yet another dominant head season and, down in Oxfordshire, the wheels of progress just keep on turning. These girls won at the Women’s Head of the River and Schools’ Head of the River, crucially finishing ahead of closest rivals Henley on both occasions. However, at Wallingford Regatta just three weeks ago, they experienced their first defeat from a British crew in recent history – step forward, Henley. As we wind up towards Saturday, you could essentially throw a blanket over these boats – and it should make for a fascinating match-up. The order may have shifted again over the month between Wallingford and NSR, but with similar conditions to Wallingford forecast for Saturday the stakes will be high for Headington as they try to claim what would be a ninth cumulative win in this event. Such a feat is pretty much unmatched in recent junior rowing history and it would represent a remarkable achievement for Ryan Demaine and his team. With a 2 second win for Headington at SHORR, and a 3 second win for Henley at Wallingford, there won’t be much to choose between the crews on the day.

 

Henley RC

Henley have had their eyes on the summit of junior women’s rowing for some time. Unable to topple the might of Headington, it looks like 2017 could be their year. After a head season comprising countless second place finishes, they finally came up trumps at Wallingford to unseat their opponents. Can they hold on to that momentum as we wind up towards Saturday? This boat holds 3 returners from the recent Munich International Regatta and with Henley accounting for half of the four that went for women’s sweep, they certainly have several talented individuals. However, their crew list shows an absence of one of their top trialists Georgie Robinson Ranger, as well as Lauren Kay who raced at Coupe last summer, and even with Henley’s indisputable depth they may not be able to take the win without them. With more strong winds forecast for Saturday, Henley will be aiming to repeat their Wallingford performance and break Headington’s eight year winning streak.

 

Lady Eleanor Holles School

LEH are the National Schools’ Regatta record holders in this event, an achievement stretching back to the nineties, but in more recent times they have only scraped into the medals. They scratched their entry at Wallingford a few weeks ago and have only appeared to race this eight at Hammersmith Head and SHORR, where they placed 3rd behind Headington and Henley. Backed up by some solid results across their small boats, including 4th at a competitive Junior Sculling Head and 3rd in both categories at Four’s Head, LEH appear to have another strong squad this season. They were bronze medallists in this category at the last National Schools Regatta and it is likely they will have to fight Marlow to match that performance again this year.

 

Marlow RC

Marlow had a disappointing end to their head season campaign, with a weaker time comparatively at Schools Head than at WEHORR. However, with the girls in their crew picking up two silvers and a bronze at the recent Junior Sculling Regatta, it is obvious to see that Marlow’s depth is as good as ever. With a fourth place finish at the National Schools’ Regatta last year behind Lady Eleanor Holles, Marlow will be looking to get into the medals this year. On account of LEH’s comparative absence from the racing scene over the past couple of months, competition between the two crews may be tighter than it appeared to be at SHORR.

 

Becket School

Containing several girls from Nottingham’s silver medal winning eight from last year, Becket have had their fair share of ups and downs this season. With wins at Hampton Head and Wallingford Regatta balanced out with a sixth place finish at WEHORR and a 7th place finish in champ eights at SHORR, also finishing behind quite a few first eight crews, it will be interesting to see what result Becket will produce this Saturday. Based off their head season results, I suspect that Becket will still struggle to medal, and it will most likely be a fairly tight race between them and St Paul’s Girls for the latter places in the final.

 

St Paul’s Girls’ School

St Paul’s Girls had a much stronger head season than they did last year, finishing fourth at the Women’s Head of the River before a relatively poor Schools’ Head performance saw them come in fourth in first eights. Since WEHORR they’ve had a couple of crew changes, however with a history of stronger performances in regatta season, backed up by their win over Marlow in quads at the Junior Sculling Regatta, it will be interesting to see what result this crew can produce in their first race with the new line up on Saturday.

 

Glasgow Academy

Glasgow Academy are not a renowned name in girls’ junior eights, and although they raced School’s Head this year to finish sixth in ChG8+, they were quite a way off the pace of the faster crews entered here. They have had more success in smaller boats in the past, notably last year where they prioritised a quad and dominated the pairs at GB trials all year. Last season their quad were silver medalists at the National Schools’ Regatta and won junior quads at Henley Women’s Regatta. However, most of the athletes in this crew have since moved on from junior level. They had two girls involved in the early stages of the trialling process this year and placed 12th at the Junior Sculling Head, but it is unlikely they will have the strength to compete with the top crews in this category. At the Schools’ Head with the exception of Becket, who appeared to have a poorer result comparative to their other performances, Glasgow were only faster than Pangbourne. With Pangbourne having some major steering problems at the Schools’ Head, I expect there will be some good racing between these crews.

 

Pangbourne College

Pangbourne’s last notable race to date was the Schools’ Head, where they had quite a poor performance, partially due to steering problems. They did also race at Reading Head, finishing 16 seconds behind Great Marlow School over a 15 minute course. This suggests that they will most likely find it hard to make the A final, but as they haven’t raced much this season, they might be able to produce a faster time than they have done previously on the day.

 

Great Marlow School

Great Marlow School last entered girls’ Ch8+ at the National Schools’ Regatta back in 2014, where they narrowly missed out on qualifying for the six-crew A final. They have been racing the eight fairly consistently so far this season, finishing sixth in first eights at School’s Head, close behind Sir William Borlase, and third at Reading Head where they were 34 seconds behind Marlow RC. This was a big improvement on their result at Hampton Head, considering they closed the gap on Henley’s B crew by five seconds from Hampton to Reading over a much longer course. Their top triallist, Leanna Beswick, raced a composite pair with Marlow at April trials where they were only 0.22 seconds from winning the B final. However, at the Junior Sculling Head their quad placed 17th, so I doubt they have the depth to a field a strong eight. Considering the progress they have made throughout the year, they may be able to improve on their 2014 performance and gain a spot in the A final.

 

Sir William Borlase School

Under the guidance of previous GB Junior lead coach Robin Dowell, Sir William Borlase’s rowing programme has grown extensively in recent years. They had an exceptionally strong women’s squad back in the 2014/5 season, which, coached by the head of girls’ rowing Harry Lyons, won the Four’s Head in November before going on to field the silver medal winning eight at the National Schools’ Regatta. Last season, Borlase managed a second place finish at Four’s Head but were not able to repeat their medalling performance come regatta season, with their eight finishing last in the A final some way behind the rest of the field. This year they have had some decent results, but they don’t look like they have quite the same strength and depth as they have had previously. At the Junior Sculling Head they raced time only but would’ve placed 10th in junior quads, and they were less than a second faster than Great Marlow School’s eight in challenging conditions at School’s Head. It will be interesting to see their performance comparative to last year and there will probably be some tight racing against Great Marlow School for a place in the A final.

 

Pairs Matrix