Henley Royal Regatta 2017 – Fawley Challenge Cup

The pinnacle of any rowers’ career, Henley Royal Regatta is awesome in every sense.  This year’s event is another historic competition with the creation of three new events for Open Women adding dozens of exciting races to the already packed schedule.  The Fawley Challenge Cup for Junior Quadruple Sculls is set to be one of the most unpredictable and closely fought events across the whole of the Regatta.  Recent results on the domestic scene in Britain indicates that there are no crew hot favourites to win.  Strong competition from The United States and from Ireland only adds to the high calibre event meaning that all bets are off once racing begins.

This preview will first address every first round race and then discuss the eight seeded crews that will commence racing in the second round.

 

Marlow Rowing Club’B’ vs Latymer Upper School

Given the fact that this is a ‘B’ quad racing, Marlow are going to struggle to compete against the boys based in Hammersmith.  Latymer have been improving all year round and most recently placed 6th at The Marlow Regatta just one week ago.  This was an impressive result for this Latymer quad, given they did not make it out of the semifinals at The National Schools’ Regatta.  Given this, it is vital that Latymer proves this result was not a one-off and that they can build upon results as is required at Henley. Marlow will not let this race go without a fight. Similar to Latymer they had to come through qualifiers and for a ‘B’ crew this is a big achievement.  Marlow will have their work cut out to reduce the deficit between themselves and Latymer at Marlow and for that reason, Latymer will win this contest.

The winner of this race will go on to race San Diego USA.  The Americans made their debut in this event back in 2015, losing on the Thursday to runners-up Nottingham Rowing Club.  However, this year they return with a promising string of results at the United States Southwest Youth Championships.  Members of this quad placed 6th in the Lightweight coxed four amongst other domestic results.  This quad will not have travelled over unless they were of a high standard and given this is only the second time we’ve seen them in the Fawley, we should expect to see something special.

 

Maidenhead Rowing Club ‘B’ vs Star and Arrow ‘B’

Although these crews are both ‘B’ Quads, Star and Arrow are effectively Leander’s third boat in this event.  This is a huge achievement and is a testament to the great system in place at the pink palace. Both these crews were in the ‘B’ final at Marlow Regatta and on that occasion, it was Star and Arrow who got the better of Maidenhead by just under three seconds.  This race will likely go down to the wire. Over the years, we have seen a real grit and determination in Maidenhead crews, one that sees these crews never give up.  That being said, on home water, Star and Arrow will not want to let their supporters down.  Given the close proximity of these crews towards the end of the last few months, this race could go either way.

Leander await in the second round for the victor of this duel.  Throughout the head racing season, this quartet established themselves as arguably the best quad in the country.  Yet ever since Schools’ Head, they just have not quite had the extra gear to get across the line first.  2nd place at National Schools’ was enough for them to be seeded in this competition.  Maybe this will be the year Leander take the Fawley by the scruff of the neck and dominate.  If Leander won, it would be the first time since 2002 a crew containing Leander athletes have won the Fawley Challenge Cup.

 

Warrington Rowing Club vs Gloucester Rowing Club

Gloucester is a crew on the rise at the moment.  Ever since their ‘A’ final position at NSR back in May they have shown consistent speed culminating in another ‘A’ final and a fourth place finish at Marlow.  On the other hand, Warrington is a J17 quad which is looking to build upon a very successful J16 season – it looks like their hard work is paying off already.  While it is unlikely that this crew will beat the boys from Gloucester this will prove invaluable experience for next year.

The seeded crew that will likely face Gloucester is Malvern Preparatory School ‘A’ USA.  This crew recently raced at the SRAA Championships over in the States and came away with the win in Varsity Quads, proving they are a crew who mean business.  This is one of three crews this school has sent over in the hope of qualifying for the Fawley, two of which shall be in action during the regatta.  As with San Diego, Malvern would not have come over unless they feel they can ultimately win.

 

Star and Arrow ‘A’ vs The King’s School, Worcester

This quad from King’s School, Worcester has always felt like it never quite delivered and never quite proved how strong they can be, until we saw them at NSR.  Having been knocked out by Abingdon on day one of Henley last year, they started the head season in underwhelming fashion, culminating in 13th and 5th at SHORR and The Scullery respectively.  At NSR this year, they stepped on and showed some good speed, ultimately finishing 6th.  Worcester needed this result to prove they are still a quad not to be treated lightly and as such Star and Arrow are going to have a tough race on their hands.  However, they too have proved their worth this season with a 5th-placed finish at SHORR, fastest ‘B’ Quad at NSR and an ‘A’ final finish at Marlow.  As such I cannot call this race.  My head says Star and Arrow but my heart says King’s School, Worcester.

Whoever comes out on top in this contest will face arguably the favourites for this event, The Windsor Boys’ School.  This boat needs no introduction.  As winners of the Championship Quad and Double at NSR, it is packed with talent. Both Bryn Ellery and Tom Smith have had international call-ups to the likes of the Munich International Regatta and the European Junior Championships, and the rest of the quad has been involved in the trialling process too.  Make no mistake Windsor are rapid, However, they were notably absent at Marlow thus hiding how quick they really are at this stage in the season.  Definitely one of the favourites to win.

 

The American School in London vs The Tideway Scullers’ School ‘B’

Led by one of the top scullers in the country in the form of Tyler Skow, ASL are relatively new to the quad scene.  They surfaced at SHORR, placing an intermediate 10th and since then there has been little to build upon.  That being said, what the quad has lacked Skow has more than made up for in his single scull, coming away from NSR with a silver in the scull and 6th place in the double with crewmate Josey Troyer.  Their opponents from Chiswick are predominantly made up of J16s and as such, will struggle against the older crew.  This quad will have been disappointed placing in the ‘C’ final at Marlow and will use Henley as both redemption as well as invaluable experience for years to come.  However, ASL will be the better of the two crews.

Claires Court School will be the seeded crew awaiting in the second round.  Last year’s winners have had a shaky start to the season and only recently started firing on all cylinders when they placed 4th at NSR.  They improved upon this with a win at the Metropolitan Regatta, shaming Maidenhead and beating Globe into second.  These results have consequently made people sit up and realise these boys are back and they mean business and as such cannot be deemed to be out the running for victory this year.

Marlow Rowing Club ‘A’ vs Lea Rowing Club

Marlow started the year with a dominant win in Youth Quads at the Head of the Charles Regatta. However, since then, they have struggled to recapture this winning form. Wolfin and Cooper have been performing very well in the Junior Trials System, suggesting there is still potential for this quad to go fast. That being said, this quad has been silent throughout the regatta season and as such, the ‘dark horse’ tag can be placed on them.  Their opponents, Lea have struggled with consistency throughout the season.  They posted some very promising results throughout the Head season, culminating with a second place at The Scullery.  Despite failing to make it through the semis at NSR, Lea bounced back at Wallingford and Met to finish 6th and 4th respectively.  If Lea are having a good day, due to lack of racing time from Marlow, they will beat the boys in Maroon, if not the Marlow quad will have the better of the crew from Hackney.

Globe Rowing Club has been selected by the Stewards and will race the winner of this first round race.  All four of these boys have been involved in the trialling system, with Callum Sullivan searching for his second GB vest following double Coupe gold last season.  Following an inconsistent head season in the quad, and a Nat Schools’ to forget, this quartet has been impressive at all the big regattas since.  5th at Wallingford was followed by second at Met and finally third at Marlow.  Due to their poor showing at NSR,  this crew had to race qualifiers but the Stewards have recognised their results in the past few weeks and given them a first round bye.  It must be noted that this is the first year in history that a Globe Quad is racing at Henley and their club has also managed to qualify a boat for the Diamond Jubilee Challenge Cup.  A fantastic achievement.

Westminster School vs Northwich Rowing Club

Marlow Regatta has left many wondering what Westminster is really capable of.  Having led for just about the whole race, they were rowed down by Maidenhead in the last few strokes, with the boys in Green taking the win by just under half a second.  The Westminster crew has Coupe medalist William Allen onboard and this experience will prove invaluable during the regatta.  This Westminster crew will ultimately be too much for Northwich, who sadly have not really featured this season following their eighth place at Fours Head.  Westminster will likely walk away with this race and will face recent rivals Maidenhead in the second round.

Maidenhead ‘A’.  Need any more be said? This quad is blazing and have been blazing all year.  A win a SHORR, silver at NSR, a win at Marlow and silver at Wallingford is a very strong CV for Fawley contention.  Yet, there will always be their 5th-placed finish at Met hanging over them.  They have clearly shown that they can bounce back from a race like this, however the likely Thursday showdown between themselves and Westminster will be a race you do not want to miss.  The humdinger that these two crews had at Marlow had all the signs of a fantastic sequel, and this is that opportunity.

Clonmel Rowing Club IRL vs Malvern Preparatory School ‘B’

With two international crews racing against each other in the first round, it is often unclear what to expect. This group of athletes from Clonmel have seen some domestic success across Ireland. Although it is difficult to find out a great deal on this crew, it is likely that a number of this crew have been involved in the Irish Trialling System for both the Home International Regatta as well as potential Coupe spots.  On the other hand, the crew from the USA is made up of athletes who raced at the SRAA Championships and took silver in the Varsity Double Scull and bronze in the Lightweight Varsity Double Scull. Clearly, this is a quick crew and as such, it will be interesting to see how this quad fares against the best Britain has to offer but first, they must get through the Irish.  The race is difficult to call as there is no solid marker back in Britain to compare the crews to.

Awaiting one of these crews is the final selected quad, The Tideway Scullers’ School ‘A’. Following a crew reshuffle, former Kingston rower Cameron Christie has been brought into this lineup. He adds to the strength of this boat,featuring U23 Lightweight trialist and Coupe winner, Marcus Jonas alongside Laurence Joss who was selected to race at the Munich Regatta. This quad has gelled together quickly and placed third and fifth at the Metropolitan and Marlow Regattas respectively. As such they will prove tough to beat in the second round and could progress far through the regatta.

 

My Prediction…I genuinely cannot call this event.  Any one of Maidenhead, Windsor, Claires Court or Leander could win but nobody can tell exactly what will happen between the infamous booms.

6 Man