National Schools’ Regatta 2017 – First Eights

This event is most likely the favourite of the season for first eights, perhaps even more so than Henley, as it’s the only real chance in the regatta season for these crews to test their metal against each other for the Child Beale Cup without the interference from Queen Mother crews that would occur in other regattas. There is a healthy number of entries into the category this year, with 18 crews ready to do battle on Dorney Lake.


Norwich School

Norwich finished just outside the podium at the shortened Schools Head’, posting a fifth place finish so they’ll have spent this spring trying to find those vital seconds over a ‘longer’ regatta course. In order to achieve this, it seems as though they have neglected the major Wallingford Regatta in order to drop the hammer internationally at the Ghent May regatta which is getting more and more popular. The move abroad makes it hard for us to get a gauge of their speed as I don’t really know how well ‘Mixed KR Club Gent/ K.R. Sport Gent’ would do over here but the times I have seen on the Sunday looked promising.

KCS Wimbledon

Kings College Wimbledon had a great start to the season with a very strong showing at the Head of the Charles but has this early season form led to an element of fatigue coming into the regatta season? I would probably reply no to this – third at the Schools’ Head of the River is by no mean feat and they have two decent trialists in their boat. From what I’ve heard of their training camp in Figueira da Foz with Pauls, it was a very productive week and if this effort is applied into to Saturday they’ll be in good stead.

London Oratory School

The winners of the event last year, London Oratory School moved into quads over the winter season with little success. Their return to eights is more than likely due to another factor though. If you don’t already know, this may be the last season we see of London Oratory in the rowing community – programme cuts has left their position in difficulty. Whilst this is just a preview I would also like to urge rowers and their parents to visit the just giving page so we could see this underdog programme survive and prove rowing at a top level is not just for the rich. As it stands, I can see LOS giving it a real fight this weekend to show people why they deserve to still have a rowing programme and nothing is more dangerous than a boat with a point to make. Their switch to the eight also hasn’t been a bad transition, as they represented well at Wallingford, winning their heat by 5 seconds.

Molesey BC

Even whilst managing to continually beat championship crews this season Molesey have opted to enter first eights, which is a surprise to say the least. I can only assume that this decision is due to it being the first season we’ve seen a fast Molesey crew so the coach will want to build their confidence up as a crew and cement their position on the junior circuit. The parallels to this situation could be drawn with Shiplake in the 14/15 season, where they were clearly too good for first eights but opted to win it anyway. It’ll probably be a disappointment to their opposition though, who will have to race this very exceptional crew.

Portora BC

Certainly the dominant force of Irish schoolboy rowing and after another year breezing through crews domestically they are looking to test themselves against a higher calibre of opposition. They are another crew who have dropped down into first eights after a good performance at the Schools’ Head of the River. They were ahead of a few championship crews, and ahead of the field they find themselves in on Saturday, but perhaps even more significantly were just ahead of Molesey BC. With no further data of them racing in ‘Domestic’ regattas, it’s hard to tell who will come out on top this weekend but I do see potential in a podium finish.

Latymer Upper School

Latymer came in second at the Schools’ Head of the River but in the spring have been messing about with boat types to try and see which boat is getting the best GMT and which one they are going to stick with. So from the results in the Quad at Wallingford and the eight and fours at Nottingham City it would seem as though this was not the priority boat and that the quad is. So this already young crew is now essentially even younger and more fresh faced. I doubt there will be a replication of the SHORR result this weekend as this is a development boat.

Bedford School

With crews from championship dropping into the Child Beale this weekend, Bedford are going to be seeking to defend their crown from the Schools’ Head from these first eight pretenders! Expect a dogfight of epic proportions. Bedford are certainly proficient in the power department and their overall technique is continually improving, so much so I believe on this course they’ll be forced to make a return to the championship division which they have been missing from for quite some time. Bedford were tearing it up at Nottingham City the weekend before last, delivering a decisive blow to Teddies and anyone else that stood between them and the IM2 prize. I really look forward to watching the battle which lies ahead for Bedford come Saturday.

Bedford Modern School

Despite numerous questions from many in the rowing community as to why Modern didn’t stick with the quad, they have stayed their position in the larger boats, opting to remain in the 8. This decision shouldn’t actually be that much of a surprise as I believe their ‘top boat’ is the coxless four which raced at Bedford Regatta; the eight and the four are on different days so it won’t matter if you stack the eight. The crew is relatively young, with a majority of 17s and only three leavers I believe, so we may see more of a serious threat from Modern next year. A development season, in all.

St Josephs College

‘The Bish’, as they are known, are a crew coming all the way across from Galway, Ireland, a city made famous by a certain Ed Sheeran. They are the slowest of the three championship crews who have dropped down into first eights after the Schools’ Head of the River. However this certainly doesn’t make them tardy as it would have put them second in the latter category. Not entirely certain what to expect from them this weekend but I can imagine it could be a bolt from the blue – or green.

Great Marlow School

They didn’t have the best start to the season, with a poor performance at the Schools’ Head of the River but they have been finding speed throughout the regatta season. Great Marlow put in a decent performance at Nottingham City but were unable to beat Teddies – I think they’ll be a distance from the medals this Saturday.

Notable Mentions

Monkton Combe have been building on last years disappointment at the National Schools’ Regatta, wheree they were dead last and have shown good improvements based on their schools head result. In recent years, Dulwich have been ‘a there or there abouts’ crew – their performance at Wallingford wasn’t the greatest, finishing some way behind Molesey but the competition in that race was fierce and of a distinctly championship flavour.


My head says Molesey but my heart says Bedford. Molesey will most likely take the win as their speed is just a little too much for Bedford to overcome. Coming in close behind them will be the Irish Champs of Portora BC. Fourth and Fifth position is a toss up between KCS and the ‘Bish’. With the format I believe the same as last year there will only be five 1st eight spaces in the B final – the other three will be for championship crews so it will be a five way dogfight if it is the same as last year.

Good luck to all crews racing!