Writer’s Select: Our Top 6 Junior Races of 2017

As junior rowers across the country finish their last few sessions of the year, endure any end of term ergo tests and join together in Christmas pudding races we take a look back at 6 standout junior races from the year.

The Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup 2017, Quarter-Final – Scotch College vs. St Pauls School

This was one of the most eagerly anticipated match ups when the draw put both these crews in the same half of the draw. Both crews made it to this Friday race with ease and this quarter final put the National Champions of both England and Australia head to head on the biggest stage of all. Much had been made of the 5.41 that Scotch had posted the week before at the Holland Becker regatta and Scotch blasted out on the Berkshire station as St Pauls went out to find a rhythm to move in the middle of the race. Scotch were never allowed to break clear and it became a straight drag race down the Stewards Enclosures with Scotch’s bulletproof rhythm eventually prevailing as they won by 1/2 length. This race was all about the two top crews from their respective nations going head to head and the race did not disappoint. The noise going down the course was deafening and this race was the first major hurdle in Scotch College taking the Princess Elizabeth outside of the UK since Shawnigain Lake took the trophy to Canada in 2008. With all but one of the Pauls crew back for another crack this year talk of disappointment about this Henley campaign from Calvin Tarczy in a recent interview and early season form looking ominous for their rivals this race has to be one of the stand out races of 2017.

The Fawley Challenge Cup 2017, Semi-Final – The Windsor Boys School vs. Leander Club

By popular choice this was another mouth-watering clash between the top 2 crews from National Schools and a rematch of the race at the same stage of the 2016 regatta. Windsor Boys came with an unchanged crew from Dorney whilst Leander made one change with Matt Peters put into the Leander boat. In a race that was very similar to the Scotch vs St. Paul’s clash, Leander on the Berkshire bank blasted out and took over a length by the Barrier. Windsor didn’t let themselves be unnerved and started to move through coming past Remenham Club, culminating in a sprint down the Stewards’ enclosure with the YouTube commentary stating that the raced would boil down to “who put the most strokes in between now and the finishing line” The final verdict was a win for Windsor boys by two feet. The striking thing about this race was the composure and trust displayed in the Windsor boys crew despite Leander blasting out to their right. This was a huge moment for Windsor who then smashed the course record the following day to win the Fawley Challenge Cup in another epic against Claires Court School. This was reward and redemption for coming up short in both 2014 and 2016.

Junior World Championships 2017 – Men’s Coxless Four A Final

The first of what was a golden day for the British junior team, the crew of Douwe De Graaf, Casper Woods, Calvin Tarczy and Felix Drinkall  dominated the earlier rounds and were a serious medal hope going into the final. The race progressed as planned; they led the final from gun to tape, taking gold by 1.7 secs over New Zealand. This was one better than the coxless four went in both 2015 and 2016 and was the start of a record breaking junior performance. Two of the crew are still juniors and both row at St. Paul’s; they won the Fours Head in November and Tarczy secured an impressive overall win at Scullers Head too. It makes you wonder if anyone can catch St. Paul’s this year. Casper Woods is now at Imperial and recently had a boat named in his honor at St Pauls and Felix Drinkall is at Oxford, already having won November trials with Tobais Schroder.

National Schools’ Regatta 2017, Girls Championship Eight Final – Headington vs. Henley

One of the best girls races seen at National Schools for a very long time, this contest served up an epic bowball to bowball encounter between two heavyweights of the junior women’s scene, Headington and Henley. History pointed to yet another comfortable Headington win with the rest of the field fighting over the minor medals. This year though, nobody showed Henley the script. They set the cat amongst the pigeons with a semi final time that was 6 seconds faster than that of Headington. The final was one of the best races seen at this year’s regatta with these two side by side the whole way down the track. Headington held their nerve to take the win by 1/2 length, thus retaining the title for the 9th successive year and smashing the course record in the process. This will be a fascinating year for Headington as nearly all of last year’s eight have moved on and Henley have retained a few more athletes who will use this race as fuel to their fire in 2018.

Junior World Championships 2017 – Women’s Double A Final.

Another special moment in Lithuania as Holly Dunford and Zoe Adamson took a memorable win in the doubles sculls after a fantastically well paced race. Despite being fifth after 500m, they surged through the middle 1000 and kept it together to hold off a charging German crew in the final quarter. Zoe has since moved to Leander to continue her rowing and placed ninth at the November trials as an U20. Holly was the recent winner of the prestigious SportsAid One To Watch award, fending off competition from nine other nominees including Calvin Tarczy. This race was the second gold won by GB on a famous day of racing and a tribute to the hard work of these two girls throughout the year.

Headington vs Gloucester – HRR 2017

In a repeat of the 2016 final, these two crews locked horns at the semi final stage. Headington were probably the favorites, with a dominant win at the National Schools’ Regatta before losing out by three feet to Tideway Scullers in the final of senior quads at Henley Woman’s Regatta. However a race against the  three-times winners was no easy conquest. Despite leading for most of the course, Headington were pipped on the surge by the girls from Gloucester, who then blew away Isle of Ely to take a fourth straight Diamond Jubilee Challenge Cup the following day. This was an extraordinary contest between two of the best high performance girls rowing centre in the UK. Two of the Headington girls went on to represent their respective countries at the Junior World Championships; Danielle Semple stroked the quad to a fourth place whilst Mattea Wutehrich competed for the Swiss team in the single, placing 12th. This goes to further demonstrate the quality of not only the Headington crew but the strength of the Gloucester crew who pipped them.

These are just some of the best races from 2017. Without doubt there are others that could be included and these will no doubt serve as motivation to push on over Christmas for junior rowers nationwide. Merry Christmas to you all!