A look at the Oxford and Cambridge men’s Boat Race squads.

 

This week saw the official President’s Challenge, when the Presidents of Oxford University Boat Club and Oxford University Women’s Boat Club formally challenged their counterparts from Cambridge University to race over the 4 ¼ mile Championship course from Putney to Mortlake. This year’s challenge was held in the Crypt at London’s Guildhall with Abigail Parker and Dara Alizadeh of Cambridge formally accepting the challenges presented to them by Oxford’s Eleanor Shearer and Felix Drinkall. The President’s Challenge also sees the formal announcement of the various squads aiming to win their Blues on April 7th. So, as per previous years I thought I caste my eye over the squads and see who I think will make the Blue Boats and who will win the Boat Race.

First off the men’s squads…

CUBC

CUBC

President: Dara Alizadeh

Coach: Rob Baker

Returning Blues: 3

Average age: 22.4 years

Nationalities: 6 (British, American, Australian, Irish, Polish, Belgian)

This year’s President, American Dara Alizadeh, is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania where he rowed in the Varsity 8 and made the US U23 team in 2015 winning a silver medal in the M8 at the U23 World Championships. After graduating from Penn he spent some time coaching at Winchester College before going up to Cambridge in 2017. He rowed in the 3 seat of the Cambridge boat that won the 2018 race by 3 lengths.

Alizadeh.jpg

CUBC President Dara Alizadeh

The other returning Blue from the 2018 race is Freddie Davidson, stroke of the 2018 boat. Davidson is the grandson of Alistair Davidson who won a silver in the M8 at the Commonwealth Games in 1954. A former pupil of St Paul’s School Hammersmith, Davidson junior learnt his rowing on the Tideway. He followed-up his victory in the Boat Race with selection for the Great Britain U23 team, winning a silver medal in the M8 at the World Championships in Poznan. So far this season he guided Cambridge’s top 4- to victory at the British Championships in October and finished 6th in the M2- at the recent British Team Trials (partnering Callum Sullivan).

Alizadeh can call upon the services of a 3rd returning Blue, albeit from the Women’s Boat Race. Coxswain Matthew Holland steered the Women’s Light Blue boat to victory at the 2017 Boat Race. He’s another athlete with tremendous knowledge of the Tideway, not just from having coxed in the Boat Race, but having learnt to cox on the Championship course whilst a pupil at Westminster School. Holland is one of four coxes in the squad but will surely be favourite to take the helm in April. If he does win a Blue in April it will give him the unique title of the first athlete to win a Blue in both the men’s and women’s Boat Races.

One area where Cambridge seem to have the upper hand in the last few years, is their ability to attract highly experienced athletes to come up for one year courses and try out for the Blue Boat. There are none more experienced than James Cracknell. The 47 year old will set a number of records if he’s selected for the Blue Boat in April. The most obvious one will be the oldest man ever to compete in the, beating coxswain Andy Probert’s record who was 38 when he coxed Cambridge in 1992. The other record Cracknell will set is becoming the most decorated man to row in the race. Cracknell has two Olympic Gold medals (Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004) and no fewer than six World Championship titles to his credit. Cracknell missed both the British Championships and the Head of the River Fours, so his form has yet to be put to the test. Other “older” athletes have tried for the Boat Race (most notably rugby player Andy Ripley who narrowly missed selection for the 1998 race at the age of 50). Given the nature of the race, Cracknell stands an excellent chance of making the crew, not just because of his outstanding pedigree, but because he’s matured into an outstanding endurance athlete, ideally suited to the rigours of a 4 ¼ mile race. If the course was a traditional 2K I’m not sure he’s make it, but for a man who has run the Marathon Des Sables, rowed the Atlantic and competed for Great Britain in Duathlon, the Tideway should suit him down to the ground. The other thing that’s guaranteed with Cracknell trialing for the Boat race is publicity. Crackers isn’t shy about documenting his challenges in public, and indeed a BBC film crew were filming him whilst he watched the rest of his clubmates prepare and race at the Fours Head. If he succeeds in winning a Blue there will quite the media frenzy.

gettyimages-829563964-612x612.jpg

James Cracknell commentating on the 151st Boat Race, could he be racing in the 165th? Photo: Getty Images

But, Cracknell probably isn’t the most outstanding member of the squad. That accolade probably sits with Natan Wegrzycki-Szymczyk. The 23 year old Pole already has three World Championship and one Olympic appearance to his credit, taking 7th in the M1X at the Rio Olympics and also at the 2017 World Championships and 8th at the Worlds this year. He’s also won a host of age group medals, winning Junior World gold in 2013 and U23 silver in 2014 and 2016 and bronze in 2015 and 2017. His undergraduate studies took him to the University of California, Berkeley where he was named 2017 Scholar Athlete of the Year. During his time at Cal he won the IRA Championships in 2016 and won the Head of Charles (breaking the course record in the process). He’s probably the first name on the team sheet for Coach Baker and President Alizadeh.

Another outstanding recruit for this season is Australian Sam Hookway. The University of Victoria graduate won bronze in the U23 M8 in 2012 and made his senior debut in 2014 rowing at the 1st World Cup in Sydney, finishing 4th in an Australian 2nd 8, before moving into the 1st 8 for the Lucerne World Cup and the Aigubelette World Championships where the Australians finished 9th. He looked set to win a place in the Rio Olympic team, but decided instead to continue his medical studies. Those studies now bring him to Cambridge where he is reading for an MPhil in Medical Science.

There are also six members of the successful 2018 Goldie crew back for another attempt to win a Blue, Dave Bell, Rob Harris, Gerard Kuenning, Reggie Mitchell, Tom Strudwick and Callum Sullivan. Of this group Sullivan looks to be in the best form. He was selected for the top 4- at the British Championships and also for the Fours Head. He also partnered Freddie Davidson at the GB Trials this weekend finishing as the top Cambridge pair in 6th (but 3 places behind the top Oxford pair). Strudwick and Mitchell were the 2nd fastest Cambridge pair at Trials coming 17th.

Among the other new recruits are American Grant Bitler and Australian Harry Baxter. 22 year old Bitler is a graduate of Brown University and won U23 gold at the CRASH-B indoor rowing championships in 2017. In his Senior year he raced in the Brown 2nd Varsity crew that finished 7th at the IRA Championships. Baxter, a graduate of the University Of Queensland with whom he won gold in the M2- at the Australian University Championships.

There are also a three of the Cambridge Lightweight Blue Boat looking to step up to the heavyweights, Zenas Veldhoven, Callum McRae and Theo Wimberger. Veldhoven, from Belgium, raced in the Lightweight Boat Race in both 2017 and 2018 and was President for the 2018 race. It’ll be interesting to see if they are unsuccessful in gaining a seat in either the Blue Boat or Isis whether they go back to the Lightweights (who will be racing over the full Championship course for the first time). The other athlete to mention is Joe Nash from Abingdon School, if he gains a Blue he’ll become the youngest ever at 18 years and 78 days old.

So, in summary this looks a really strong squad. They stamped their authority by placing 1st and 4th in the 4- at the British Championships, although Oxford got revenge at the Fours Head taking the win in Academic 4+ by 1 second (although Cambridge, racing as Goldie, suffered a collision in the first half of the course losing them an estimated 6 seconds).

For what it’s worth I reckon the Blue Boat will be Alizadeh, Davidson, Cracknell, Wegrzycki-Szymczyk, Hookway, Sullivan, Bitler, Bell & Holland

 

Next up….Oxford

Oxford_-_OUBC_logo

OUBC

Coach: Sean Bowden

President: Felix Drinkall

Returning Blues: 2

Average age: 21

Nationalities: 5 (British, American, German, French, Belgian)

At the age of 19 Oxford’s President, Felix Drinkall is 6 years younger than his Light Blue counterpart and is the first Undergraduate President at Oxford since Constantine Louloudis in 2015. The Old-Etonian made the Blue Boat at his first attempt as a Freshman in 2018 and now steps up to lead the Club as President. He’s one of the most exciting young oarsmen in Britain at the moment. He won gold in the JM4- at the Junior World Championships in 2017 and followed that up with a silver medal at the U23 World Championships earlier this year. At the recent GB Trials he produced the fastest U20 2K erg and placed 3rd overall in the 5K M2- Time Trial with partner Tobias Schroder making them the fastest U23 pair by 8 seconds ahead of the top Cambridge pair.

drinkall

OUBC President Felix Drinkall. Photo: World Rowing

The other returning Blue is fellow old-Etonian, Benedict Aldous. Aldous was a (very) late addition to the Oxford boat for the 2018 race, after Josh Bugajski left the squad following alleged disagreements with coach Bowden.  He’ll be looking to be named as a Blue with a bit more notice for the 2019 race and be talked about as a “genuine” member of the crew rather than as a last minute sub.

Another exciting young rower is Tobias Schroder. As mentioned above, he partnered Drinkall at the recent GB Trials. He will be well known to the Cambridge President as Alizadeh spent some time coaching Schroder at Winchester College. Schroder made his international debut in 2017 winning a bronze medal in the JM8 at the World Championships and then made his U23 debut this year, finishing 5th in the BM4+. He raced in the top Oxford 4- at the British Championships and also at the Head of the River Fours. After the President he is probably the favourite to be selected for the Blue Boat.

Oxford this year is full of outstanding young oarsmen, none more so than Leo Von Malaise. The 19 year old was a member of the exceptional St Paul’s School first 8 that dominated the junior rowing world in 2017-18. His coach at St Paul’s, Bobby Thatcher had this to say of him when he spoke about the crew to WeRow:

An impressive racer with explosive power, Leo is fiercely competitive. Once you’re up with Leo, you aren’t getting caught – his incredible mentality feeds into every aspect of his performance. He’s committed to rowing at Oxford next year, and OUBC will be lucky to have him.”

OUBC-LeoVonMalaise

Leo Von Malaise. Photo: The Boatrace.org

Bowden also has six returners from the 2018 losing Isis crew, Charlie Buchanan, Nick Elkington, Luke Robinson, Charlie Thurston, Alex Wythe and cox Anna Carbery. Robinson was another member of the GB JM8 that won bronze in 2017 and Thurston is another Junior World medallist having won silver in 2014. Alex Wythe is another with experience of racing at the Junior World Championships, finishing 10th in the JM2- in 2016.

Another very talented new arrival at Oxford is Patrick Sullivan. The 23 year old University of London graduate, rowed for Great Britain at the U23 World Championships in 2017 winning a silver medal in the BM4+.

There are two Germans in the squad, this first is Achim Harzheim. He’s a graduate of Harvard, with whom he raced in the 2nd Varsity 8 in 2016 helping them to an undefeated season culminating in a win at the IRA Championships. The 2nd German in the Oxford squad is another US educated athlete, Benjamin Landis. He rowed for the outstanding Columbia University Lightweights and whilst at school won bronze at the German National championships in 2010 and 2012. Bowden has a history of selecting light athletes for his crews, so being from a Lightweight programme is no real disadvantage at Oxford.

Another US educated athlete is Belgian Augustin Wambersie. He raced at the Junior World Championships in 2014 before going up to Princeton University. As a Senior he was co-captain and raced in the Varsity 4 that finished 5th at the IRA Championships. This term he raced in the top Oxford crew at the British Championships and Head of the River Fours.

Joining Drinkall, Schroder and Wambersie in the top Isis crew at the Head of the River Fours was Charlie Pearson. Another junior medallist, he’s one of three members of the 2016 bronze medal JM8 that are in the Oxford squad.

Daniel Holod from St Paul Minnesota, is a graduate of Cornell University in New York State. Whilst at Cornell he raced in the 2nd Varsity crew, helping to their best ever finish at the IRA Championships (5th).  As a junior he raced for the USA at the 2014 Junior World Championships, finishing 17th in the JM2X.

 

My Blue Boat would be something like; Drinkall, Schroder, Wambersie, Harzheim, Von Malaise, Sullivan, Pearson, Thurston, Carbery

Overall Oxford are a very exciting, young squad with some outstanding athletes, some of whom (like Drinkall and Schroder) could become stars of the Great Britain squad in years to come. However, on paper the Light Blues look much the stronger. They were frustrated by their loss at the Head of the River Fours, especially after their solid win at the British Championships. It’s Cambridge who will head into winter training as the favourites to take the win in the Spring.

Advertisements

The 2018 World Championships – The quads

Quads.jpg

Now for the Quads

M4X

Reigning Champions: Lithuania

Entries: 12

2017 saw an epic battle between Lithuania and Great Britain, with the Lithuanians coming out on top, but the story from the 2017 World Championships was how Graeme Thomas stepped into the stroke seat on the start line to replace the injured Pete Lambert and led the crew to an amazing silver medal. This year Lithuania remain the crew to beat whereas the British have had a very mixed season.

The Lithuanians have three of the crew that won the World Championships with Dovydas Nemeravicius, Rolandas Mascinskas and Aurimas Adamovicius, they are joined by Saulius Ritter. Ritter is an Olympic silver medallist in the M2X at Rio and finished 4th in that boat class last season. They haven’t raced much in the quad this season, with just a 6th place in Lucerne and a silver medal in Strathclyde.

The British have had a very up-and-down season. They made a change from the crew that won silver last year with M1X bronze medallist Tom Barras coming in in place of Jack Beaumont. Barras joins John Collins and Jonny Walton (who were the GB M2X at the Rio Olympics) and Graeme Thomas. Thomas was unlucky to miss out on the Olympics due to injury, but after his heroics in 2017 he keeps his seat back in the boat in which he won a World silver medal in 2014. So far this season they have wins in Belgrade and Lucerne, but slipped to 7th in Linz and 6th in Strathclyde. Consistency looks to be their problem. It remains to be seen whether they race like Lucerne of Linz at the World Championships, if it’s the former they will win gold….if the latter they might not even make the A-final.

GBR-M4x-podium-236-lo-res.jpg

GB’s M4X Photo: Leander Club

Italy have forced themselves into medal contention this year. They have only raced twice this year (in Linz and Strathclyde) but won gold on both occasions. The crew is Filippo Mondelli, Andrea Panizza, Luca Rambaldi and Giacomo Gentili. Gentili and Panizza were in the M4X last year but had a disappointing World Championships where they could only finish 12th. The addition of Mondelli and Rambaldi, who were bronze medallists in the M2X last year, have transformed the crew from also-rans into serious medal contenders.

One of the big stories in the run-up to this year’s World Championships is that double Olympic champion, Mahe Drysdale from New Zealand, lost the M1X spot to Robbie Manson and has won a seat in the Kiwi quad (his first time in a crew boat since racing in the M4- at the Athens Olympics). Drysdale joins Lewis Hollows, Nathan Flannery and Cameron Crompton – all of whom were still in junior school when Drysdale made his senior international debut!  This season the Kiwi quad (with Jordan Parry racing instead of Drysdale) finished 5th in Linz and 7th in Lucerne. It’ll be interesting to see how Drysdale fits into the crew dynamic and whether the addition of his power and experience can lift the Kiwis into a medal position.

One place ahead of the Kiwis in Linz were their neighbours across the Tasman Sea, Australia. They have a crew of Caleb Antill, Campbell Watts, Alex Purnell and David Watts. Antill was U23 World Champion in 2016 and Purnell and Campbell Watts were in the M8 that finished 8th in Sarasota, and David Watts was in the M2X that raced in the C Final. As well as finishing 4th in Linz they then took 5th in Lucerne. An A-Final placing in Plovdiv will be a good result.

The Netherlands have had a solid season so far this year, and have tried out a number of different combinations. After a 5th place in Belgrade, with a crew of Abe Wiersma, Koen Metesmakers, Amos Keijser and Freek Robbers, they settled on a crew that included Stefan Broenink and Dirk Uitenbogaard in place of Robbers and Keijser. This combination took silvers at both Linz and Lucerne, but then slipped to 5th at the Europeans. Their performances during the World Cup series certainly show they have the speed to challenge for the medals.

Poland were 5th at the 2017 World Championships, but for 2018 they only have two of that crew remaining, Wiktor Chabel and Dominik Czaja. They are joined this season by Maciej Zawoski, who last raced at a World Championships in 2015 finishing 14th in the M2X, and Szymon Posnik, who made his senior debut this season. During this year’s World Cup series they placed 5th, 6th and 3rd. They also raced at the European Championships in Strathclyde, picking up another bronze medal.

The final crew to mention are the Germans, Ruben Steinhardt, Philipp Syring, Hans Gruhne and Stephan Kruge. They started the season well, taking silver behind the British in Belgrade (having led the race for 1990 of the 2000 meters), but have been steadily heading backwards since then, they finished 3rd in Linz and then 4th in Lucerne. It remains to be seen if they can reverse this trend in Plovdiv.

My picks…..if the British race to their potential then they could win gold, but I’ve a feeling the Lithuanians will take it with the British in silver and the Italians in bronze.

 

W4X

Reigning champions: The Netherlands

Entries: 15

This has the makings of one of the most competitive events at the regatta, so far this season there have been six different nations amongst the medals. But, it’s the Germans who have emerged as the leading contenders for the gold. There crew is Marie-Catherine Arnold, Carlotta Nwajide, Franziska Kampmann and Frieda Haemmerling. The stern pair of the crew (Kampmann & Haemmerling) were in those seats at the World Championships last season that finished 4th. Nwajide also raced at the World Championships, finishing 10th in the W2X. Arnold is the most experienced of the crew having finished 7th in the W2X at the Rio Olympics, she also has a hatful of World Cup and World and European medals. This season they started with a slightly different line-up in Belgrade and finished out of the medals, but since changing to the World Championship line-up they have dominated with wins at both Linz and Lucerne.

The Netherlands are the reigning world champions and they have three of that crew returning (Olivia van Rooijen, Sophie Souwer & Nicole Beukers), they are joined this year by Karolien Florijn. The three returners from the 2017 also have Olympic experience. Beukers was in the W4X that won silver (behind the Germans) in Rio and van Rooijen and Souwer were in the W8 that finished 6th. Florijn is the youngster of the crew, making her senior debut in 2017 winning a silver medal in the W8 at the European Championships and 6th at the World Championships. This season they have two podium appearances with bronze medals at Lucerne and again at the European Championships. They will need to find more speed if they hope to retain their title, but will be one of the top contenders for one of the minor medals.

Poland and the Netherland had a ding-dong battle during the 2017 season, with the Poles winning the World Cup but the Dutch winning the Worlds. The Polish have kept the same line-up that finished in silver last year with Agnieszka Kobus-Zawojska, Marta Wieliczko, Maria Springwald and Katarzyna Zillman. They will be desperate to get revenge on the Dutch this season. So far the results are 2-2. The Dutch won in Belgrade with Poland in silver, in Linz the Dutch were 5th and Poland 6th but in Lucerne the Poles beat the Dutch (2nd & 3rd) and then at the Europeans it was gold for Poland and bronze for the Netherlands. The recent history between these two crews almost make it a race within a race

China last won a World Championship medal in this event in 2014 (silver), but haven’t won gold since 1993. They have an experienced line-up with three Olympians (Ling Zhang, Yeuwei Wang and Yang Lyu). The 4th member of the crew is Xiaotong Cui, she missed qualification for Rio as part of the W8. In 2017 China (with 2 of the 2018 crew onboard) finished in the B-Final. But so far in 2018 they have shown that they have medal potential with 4th in Belgrade and Lucerne and a silver in Linz.

Another crew who have shown glimpses of medal potential are the Australians. This year’s crew contains three of the boat that finished 6th at the 2017 World Championships (Genevieve Horton, Caitlin Cronin and Rowena Meredith) along with W2X bronze medallist Olympia Aldersey. At their first appearance of the season in Linz, they took bronze behind Germany and China and then in Lucerne they were 6th (in a final won by Germany with a 2nd German boat in 5th). They will be an outside bet for a medal.

Another outside bet to make the podium are the British. They produced an excellent performance in 2017 to take the bronze. This year’s crew contains three of that boat (Jess Leyden, Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne and Melissa Wilson). Stroking the crew this year is Olympic W8 silver medallist Zoe Lee. Lee missed the whole of the 2017 season with injury and perhaps surprisingly when she did return she went into the sculling squad, returning to a boat class she last competed internationally in back in 2016. 2018 hasn’t been the smoothest for the British, with illness and injury forcing withdrawal from Belgrade and Lucerne. Their first race in Belgrade was a reasonable 7th and they followed this with a more encouraging performance at the Europeans where they were just off the podium. If they get everything right in Plovdiv then a medal is possible.

Ukraine finished 4th at the Rio Olympics and had the same line up for 2017 and 2018 (Daryna Verkhogliad, Olena Buryak, Anastasiia Kozhenkova & Ievgeniia Dohvodko).  2017 was a disappointing year when they dropped back to finish 8th of the 9 crews. 2018 has shown a more encouraging turn of speed, in their two appearances so far they have 4th in Linz and an excellent silver from the European Championships.

The final crew to mention are the USA. Their quad hasn’t raced so far this season, but they have three of the crew that finished 5th on home water last year – Elizabeth Sonshine, Emily Huelskamp & Maureen Mcauliffe. The fourth member of the crew is Kara Soucek, she makes her international racing debut having been the sculling spare last season. As with the British and Australians, the US have the potential to challenge for the bronze but an A-final finish is probably more likely.

My picks….Germany are showing signs that they can dominate this event like they did in the 2016 season, they’ll take the gold with the Netherlands and the Poles renewing their rivalry and Poland getting the best of the Dutch for the silver.

 

just a quick note….for those looking for previews of the International Events (LW4X and LM4X) time constraints mean I’ve had to focus on the Olympic class events only….sorry

The 2018 World Championships – The Fours

Now to look at the men’s and women’s coxless fours

M4-

Reigning Champions: Australia

Entries: 18

Australia are the defending champions and they have kept the same line-up for 2018, Josh Hicks, Spencer Turrin, Jack Hargreaves & Alexander Hill. Hill is the only member of the crew that won silver at the Rio Olympics, but since the start of the 2017 season the new-look Aussie crew have dominated the event and are unbeaten. So far in 2018 they raced at Linz and Lucerne, winning both events comfortably. They will be overwhelming favourites to retain their title in Plovdiv.

Runners-up to the Australians in Sarasota were the Italians. They raced at the Euoropean Championships in Strathclyde but finished outside of the medals. Since then the coaches have made two changes to the crew with 2017 M2- World Champion Matteo Lodo and M8 bronze medallist Bruno Rosetti replacing Giovanni Abagnale and Dominico Montrone. It remains to be seen if this change has produced a faster combination.

Romania are having an excellent season, their M4- of Mihaita-Vasile Tiganescu, Cosmin Pascari, Stefan-Constantin Berariu and Ciprian Huc are an outstanding young crew, they won the U23 World Championships at the end of July and then took gold at the European Championships. They raced at two of the three World Cups taking silver behind the Australians in Linz. For a crew of 19 and 20 year-olds they have the potential to really give the Australians a run for their money, and if they continue to progress they could be favourites for 2020.

Great Britain have often prioritised this boat, a policy that delivered 14 World and Olympic titles between 1997 and 2016. But, chief coach Jurgen Grobler has taken a pragmatic approach for 2018. His priority is to qualify as many boats as possible for the Tokyo Olympics at the 2019 World Championships. At those World Championships the top 8 M4- will qualify for the Olympics whereas only the top 5 M8 will gain an automatic qualification place. So Grobler’s target for 2018-19 is to create a M4- that can be a “comfortable” A-Final boat and a M8 that will be consistently challenging for the podium (for the M2- there are 11 places available in 2019). This year’s M4- (Tom Ford, Jacob Dawson, Adam Neill & James Johnston) with a 5th place in Belgrade and two 4th places at Linz and Lucerne. Their best race of the season was in Strathclyde at the European Championships where they won silver behind the Romanians. They will be an outside bet for a medal in Plovdiv but will more likely be looking for a solid A-final finish to set them up for the 2019 season.

The Netherlands have been trialing a number of different combinations throughout the 2018 season. They dominated the first World Cup taking gold and silver. They eventually settled on a combination of Bjorn Van den Ende, Tone Wieten, Jasper Tissen and Bram Schwarz. Van Den Ende is a former lightweight who raced in the LM4- at the Rio Olympics before switching to the heavyweights following the demise of the LM4- event. Weiten is another Rio Olympian having raced in the bronze medal M8. 2017 U23 World Champion Bram Schwarz, is a student at the University of Washington and was in the crew that won silver at the IRA Championships this season, Tissen was in this boat last season that finished 4th at the World Championships. This season they finished runners-up to the Australians in Lucerne but then slipped to 5th at the European Championships. Like the British they will be an outside bet for a medal.

South Africa won their first ever World Cup medal in the M4- this season when they took bronze at Lucerne. The crew of Kyle Schoonbee, David Hunt, John Smith and Sandro Torrente. Hunt and Smith were in the boat that finished 4th in Rio (South Africa’s best ever performance at an Olympic Games in the M4-). Kyle Schoonbee made his senior debut in 2017 placing 15th at the World Championships in the M1X, earlier in 2017 he won silver in the U23 BM1X. 20 year-old Torrente also made his senior debut in 2017 taking 14th in the M2- at the World Championships. This is an exciting combination that will take a little time to establish itself. There were high hopes of a strong performance from the South African M4- last year but that project ended in disappointment when they could only manage 13th in Sarasota.

The USA are another nation with a new combination for 2018. Dariush Aghai and Nicholas Mead were both members of the M8 that won silver at the World Championships last year. They are joined by Alexander Richards and Michael Clougher. Richards was in the M4- last season that ended 10th at the World Championships and 6ft 10 Clougher made his international debut at the 2017 World Championships as the US representative in the M1X finishing 19th.

Other crews to mention include the young New Zealanders (3rd at the U23 World Championships), Belarus (9th at the Rio Olympics, 3rd in Belgrade and 9th in Strathclyde) and Poland, a new combination for 2018 but all of whom raced in the M8 that finished 5th at the Rio Olympics.

My picks…Australia for gold by clear water ahead of the Romanians with the British pipping the Italians for bronze.

 

W4-

Reigning champions: Australia

Entries: 13

The W4- event is still trying to “find its feet” after being added to the Olympic programme for Tokyo 2020. A number of nations have been trying out different combinations or have been doubling-up in the W8 as the various contenders jockey for position and also watch which combinations emerge. Australia have pushed themselves to the head of the pack having and are currently unbeaten. They have an unchanged line-up from last year – Lucy Stephan, Katrina Werry, Sarah Hawe and Molly Goodman. For Hawe it’s been quite an experience, she made her senior debut in 2017 (12 years after racing for Australia as a junior) and has so far has not missed the podium. Lucy Stephan and Molly Goodman were both in the W8 at the Rio Olympics. Werry also made her senior debut in 2017 winning a World Cup gold in her first senior event and ending the season as World Champion.

Canada are the reigning Olympic champions (the W4- was last raced at the Barcelona Olympics Games). They’ve selected a young crew for this year with U23 World Champions Kendra Wells and Karen Lefsrud along with fellow U23 international Larissa Werbicki and Jessie Loutit who made her international debut at the age of 29 at the Lucerne World Cup.  His looks to be a crew with 2020 very much in mind and to reach the A-Final in Plovdiv will be a great opening performance.

Denmark have put together a new combination for this year with Anne Larsen, Frida Sangaard Nielsen, Hedvig Rasmussen and Ida Jacobsen. Rasmussen is the star of the crew, she was in the W2- at the Rio Olympics and came away with a bronze medal. She followed that up with a bronze medal with partner Christina Johansen at the 2017 World Championships. Rasmussen is joined by Larsen, who raced in the W2X at last year’s Worlds, and Sangaard Nielsen and Jacobsen who both made their senior debuts this season after racing in the U23 team in 2017. This combination have raced together once this season, taking silver behind the Australians at Lucerne.

Russia won the European Championships in Strathclyde last month, their crew is Ekaterina Sevostianova, Ekaterina Potapova, Anastasia Tikhanova and Elena Oriabinskaia. They finished in bronze at the 2017 World Championships and so far this season, as well as gold at the Europeans, they have bronze from Belgrade and 5th in Linz.

Great Britain raced in Belgrade, Linz and Strathclyde reaching the A-Final each time with a tweaked line up each time. Their best result was silver behind the Australians in Linz. The crew for Plovdiv is Caragh McMurtry, Sara Parfett, Emily Ashford & Jo Wratten they raced in this combination at the Europeans finishing 4th.  They will be looking to maintain their record of A-Final appearances for 2018 and will be an outside bet for a medal.

As with their M4-, the Romanians have a young crew. Three of the boat (Madalina Heghes, Madalina-Gabriela Casu and Roxana Parascanu) won silver in the U23 BW4- this season. The fourth member of the crew is another U23 international, Iuliana Buhus, she finished 4th in the BW2- in 2017.  They opened their 2018 campaign with a 7th place in Linz and then took silver at the European Championships.

Poland were runners-up to the Australians at the 2017 World Championships and they have all of that crew returning (Olga Michalkiewicz, Joanna Dittman, Monika Chabel & Maria Wierzbowska).  Chabel raced in the W4X at the Rio Olympics taking a bronze medal, and Wierzbowska finished 10th in the W2- in Rio. This season they started with a 12th place in Linz followed by a 6th in Lucerne and then took bronze in Strathclyde.

The Netherlands are another strong contender for a medal. As with the men’s four they have been trying a number of different combinations during the season. In Belgrade they took gold and silver (creating a unique double with the M4- who also took gold and silver).  The crew for Plovdiv is Lies Rustenburg, Lisanne Brandsma, Elsbeth Beeres and Laila Youssifou. Rustenburg was in the W8 that finished 6th at Rio, Beeres was U23 World Champion in 2017 and made her senior debut this season winning silver in the W2- at the Europeans with Youssifou.

China will be beginning to feel the influence of Sir Steve Redgrave as their new High Performance Director and the W4- has already made its mark this season. Linlin Guo, Min Zhang, Liqin Yi and Fie Wang were 3rd in Linz and followed that with 5th in Lucerne.

The final crew to mention are the USA, Molly Bruggeman, Erin Boxberger, Maddy Wanamaker and Erin Reelick. Reelick and Bruggeman were in the W4- at the World Championships last season that finished 4th. Boxberger was U23 World Champion in 2014 and made her senior debut in 2017, racing in the W8 at the Poznan World Cup. Wanamaker is also an U23 World Champion, winning gold in the BW8 in 2017.

My picks….the form book says Australia and who am I to disagree! Silver to the Poles and Denmark in bronze.

The 2018 World Championship – the men’s and women’s pairs

Next up are the pairs…..

 

M2-

Defending champions: Matteo Lodo/Giuseppe Vicino (Italy)

Entries: 25

This event is still trying to re-establish itself following 8 years of dominance by the legendary Hamish Bond and Eric Murray. The expectation post-Rio, was that the Croatian Sinkovic brothers would quickly fill the gap left by the Kiwis as they moved from the M2x (where they were Olympic champions) into the sweep equivalent. But it hasn’t really worked out that way so far. They took silver at Lucerne in 2017 and followed that up with another silver at the World Championships. In 2018 they took their first M2- gold with a win at the 1st World Cup and their 1st Championship title with gold at the European’s in Strathclyde. At the 2nd World Cup in Linz they were beaten into silver by the Czechs and then Martin Sinkovic was injured for Lucerne. It’s clear they have the potential to win gold in Plovdiv, but the event is extremely competitive.

Sinkovic M2-

The Sinkovic brothers from Croatia

Italy won the World Championships in 2017, but the champions (Lodo and Vicino) have split up. So for 2018 the Italians have Cesare Gabbia and Vincenzo Abbagnale (who returned to competition in time for the 2017 World Championships following a 2 year suspension for doping violations). This is a new combination for Italy, Gabbia was a member of the Italian M8 that won bronze at the World Championships in 2017 and then finished 4th at the Europeans this season. It looks unlikely that this pairing will be able to retain the title for the Italians, but as a slightly unknown quantity it’s difficult to predict how this duo will get on.

We have grown very accustomed to seeing New Zealand on the top step of the podium in this event, and in Lucerne the latest Kiwi pairing of Thomas Murray and Michael Brake won their first gold as a pair. They both raced in the NZL M8 at the Rio Olympics with Brake also racing in the M8 at the 2017 Worlds finishing 6th and Murray racing the M2- with James Hunter to a bronze medal.

One of the most consistent crews of the season are the French brothers, Theo and Valentin Onfroy. They were the stern pair of the French M4- at the Rio Olympics that finished back in 11th. Post-Rio they moved to the pair and have had much stronger results taking silver at the 2017 Europeans, gold at the 1st World Cups and bronze in Lucerne. At the Sarasota World Championships they were just outside of the medals. So far this season they have continued where they have left off with medals at the Linz and Lucerne World Cups and a silver medal behind the Croatians at the Europeans. They will be strong contenders to win France’s 1st world championship medal in this event since 2013.

Another duo who have had an excellent 2018 season so far are the Czechs, Lukas Helesic and Jakob Podrazil. They have been racing together as a pair since 2015 and finished 7th at the Rio Olympics. 2017 saw them win their first medals in the pair when they won bronze at the 1st and 2nd World Cups. They ended the season with an 8th place at the World Championships. This season they have pushed themselves towards the head of the field with a silver in Belgrade and gold (the first M2- World Cup gold for the Czech Republic) in Linz. They finished the World Cup series with another medal taking bronze in Lucerne making them the only nation to medal at all three World Cups. Competition at the World Championships will be fierce, but they will be very strong contenders for a medal.

Great Britain’s Oliver Cook and Matt Rossiter (schoolmates from Abingdon School) have been showing signs of good speed and potential. Cook was world champion in the M2+ in 2016 and spent 2017 in the M8 before moving to the pair for 2018. Rossiter was a member of the M4- that won bronze at the 2017 World Championships. They have produced some solid performances so far this season with 5th places at the Linz and Lucerne World Cups and 7th at the Europeans. They may not (yet) be challenging for a podium place in Plovdiv, but they won’t be far off.

 

Romania have been having an outstanding season across all their men’s boats. Their pair of Marius-Vasile Cozmiuc and Ciprian Tudosa raced together in the M8 that finished 5th at the World Championships last season before moving into the pair for 2018. They’ve made two appearances so far and taken 4th in Belgrade and bronze at the European Championships. Like the British, they may not have the absolute speed to make the podium in Plovdiv, but will be strong contenders for an A-Final placing.

South Africa have a new pairing with Jake Green and Lawrence Brittain.  Brittain won silver in the M2- at the Rio Olympics with Shaun Keeling. He and Green raced together in the M4- at the 2017 Worlds that promised to be very competitive, having finished 4th in Lucerne, but ended up a disappointing 13th.  Now back in the smaller sweep boat they are making their first appearance of the season and could well be the dark horses.

The other crews to watch for are the Serbs, Milos Vasic and Nenad Bedik (4th at the Europeans), the Belarussians, Dzimitry Furman and Siarhei Valadzko (bronze medallists in Belgrade and 4th in Linz) and the former lightweight World Champions from Ireland Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll.

My picks…..this could be a really close contest. I think the Croatians will just take the gold ahead of New Zealand in silver and the French in bronze.

 

W2-

Reigning Champions: Grace Prendergast/Kerri Gowler (New Zealand)

Entries: 17

The Kiwis will start as the overwhelming favourites to retain their title. They are unbeaten in the pair since losing to the British in 2015. They broke the British’s World Best Time at the Poznan World Cup in 2017 and went on to win the World Championships by nearly 4 seconds ahead of the Americans. So far in 2018 they’ve raced at the Linz and Lucerne World Cups. They were pushed really hard in Lucerne by Canada ending up taking the victory by just 4/10ths of a second.

women-s-coxless-pair-grace-prendergast-and-kerri-gowler

Kerri Gowler (right) and Grace Prendegast (left) from New Zealand. Photo: New Zealand Rowing

The Canadians will be looking to overturn that defeat in Plovdiv. They are a very talented young pairing, Caileigh Filmer is still only 21 but she’s an U23 World champion from the BW8 in 2017 having also rowed in the Canadian W8 at the Rio Olympics. She’s joined by Hilary Janssens who was, herself, an U23 World Champion in 2016 and then a senior World medallist in the W8 last year. This season they raced at the Belgrade World Cup winning gold before taking silver behind the Kiwis in Lucerne.

The USA were runners-up to the Kiwis at the World Championships last year, but for Plovdiv they have a different combination with Victoria Opitz and Gia Doonan. Doonan, from the University of Texas, won two golds at the U23 World Championships in 2016 and then made her senior debut this season winning bronze medals in both the W8 and W4- at the Lucerne World Cup. She’s joined by Opitz, a triple World Champion in the W8 in 2013, 2014 and 2015. She also raced in the W4- and W8 in Lucerne before moving to the pair for the Worlds.

Another new pairing for Plovdiv are the Australians, Addy Dunkley-Smith and Hannah Vermeersch. They were both members of the Australian W8 this season, taking bronze in Linz and 5th in Lucerne. Linz was the first international race since 2015, and for Dunkley-Smith (younger sister of double Olympic medallist Josh) 2018 marks her senior international debut following a successful U23 career which saw her win bronze in the BW2- in 2015. Vermeersch was in the W8 that raced at the London Olympics and she also won gold at the U23 World Championships in 2013.

Romania will be one of the strongest contenders for a medal, Madalina Beres and Iuliana Popa. They were both members of the W8 that won bronze at the Rio Olympics and then won the World Championships last season. As is typical with the Romanians they are doubling up in pair and eight and usually medal in both. So far this season they have raced together just in the W8, winning gold at the European Championships. Beres also raced in the W2- at the Europeans with Denisa Tilvescu a combination that also won gold.

Italy are another combination that have had an excellent 2018. Alessandra Patelli and Sara Bertolasi raced together at the Rio Olympics ending up 11th, but 2018 has seen them consistently among the medals with silver at Linz and bronze in Strathclyde. Their silver medal was only the 2nd for an Italian W2- (the first being this duo at the Varese World Cup in 2016).

Great Britain’s Helen Glover and Heather Stanning dominated this event between 2012 and 2016, but with both of them now retired the British coaches are looking to build a crew that can defend the title in Tokyo. At the 2017 the pairing of Melissa Wilson and Holly Hill just missed out on the medals in 4th. For 2018 the British have another new combination with Hattie Taylor and Rowan Mckellar filling the seats. They’ve made a solid start to their partnership, making the A-Final in each of their races, including a bronze in Linz. This combination has a lot of potential, but it probably won’t be until 2019 or 2020 before we see it fully develop. A medal is unlikely in Plovdiv, but they will want to end the 2018 season having reached the A-Final every time they raced.

Spain have never won a gold medal in the W2- but they came closest at the Belgrade World Cup when the pairing of Anna Boada Peiro and Aina Cid finished runners-up to the Canadians to win their first ever silver medal (and only their 2nd ever W2- medal). They just missed out on an A-Final placing at Lucerne, taking 7th and didn’t compete at the Europeans. They have been racing together for a number of years, finishing 6th at the Rio Olympics and 5th at the 2017 World Championships. It’s not often Spain has a truly competitive women’s boat (they’ve only ever won 2 Olympic class medals and both were by this pair). Another A-Final placing in Plovdiv will be a great result.

My picks….this is set for another epic contest between the Kiwis and the Canadians but I think the New Zealanders will be just a bit too strong for the Canucks. I think Romania will win the battle for bronze.

The 2018 World Championships – the men’s and women’s single sculls

World Champs 2018

The culmination of the 2018 season sees the rowing world descend on Plovdiv in Bulgaria for the senior World Championships. This is the first time that the full senior Worlds have taken place on the purpose built course (the Worlds for non-Olympic events were held here in 2012), with the U23 Worlds were in 2017 and the Junior Worlds in 1999. The World Rowing Media Guide says the Plovdiv course “has a reputation for being a fast course”……the juniors in 1999 will agree with that when there was some very, very strange times set….5:20 in the JM8 and 6:31 in the M1X (both of which were faster than the Senior World Best of the time) funnily enough those times have been excluded from the record books due to “unusually warm water”. With the exceptionally hot weather recently in Europe we could see some quick times this year.

Plovdiv.jpg

The Plovdiv Regatta Course

This year’s worlds has attracted nearly 950 athletes from 82 countries with the biggest field competing in the M1X…so let’s have a look at whose racing.

 

M1X

Defending champion: Ondrej Synek (Czech Republic)

Entries: 34

The M1X event this season has been fascinating to watch, especially the internal selection battles in New Zealand and Germany. Olympic champion, Mahe Drysdale, has lost the single spot (for now) to Robbie Manson. Manson has dominated the M1X event since he started in 2017. He took wins at both 2017 World Cups (setting a new World Best Time in Poznan) before suffering from illness at the World Championships and slipping to 5th.  He has another 2 gold medals from the World Cups in 2018 as well, and more importantly a host of wins against Drysdale securing him the berth for Plovdiv. Drysdale hasn’t given up on his hopes of defending his Olympic title in Tokyo, but for the year at the least he’s taken a seat in the M4X (more of that later).

The other internal selection battle was between Tim Ole Naske and Olivier Zeigler of Germany. Naske won the German small Boat Championships, and finished one place ahead of the young Zeidler at the Linz World Cup. But, the 22 year old Zeidler got revenge in Lucerne taking silver behind Manson with Naske back in 6th. That result was enough for the selectors to go with Zeidler, one of the most exciting young scullers on the circuit. For Naske the surprise is he has no seat in any boat in Plovdiv. I believe this is the first time that the German M1X champion isn’t racing in any boat at the World Championships.

Ziedler naske.jpg

New Zealand’s Robbie Manson (centre) and Germans Oliver Zeidler (right) and Tim Ole Naske (left). Photo: Münchner Merkur

Ondrej Synek is the defending World Champion, and compared to Zeidler and Manson, is the “old man” of the circuit. The 35 year-old has been racing in this event since 2005 and has medalled at every World Championships since (including 5 golds). He took gold in the first World Cup of the season, but slipped to 3rd in Lucerne (beaten by Manson and Zeidler). He’s one of the best “big race” scullers and knows how to peak for the big occasions and there’s no-one more experienced in the field.

Another strong medal contender is Norway’s Kjetil Borch. The Rio M2X bronze medallist finished 5th in the double last season partnering Olaf Tufte. This season he moves to the single. He had a slow start to the season, finishing 9th in Belgrade before moving up to 4th in Linz. The highlight of the season for him so far is gold at the European Championships (his first championship M1X gold medal).

2nd to Borch at the European Championships was Mindaugus Griskonis from Lithuania. The 32 year old is chasing a place at his 4th Olympic Games and won silver in Rio in the M2X with Saulius Ritter. Like Borch, he too had a slow start to the season with 20th at the 1st World Cup and 8th in Lucerne. But, his 2nd place at the European’s shows he is competitive and will be in the mix for the medals.

Another exciting young sculler, making his senior World Championship debut, is Canada’s Trevor Jones. 6ft 8 Jones is a 4th year student at Trent University in Ontario. He came to prominence in 2017 winning the U23 BM1X World Championships and then successfully defended his title this year in Poznan and he’s still only 20! It’s going to be really interesting to see how he fares against senior competition. A podium is probably a step too far this year, but a solid A-Final finish will be a great end to the 2018 season for him.

Trevor Jones.jpg

Canada’s U23 World Champion Trevor Jones. Photo: Trent University

The Swiss coaches have been testing 3 scullers for the single and double (Nico Stahlberg, Roman Roeoseli and Barnabe Delarze). Nico Stahlberg started the season in the M1X finishing 10th in Belgrade, before moving to the M2X for Linz and Lucerne winning a bronze medal each time, before placing 5th at the Europeans. But, for the World Championships he’s back in the M1X, the boat class he raced to a 9th place at the 2017 World Championships.

4th at the European Championships was Poland’s Natan Wegrzycki-Szymczyk. The University of California student finished 7th at the Rio Olympics and then finished 3rd behind Jones at the 2017 U23 Worlds and 7th at the Senior Worlds in Florida.

Denmark’s Sverri Nielsen made the A-final at both the 1st and 2nd World Cups. His 4th place in Belgrade was the best ever by a Danish heavyweight men’s single sculler. He just missed out on the A-Final in Lucerne, but he will be a strong contender for an A-Final placing in Plovdiv.

Other scullers to mention are Serbia’s Marko Marjanovic, 5th at the Europeans, Harry Leask of Great Britain who finished 7th in Linz before subbing into the M2X at the European Championships winning a bronze medal.

Perhaps one of the surprises at the World Championships is who isn’t racing. Neither the Olympic silver medallist, Damir Martin of Croatia, nor World Silver medallist Angel Fournier Rodriguez of Cuba, will be racing in Plovdiv. Martin finished 4th last year but his results so far this season have been disappointing, with 11th in Linz and 15th at the Europeans. Rodriguez made the A-Final at both Belgrade and Linz World Cups. The absence of these two “big” names opens up the field.

My picks….difficult to see anyone beating a fit Robbie Manson. What will be interesting is the contest behind the Kiwi for the silver and bronze. I’m going with Synek to just pip the young German, Zeidler for the silver.

 

W1X

Defending champion: Jeanine Gmelin (Switzerland)

Entries: 24

Jeanine Gmelin of Switzerland will start as a very strong favourite in Plovdiv. She’s unbeaten in 20 races winning gold at her last 7 regattas. She creating a dominance not seen in this event since the legendary Ekaterina Karsten (who went unbeaten in the W1X between the 1st World Cup of 2005 and the 3rd World Cup of 2008). Gmelin has been winning in style and was named as World Rowing’s Female Crew of the Year in 2017. She’s not the tallest of athletes at just 171cm (compared to the likes of Vicky Thornley at 193cm and Magdalena Lobnig at 180cm), but she is probably one of the most powerful.

Gmelin

Jeannine Gmelin

Runner-up to Gmelin at the Linz World Cup and the European Championships was Magdalena Lobnig of Austria. She’s one of the most consistent scullers on the circuit having only missed a place in the A-Final twice since 2013 and she’s also a regular on the podium (including gold at the 2016 European Championships and at the 2017 Poznan World Cup – although neither event included Gmelin).

Sanita Puspure of Ireland has had an excellent 2018 taking silver at the Belgrade and Lucerne World Cups (the first time an Irish W1X has won a silver medal). Funding issues meant she was unable to compete at the European Championships so will be throwing everything at it in Plovdiv and could well be the main challenger to Gmelin.

Another strong A-Final contender is Canada’s Carling Zeeman. Coached by Volker Nolte she made her senior debut in 2013 and raced for Canada in the W1X at the Rio Games finishing in the B-Final. She took silver in the final World Cup in 2017 before finishing 6th at the World Championships. In 2018 she made a slowish start to the World Cup series, with a 9th in Poznan. However she showed much better race pace in Lucerne were she finished on the podium in 3rd.

Zeeman

Carling Zeeman on Canada

Another sculler who had a slightly sluggish start to their 2018 World Cup season was Kara Kohler of the USA. In Poznan she finished 7th but then at Lucerne she moved up to the A Final and just missed out on the podium. This is her first international season in the single having raced in the W4X in 2017. The USA have a strong reputation in this boat class, with Gevvie Stone having won silver at the Rio Olympics and Kohler is a worthy successor, she may not quite make the podium this season but will definitely be one to watch heading into the crucial 2019 season.

Another nation with a strong reputation in this event is New Zealand. Emma Twigg was World Champion in 2014 and finished 4th in Rio after which she announced her retirement. However, earlier this year she announced her intention to make a comeback for the Tokyo Games. All of this means that the current incumbent in the W1X, Hannah Osborne, will have a fight on her hands to retain her seat. The 24 year old made her senior debut in 2017 filling Twigg’s shoes, and delivered her best performance in her first outing taking 5th at the Poznan World Cup. She’s struggled a little since then having been a solid B-Final finisher ever time she’s raced since.

Germany’s Annekatrin Thiele is one of the most experienced racers on the circuit having made her senior international debut in 2005. She is a three-time Olympic medallist with silvers from Beijing and London and then a gold in the W4X in Rio. She moved to the single after Rio and won bronze at the European Championships in 2017. She’s made the A-Final at all three World Cups but did not race at the Europeans. Having missed the A-Final at the 2017 World Championships she’ll be looking to make the step up to the top 6 in Plovdiv.

Maddy Edmunds of Australia won silver in the W2X at the 2017 World Championships before moving into the W1X for the 2018 season. She finished 5th at the Linz World Cup and was runner-up to Gmelin in the Princess Royal Challenge Cup at Henley. Lucerne was a bit of a step back when she missed the A-Final but has definitely shown the speed to be a strong A-Final contender.

Denmark’s Fie Udby Erichsen has had an up and down season this year, with the highlight being a bronze medal at the Linz World Cup (her first medal since winning silver at the London Olympics). This season also saw her take 6th in Belgrade and 7th in Lucerne. She’s beginning to show the sort of speed that took her to the Olympic podium in 2012.

Other scullers to mention are Ukraine’s Diana Dymchenko (European bronze medallist from Strathclyde) and Sweden’s 2017 U23 World Champion Lovisa Claesson.

It’s also worth mentioning a key absentee from Plovdiv, GB’s Vicky Thornley – silver medallist at last year’s World Championships – announced recently that she won’t be racing as she wasn’t in the right shape physically or emotionally due to overtraining. Her results this season have been disappointing compared to her own high standards with two A Final finishes, but she was unable to defend her European title in Strathclyde and took the decision to end her season early. Fingers crossed she recovers well and is back at her best for 2019.

My picks…Difficult to see anyone beating Gmelin to retain her title. Behind her it should be a great contest for the minor medals between Puspure, Lobnig, Kohler and Zeeman. I’m going for the Irishwoman to take silver and win Irelands first ever World Championship W1X medal with Kohler of the USA to get bronze.

Henley Royal Regatta Preview part 5 – The Student and Junior events

With racing kicking off tomorrow I’ve just got time to look at the student and junior events…

 

Temple Challenge Cup

temple

The Temple Challenge Cup

Holders: Oxford Brookes University

Selected crews: Proteus-Eretes Netherlands, University of Washington USA, Princeton University USA, Yale University USA, Brown University USA, Newcastle University “A”, Oxford Brookes University “A”, Syracuse University USA

 

Oxford Brookes “A”: The holders, having won the last two editions of this event. The production line rolls on for Oxford Brookes – this crew won Championship Eights at BUCS Regatta and were second at Ratzeburg Regatta, behind their Ladies Plate entry. They also recorded the fastest time ever by a Temple eligible Brookes crew in that race – 5:33. They are the fastest Temple crew from the UK, the question is, how do they match-up to the rest of the world.

Brookes have a 2nd crew racing and their “A” crew will be watching their “B” crew race with great interest – not just to support their club mates, but also because the “B” crew are racing one of their main rivals for the event – The University of Washington. A combination of athletes from the first, second and third Varsity Eights. The University of Washington won the James Ten Eyck Trophy as the overall points winner for the 11th time in the last 12 years at the IRA National Championships – they won both the Second and Third Varsity Eight titles. They last won this event in 2012 with a freshman eight. UW and Brookes “A” are on opposite sides of the draw so this sets up a potentially mouth-watering final on Sunday (if the form book runs true).

Another selected crew in the top half of the draw are the Dutch of Proteus-Eretes.  They finished 3rd in the ARB Regatta behind Nereus and a Gyas/Skadi/Vidar/Skoll composite. At the Holland beker recently they split into Senior and Development 4+’s both reaching the A-Final of their respective events.

The next Selected crew are Princeton University. This is the Princeton’s lightweight eight, who were silver medallists in the lightweight category at the IRA National Championships and Eastern Sprints. The most successful lightweight eight from Princeton since 2010, they’re looking to become the tenth crew from the Tigers to win at Henley. The crew includes Brits Adam Teece and Marcus Jonas.

The final selected crew in the top half of the draw are Yale University. Another extremely strong US crew, This crew is led by Cole Tilden from the IRA Championship winning 1st Varsity 8 along with members of the Yale 2nd and 3rd Varsity Eights. This crew includes Angus Morrison, who has been voted as Captain of Boats next season. The Second Varsity crew beat Harvard in their annual match and finished third at the IRA National Championships. Yale could well be the strongest crew in the top half of the draw and will have a potential showdown with Washington in the semi-final.

In the lower half of the draw Brown University are the first Selected crew. Several British athletes on-board – former junior world oarsman Oscar Bird and Coupe gold medallist Thomas Phelps (winner of the Thames Challenge Cup last year). Finalists in 2014, Brown finished sixth in the Varsity Eight final at the IRA National Championships and won a bronze at the Eastern Sprints. This is largely their Varsity Eight and as such, should pose the biggest challenge to Oxford Brookes’ defence of their title.

Apart from Brookes, the only other British selected crew are Newcastle University. Third in Championship Eights at Marlow Regatta only 2 seconds behind the Leander Ladies Plate crew, and fourth in the same event at BUCS Regatta, this is the strongest Newcastle Temple eight for a few years and the draw could give them a potential meeting with Brown University on Friday.

Syracuse University are the final selected crew in the event. Visiting Henley Royal Regatta for the first time in eleven years, Syracuse are one of nine NCAA Division 1 institutions competing in the Temple Challenge Cup this year. Their Varsity Eight finished second in the Petite Final at the IRA Championships. They face a tough first round All-American meeting against Cornell University One of the most prestigious lightweight programs in the world, this Cornell crew is a combination of the second Varsity Eight, third Varsity Eight and Varsity four. Both of the eights finished sixth in their petite finals at the IRAs. Their match-up with the Syracuse heavyweights could be one of the highlights of the first round of racing.

Surprisingly not selected are the 2015 winners from A.S.R Nereus in the Netherlands. This crew finished 2nd at the ARB Regatta (beating the Selected Proteus-Eretes) four of the crew won the HG 4+ A-Final at the prestigious Varsity Regatta in April. They have another mouth-watering first round contest against their rivals from Proteus. I’ve a feeling the guys from Nereus will making the Stewards regret their decision to select the Proteus instead of them.

Temple University of the USA are competing at the regatta for the first time since 1994 and are coming off the back of an excellent season which saw them claim the Dad Vail title and qualify for the IRA Championships. The only drawback for Temple is that they will have to be without their strongest rower, U23 World Champion Seb Devereux, who is not eligible for this event. There’s will be a tough battle as they face another all-American 1st round race against the Selected crew from Yale.

The Irish from Trinity College Dublin will also be looking to do well in the bottom half of the draw. This crew finished fifth in Championship Eights at Marlow Regatta. They won their annual Boat Race against Queen’s University, Belfast and were awarded ‘Team of the Year’ by Trinity Sport – they also won at the Trinity Regatta, defeating defending national champions Commercial RC in the process. They face the University of London “B” crew on Wednesday and then a potential match up with the winner of the Syracuse/Cornell race.

The final crew that deserves a mention are Shiplake College. This is their J16 crew and the youngest male crew in the entire regatta. They’ve had an outstanding season, winning at the National Schools Regatta and to qualify for the Temple is the icing on the cake and will stand them in good stead for when they move to the Princess Elizabeth event next year.

My picks…this should work out to be an Oxford Brookes v either Yale or Washington in the final (although Nereus may have something to say about that). It should be a cracking final and I’m going for Brookes to retain their title.

 

The Prince Albert Challenge Cup

prince_albert

The Prince Albert Challenge Cup

Holders: Newcastle University

Selected crews: University of London, Durham University “A”, Grand Valley State University USA, Columbia University “A”, A.S.R Nereus Netherlands, Goldie Boat Club

The University of London are the first Selected crew in the top half of the draw. This is UL’s second-ranked crew (with their top crew racing in the Visitors Challenge Cup) the boat is coxed by three-times Cambridge Blue Ian Middleton. This crew finished second in Championship Coxed Fours at Marlow Regatta. They raced the eight at the Metropolitan Regatta, finishing third in Challenge Eights.

The 2nd Selected crew are Durham University “A” crew. Stroked by former Henley winner and two-times junior international Oscar Lindsay, this crew were second in Championship Coxed Fours at the Metropolitan Regatta but won the event at Marlow Regatta. They also took silver in the Champ 4- at the BUCS Regatta. After a lean few years, this Durham crew look like one of the home favourites approaching the Regatta, having all their main domestic rivals at Marlow Regatta.

The final Selected crew in the top half of the draw are Grand Valley State University from Michigan. They have brought crews to race at both Henley Women’s and Henley Royal. Only one of their men’s fours qualified for the main draw. This is half of their Varsity 8 which finished 13th at the Dad Vail Regatta in May and 8th at the ACRA Championships. They face a very tough 1st round draw against Imperial College who will perhaps be a bit disappointed not to be Selected. Imperial were winners of Championship Coxed Fours at BUCS Regatta and Metropolitan Regatta. This is their top-ranked crew, with cox Wilf Le Brocq a former junior international and Casper Woods a junior world champion and National Schools’ gold medallist with St Paul’s School. With a considerable amount of international experience, this crew should be considered as one of the favourites.

In the lower half of the draw the first Selected boat are the Lightweights from Columbia University USA. Making their fourth appearance at Henley Royal Regatta in the past six seasons, this crew are one half of the Lightweight Varsity Eight who won the IRA National Championships and Eastern Sprints. One of the strongest lightweight programs in the USA, the eight Varsity athletes are also joined by several of the undefeated Second Varsity Eight. Columbia face 2016 winners Edinburgh University in the first round. They were 3rd in the B-Final of Championship 4+ at Marlow and 4th in Championship 4+ at the BUCS Regatta.

ASR Nereus of the Netherlands will be one of the favourites among the overseas crews. They finished 1st in the HG4+ at the ARB Regatta and 3rd at the Varsity Championships. Nereus have yet to reach the final of the Prince Albert and they face a tough first round race against the Irish from N.U.I Galway.

The final Selected crew in the lower half of the draw are Goldie Boat Club. This is half of the successful Goldie eight that won the reserve Boat Race in March. They finished 3rd in championship 4+ at Marlow behind Durham and UL. They face Oxford Brookes in round 1 which will be a test. A number of the Brookes crew finished 3rd at the BUCS Regatta and have been part of the various strong Brookes boats during the summer.

There are two other overseas crews racing in this event, the Dutch from D.S.R Laga and the Americans from the University of California, Irvine.

D.S.R Laga include Roelant Feldbrugge, who made the semi-finals of the Fawley Challenge Cup with Hilversumse Roeivereniging Cornelis Tromp in 2013, this crew finished third in men’s heavyweight coxless fours at the ARB Regatta and second in the same category at the ZRB Regatta. D.S.R. Laga won the Temple Challenge Cup in 2013 but haven’t made the finals since.

University of California, Irvine were silver medallists in the Varsity Four at the WIRA Championships in April, the University of California, Irvine are sending a crew to Henley Royal Regatta for the first time in nearly 40 years.

My picks….I’m going for a Durham win

 

Finally a few comments on the Junior events. Time is against me meaning I haven’t been able to do a detailed preview of these events. However, the great guys and girls at Junior Rowing News have done some exhaustive previews so I recommend checking them out.

But, here are my (brief) thoughts on the Junior events

The Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup

princess_elizabeth

The Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup

Holders: Scotch College Australia

Selected Crews: Brunswick School USA, Shiplake College, Radley College, Latymer Upper School, St Paul’s School, Shrewsbury School, Bedford School, Eton College, St Joseph’s Nudgee College Australia, St Edwards School

There is, really, only one school in this. St Paul’s are one of the finest schoolboy crew I’ve ever seen – certainly up there with the Eton crew of 2009-10 and the legendary Hampton crew of 1986. Bobby Thatcher has produced an outstanding unit that no other school in the UK can get close to. They won the National School’s Regatta by a massive 15 seconds. They also won Champ 4- and were runners-up in Champ 4+. They have wins at the Head of The Charles, the Pairs Head, Sculler’s Head, fours Head and School’s Head. At Marlow Regatta they finished 2 seconds behind the Leander Ladies Plate crew in a time of 5:36.5 – just 0.6 seconds off the World Best time for a JM8! During the warm up to Henley they’ve raced (and beaten) Thames, Oslo and Montclair from the Thames Cup and also Brown University from the Temple.

 

The Fawley Challenge Cup

fawley

The Fawley Challenge Cup

Holders: The Windsor Boys School

Selected Crews: The Windsor Boys School, Westminster School, Sydney Rowing Club Australia, Gloucester Rowing Club, Warrington Rowing Club, Leander Club, Henley Rowing Club “A”, Maidenhead Rowing Club.

This event has provided some fantastic racing over the years, and last year’s final was one of the bet. Windsor Boys are back to defend their title. They had a slightly disappointing race at the National Schools finishing 5th but stepped on significantly at Marlow Regatta, winning Junior Quads and then, 2 hours later, racing in championship quads had a great battle with arch rivals Maidenhead, finishing just over a second behind.

Maidenhead are the form crew so far this year. Their trophy cabinet has already had quite a boost this year: National Schools Regatta 2018 – Gold in Champs 4x, Junior Sculling Head (Oarsport) 2018 – Gold in J18 4x, Schools Head of the River 2018 – Gold in Champs 4x. Victor Kleshnev, Edoardo Marshall and Elliott Kemp were selected to represent GB at Munich International Junior Regatta and all medalled there. Harrison Rowe raced at all GB Senior and U23 trials this season in U23 Lwt 1x, he was invited to the last selection in April and was 16th overall there. All four scullers represented GB last summer and medalled – Victor at Junior World Championships, Harrison, Edoardo and Elliott at Coupe de la Jeaunesse.

Sydney Rowing Club could well be the dark horses of the event. They last won the Fawley in 2011 and will be strong contenders this year. This crew have been rowing together and competing as a development group at SRC since 2017 when Harry Crouch was selected in the Australian JM4x and Tom Galloway teamed with Ash Nicholls to win gold in the NSW Sprint Championship. Galloway rowed at Shore School, Crouch and Potter at Newington and Nicholls at Kings. Following on from 2017 they attended the club s 2018 Jindabyne camp in January and represented SRC in various combinations including a quad that won the B Grade 4x at the Ed Trickett Grade Championships. Tom Galloway also won a silver medal at the same regatta representing SRC in the Men’s A Grade 4-

Leander Club will be another crew to watch in this event. They’ve never won this event as a single club and last won it as a composite back in 2002. They were 4th at the National Schools and runners-up to Windsor in the Junior Quads at Marlow.

My money is on Maidenhead to take their first ever win in this event.

 

The Diamond Jubilee Challenge Cup

diamond_jubilee

The Diamond Jubilee Challenge Cup

Holders: Gloucester

Selected crews: Latymer Upper “A”, Henley Rowing Club “A”, Y Quad Cities Rowing Association USA, Sydney Rowing Club Australia, Marlow Rowing Club, Headington School.

No overseas crew has ever won this event, but the Americans from Y Quad Cities Rowing Association could well be the first. They won the US Youth National Championships by 11 seconds and are, perhaps, the strongest US quad to ever enter the Diamond Jubilee.

Henley Rowing Club are the dominant force in British women’s youth rowing at the moment. Winners in 8’s and quads at the National School’s Regatta and JW4X at Henley Women’s Regatta it will take something special to deny Henley their own “Triple” on home water.

Sydney could be another storng entry. Half of this crew raced at Henley Women’s Regatta in 2017 losing in the semi-final. They went on to win silver in the JW4X at the Holland Beker. In 2018 they won silver in the U19 W4X at the National Regatta. The crew won a Gold medal rowing in W B grade 4x at the Edward Trickett Regatta Grade championships in 2018.

My picks…Henley and Y Quad are slated to meet each other in the 2nd round which should be a cracking race. I think the winner of that encounter will go on to win the whole event, and I think that will be Henley.

Henley Royal Regatta Preview part 4.2- The Britannia Challenge Cup

Following on from the Club events preview yesterday here is the one for the Britannia Challenge Cup which I didn’t have time to complete…..

Britannia Challenge Cup

britannia

The Britannia Challenge Cup

Holders: NSR Oslo, Norway

Selected crews: Molesey Boat Club “A”, SC DHfK Leipzig Germany, Vesta Rowing Club, Thames Rowing Club “A”, D.S.R Copenhagen Denmark, Sydney Rowing Club Australia.

In the top half of the draw the first Selected crew are Molesey Boat Club “A”. This is a young crew of juniors, including Michael Dalton and Theo Darlow who rowed for GB at the Munich Junior International Regatta. At Marlow Regatta they finished 5th in Championship coxed fours only 6/10ths behind their Britannia Cup rivals from Thames (the top three crews were all University crews racing in the Prince Albert). They also won Tier 2 coxed fours at the Metropolitan Regatta.

The 2nd Selected crew in the top half of the draw are the Germans from SC DhFK Leipzig. This crew, like Molesey, is a young crew and has a couple of athletes that raced at the Munich Junior regatta this season, Paul Hendrik Dohrmann and Richard Aurich (Dohrmann was in the JM4- that finished 2nd to the British boat containing Molesey’s Theo Darlow). Bowman William Strulick is another competitor from the Munich Junior Regatta, although he rowed in the 2017 version.

The 3rd of the Selected crew in the top half of the draw are from Vesta Rowing Club in Putney. Containing remnants of the crew who made the semi-finals of the Wyfold Challenge Cup in 2013, this crew were sixth in Championship Coxed Fours at Marlow Regatta and third in Challenge Coxed Fours at Wallingford Regatta. A powerful unit with plenty of experience.

Moving to the bottom half of the draw, the first Selected crew are Thames Rowing Club “A”. This is Thames’ 2nd ranked boat (not the Wyfold crew as erroneously mentioned earlier). This crew won the Championship 4’s at the Metropolitan Regatta and were the fastest Britannia Challenge Cup crew in Championship coxed 4’s at Marlow. Back in May ¾ of this crew raced in the M4+ at Ghent Regatta in Belgium winning gold (that crew had Tom Foad instead of Mike Trevena)

Thames face Agecroft Rowing Club in the first round which should be a good contest. Agecroft won the ‘B’ final of Championship Coxed Fours at Marlow Regatta and finished sixth at the Metropolitan Regatta in the same event. Agecroft’s top-ranked crew at the regatta they have had a good season and are building on the success of winning the Jackson Trophy at the Head of the River in March.

The next Selected boat in the lower half of the draw are the Danes from D.S.R Copenhagen. Although rowing as a Danish club there’s a distinctly English feel to this crew as it includes Fred Vystavel, who has raced at Henley for Westminster School, Princeton University and Elizabethan Boat Club. Also in the boat is Moritz Schneider who rowed for Sport Imperial in this event, losing in the final to Bayer Leverkusen. Mark Hartsteen in the bow seat rowed for Denmark at the U23 World Championships in 2013 finishing 13th in the BM1X. The 4th member of the crew is Nicolai Bernsen, who will celebrate his 20th birthday on the Saturday of the regatta. He raced for Denmark at the Junior World Championships in 2016. This is a very strong-looking crew and could go all the way to the final.

Sydney Rowing Club are the final selected crew in the draw. Alex Nichol and Jackson Kench were members of the Australian U21 team that won the first leg of the Trans-Tasman Regatta against New Zealand last month. Three of this crew, Kench, Nichol and Clinton Boltman won the U21 M4+ at the Sydney International Regatta in March. Sydney won this event in 2015 and raced in this event last year reaching Friday’s racing before going down to the eventual champions from Oslo.

Tideway Sculler’s School last won this event in 2010 and they have qualified two crews for this year. The Sculler’s “A” crew finished second at Wallingford Regatta in Challenge Coxed Fours and made the B-Final of Championship 4’s at marlow (although they withdrew before that race). Kieran Brown and Murray Wilkojc  (a finalist from the Wyfold last year) raced a pair at the Metropolitan Regatta, finishing second in Championship Pairs. The Sculler’s B crew are highly experienced as well with a number of Henley finalists on board like Adam Lodygowski, Nathan O’Reilly and Stuart Heap. They have a tough first round draw against the young Selected Molesey crew but it could be a cracking race.

My picks….this is really too close to call and could go to any one of 4-5 crews. But I’m going to go for a win for the youngsters of Molesey.