Hampton Head 2018 – J16 8+

With it only being a matter of weeks until Schools Head, many clubs and schools will enter Hampton Head so that they can compare their speed to their competition and see how their training has been progressing. This is no different for the category of Open J16 eights and after an exciting set of results were published from J16 eights at Quintin Head last weekend, this draw is bound to be just as competitive, which could lead to some close margins and surprising times from certain crews.

 

Bedford School Boat Club

Bedford School aren’t usually one of the big names when it comes to eights racing, however after a strong performance and achieving a silver medal in J15 1st eights last season at National Schools Regatta, this eight will certainly be challenging the likes of Westminster, who they managed to beat at the national event last season. Despite this eight most likely being composed of members from their J15 eight last season, I think they may struggle to secure a top 3 finish, as they will be challenging the likes of St Paul’s, Kings College and Eton, however I think they  are likely to finish in the top half of the field and achieve similar times to Norwich School and Westminster.

Eton College Boat Club

Eton College have once again entered in force to an extremely competitive field. They have entered 4 eights into this J16 category and whether they will be matched eights or ranked eights in terms of ability is currently unknown. Eton’s J16 eight managed to secure a gold medal in J16 Champ eights at Nationals last season and their squad will certainly be aiming for the same target this year. Eton is a club which tends to develop throughout the season, meaning they are likely to be slower in the Head Season before picking up some serious speed for the regatta season. Having said this, if their eights are ranked in terms of speed and ability, it wouldn’t be a surprise for one of their eights to achieve a top 3 finish at Hampton Head this Saturday.

Hampton School Boat Club

With it being Hampton’s home stretch of river, you would most certainly expect the whole of Hampton’s squad to perform well this Saturday, as they all will have rowed the course hundreds of times. Hampton have entered 3 J16 eights into this category and their squad will therefore be trying to compete for the top spots in the category, however after a weaker performance at Quintin Head last Saturday with Hampton’s J16 eights placing 8th and 11th in the category, they may potentially struggle in this competitive field. However, there is the potential that Hampton’s J16 8s entered last Saturday were two matched eights, and therefore if they have entered their 1st 8 this Saturday, they may be able to post a much quicker time than expected and achieve a strong result.

Kings College School Boat Club

Kings College School Boat Club have entered 2 eights into this category on Saturday, presumably a first and a second eight. Normally, I would not expect Kings College School to be placing towards the top of a category, as evidenced by the fact that usually enter “First Eights” instead of “Championship Eights” at National Schools Regatta. However, their J16 eight posted an extremely quick time at Quintin Head last Saturday, resulting in them placing second in the category and beating some very strong clubs, such as Shiplake College, Westminster School and Radley College, all of which will definitely have extremely competitive J16 squads this season. Therefore, I would expect the stronger of these two Kings College eights to be achieving a top 3 finish this weekend at Hampton Head.

Molesey Boat Club

Molesey is an interesting club to comment on, as they are a club which usually enters sculling events over sweep events in the junior rowing scene. However, this has been changing lately, as the club entered a J18 eight into National Schools last season, which placed 1st in J18 1st eights and 1st in the B final of J18 Championship eights simultaneously. This shows that Molesey have a good amount of depth in their squad and talents with both one and two blades. It will be extremely exciting to see how Molesey perform in J16 eights this Saturday on their home stretch of water, and if they perform well, we could potentially see them racing in sweep boats more often.

Norwich School Boat Club

Norwich is another club which usually isn’t considered to be particularly strong when it comes to eights racing, especially at championship level, with their senior eight being knocked out on Day 1 of Henley Royal Regatta each season. However, their younger squads seem to have recently achieved stronger results, with their J15 1st eight securing a gold medal at National Schools last season, in front of Bedford School and Westminster. Norwich will therefore be looking to hold this lead in front of Bedford and Westminster on the weekend and I think they are capable of this result, however I think they will struggle to be placing at the very top of the category.

St Pauls School Boat Club

St Paul’s are currently on track to have an unstoppable season, not only in the senior squad, with their First Eight recently winning Head of the Charles in Boston in a record-breaking time, however also in their J16 squad. This eight will most likely be made up of members of the St Paul’s J15 championship eight, which claimed gold at National Schools last season, and they are therefore likely to have a great deal of experience in racing in eights, as well as being able to move the boat well through the water. I imagine this will be St Paul’s J16 1st 8 entered into this category, and after they managed to defeat their competition and win Quintin Head last Saturday, I expect them to easily take the win in this category.

Westminster School Boat Club

Westminster School are usually known for having a great deal of speed in eights, however after having a slightly weaker season last year, their senior squad has opted to race a top quad instead of a top eight this year. This J16 eight entered will mainly be made up of Westminster’s J15 eight from last season, however after this eight only placed 4th in J15 1st 8s last season, which could be considered as a reasonable step back from J15 championship eights, I also imagine their squad could potentially struggle this season as well. However, having said this, Westminster’s J16 eight made an admirable performance at Quintin Head last Saturday as they managed to place 5th in a competitive field, meaning they will certainly be aiming for a top 3 finish this Saturday at Hampton Head. I think that Westminster are capable of achieving a strong result this Saturday however they will have to really dig deep to find some extra speed, as their time margins were a way off St Paul’s and Kings College last Saturday at Quintin Head.

Windsor Boys School

Similarly to Molesey, Windsor Boys tend to be more well-known for their achievements in junior sculling categories, rather than sweep races. With the J18 4x winning the Fawley Challenge cup last season, it sets Windsor Boys up to have another extremely successful season. I don’t think that their J16 squad will cope particularly well in probably one of their first races in an eight, however it will be interesting to see how this race sets up their squad for the rest of the season and they could potentially post a fast and unexpected result.

 

It is also worth mentioning that there are many other eights entered into this category, such as eights from Dulwich College, Bedford Modern School and Great Marlow School Boat Club. These crews will all be competing for as fast a time as possible, so that they can place higher up in the rankings, however I think that is challenging to predict how these clubs will do in such a competitive field.

 

My Final Prediction:

St Paul’s School to take the win with a reasonable lead ahead of Kings College School in 2nd place. I think there will be a high amount of competition for 3rd place, however I think that it will be a tussle between Westminster and Eton College for the bronze medal, with Eton College just securing it with a small time advantage ahead of Westminster.

 

I am in no doubt that this particularly category will be very competitive on Saturday and it will be very interesting to see how the results turn out. A crew performing well this Saturday at Hampton Head will definitely give them a mental advantage for performing well on the Tideway in just over 5 weeks time, however this race is a lot shorter and will be completely different conditions to Schools Head, meaning that a crew which performs less noticeably this Saturday could easily make a comeback when it really counts in just a few weeks time!

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