National Schools’ Regatta 2017 – J16 Championship Eights

From the top placing crews from this Saturdays race we can take a pretty good guess as to which Schools will be at the top of the pile in the senior events in the coming years. There are nine entries this year and with only eight lanes available someone is unfortunately going to be cut out  from the Semi finals around 2 O’clock, now with that on with the preview.

Westminster School

This Westminster group has kept it quite low key in the run up to Nat schools in the past two years with the decision taken not to enter Wallingford last year and this year opting to pull out on the day it seems. The pull out could suggest that they are trying to not show their hand till its too late to know their racing style or they are a light crew and didn’t like the look of the headwind. If the latter is true it could be a tough race this weekend with another headwind coming in as it stands. Westminster did however have a good race at SHORR coming in third but I imagine the aspect of home water advantage played a part in being able to cope with the conditions better than the other crews based away from the tideway. I think even with Crosbie’s summer away at the Eton rowing course won’t be enough for Westminster to be in the medals but their hidden hand could prove me wrong come Saturday.

Abingdon School

Notoriously one of the slowest in the lower year groups of rowing before picking up the sort of speed that wins you Henley one or two years later. This year group is no exception to that rule certainly not the fastest CH8 crew but by no means slow in terms of J16 1st 8s as a whole. The reason for this speed or lack there of is usually down to the fact many of the top j16 athletes are pooled up into the senior squad as we saw with Digby and last year with Townsend who was a member of their second 8 before joining forces with Digby in the top quad for Henley. So with nothing to fear I would just say to the boys have fun this weekend as your time will come.

Eton College

It seems as though Eton has been entering matched 8s all season with the top 4 guys in a 4+ it seems judging by their schools head results. This decision may have been taken to get to instil a bit more racing spirit in the crews as everyone wants to beat their fellow crew mates. Eton however seems to have dropped the 4+ idea and they have moved four guys back into the Eight. If it is a top eight we could be in for a race as on home water Eton will be up for a fight, however the loss of former Coach Grant whose services were snatched up by Shrewsbury could have proved costly. Yet I imagine with all the wealth Eton has, they probably have a pretty good replacement and their depth of athletes is undeniable.

Hampton School

Surprise winners of the event last year, could they be surprise winners this year? Maybe. Coming in second at schools head and second at Wallingford regatta or head as it became in the afternoon. So from this they certainly are in a position to cause another ‘upset’ but we haven’t really seen them side by side racing so we will have to see what happens this weekend.

Shiplake College

The ‘Killer Bees’ are without the scholar athletes who join after 16s and are still performing well this season running in just behind Westminster at schools head. However they seem to be slowing up rather than pushing on into the regatta season they weren’t massively off the pace at Wallingford regatta but off it they were. They also were some way off Shrewsbury at Nott city but in fairness all crews in lane 5 that day were resigned to a much tougher race than those in lanes 1 and 2. This result should firm up the resolve of those in this crew to get their revenge on Shrewsbury

Shrewsbury School

Unlike Shiplake, Shrewsbury has been building on their 5th place position at schools head coming first at the Wallingford time trial by a strong 5 second margin. They also overturned their schools head defeat to Shiplake at Nott city putting in a margin of 19 seconds. However from looking at the results the lanes 1 and 2 gave a massive advantage of 10-15 seconds on that day so the margin will be less severe at NSR.  I think this Shrewsbury 8 will certainly be in the hunt for the medals, can’t be dead certain which colour it will be.

St Pauls School

The future of rowing at St. Pauls certainly looks bright with another exceptionally strong J16 year. The hardest thing about coaching for Bobby will be working out who to drop when you have 2 eights worth of people who could be in any other Championship crew.  Pauls won schools head beating a good few senior crews but they didn’t win at Wallingford coming in 4th place from the time trial. However they showed their very serious regatta speed at Nott city. They really put did some damage from the worst lane turning over Hamptons 16s who were in lane 1 in the heat, by a good 8 seconds. They would go on to win that final beating Hampton by an even larger margin. The determination of this crew is exemplified by this result. The crew certainly has some big names on board with Doyle the younger, Eaton, and Parish all of whom have gotten the taste for the trials process this year in preparation for next year. I think it could take an upset like last year to turn these boys over.

Radley College

Don’t always see Radley entering 16 eights as there generally favour just pooling the 16 athletes into one senior squad. So when I saw this 16 boat at the start of the season I knew that there would be good things going to come from It. A poor performance at schools head coming 10 seconds behind 5th but its rare that a Radley crew will be exceptional at SHORR. Yet they have improved vastly coming into the regatta season much like their second 8 they came 3rd at the Wallingford time trial. They also put in a strong performance at Nott city beating Hampton and just losing to St. Pauls by the slimmest of margins. The crew features the head coaches’ son Gearing at bow so those South African lightweight genes are having a good effect in the most technical part of the boat. I think we will be seeing Radley on the podium this weekend.

Dulwich College

Not 100% sure of the reasoning behind the switch, sure they were ahead of some of these crews at SHORR but they finished 3rd in their category. It would make more sense for Portora to make the change as they were really in the mix from SHORR. Also the times are hardly comparable with crews setting off 70 crews apart. Dulwich were down on an Eton matched 8 at Wallingford and Abingdon had reversed the schools head result on them. I can’t understand the decision but I must give respect to them for having the steel to do so, “better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep”.

Prediction

1st St Pauls

2nd Radley

3rd Shrewsbury

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