A festival of Heads!

This week sees a veritable festival of top class rowing events, both indoor and outdoor.


Kicking off the fun is the National Junior Indoor Rowing Championships. Organised by London Youth Rowing, the event at the Lee Valley Athletics Centre, is the World’s largest indoor rowing event with over 2500 young people aged from 11 to 18.  The event draws competitors from outside of the “traditional” rowing schools and clubs, over 60% of competitors are from a minority ethnic background and the organisers specifically cater for competitors with sensory, learning and physical disabilities.  As it says on the website “The event really does draw in those young people that would not normally get the opportunity to race at a national event”.

Next up, on Saturday, is the biggest women only sporting event in the world (I think), certainly the biggest women’s rowing race in the world – The women’s Eights Head of the River.


This sees 319 crews (over 2800 athletes) race over the 4 ½ mile Championship course from Mortlake to Putney. One of the most interesting battles amongst the 319 crews will be between Leander Club (starting 1st) at the Cambridge Blue Boat (starting immediately behind them).  Despite some illnesses and injuries, Leander have an impressive line-up which includes three members of the GB W8 (Fi Gammond, Karen Bennett & Holly Norton) along with senior internationals Rowan McKellar, Emily Carmichael and Hattie Taylor.

Starting in 3rd are Imperial College – this looks to be a formidable crew with three Rio Olympic medallists – Great Britain’s Dr Zoe Lee and Melanie Wilson from the silver medal W8 and Kiwi Rebecca Scown who took silver in the W2-. Starting 4th is the University of London, they also have an impressive line-up, with half of the GB U23 W8 that finished 6th last year (Alessandra French, Charlotte Hodgkins-Byrne, Georgia Statham & Isobel Powell) and U23 international Oonagh Cousins. Also in the crew are senior internationals Sara Parfett and Matilda Horn. A stronger line-up than that was well beaten by the Cambridge Blue Boat last month.

Starting in 5th are Molesey, with a crew that includes Irish international Claire McKeown and senior GB international Rebecca Girling. 6th are Oxford Brookes who lost narrowly to their neighbours Oxford University in a pre-Boat Race fixture last month. Staring 7th are the Cambridge reserves, Blondie, with Cambridge President Daphne Martschenko at 7 and senior German international, Anne Beenken at 5.Chasing Cambridge will be Edinburgh University who finished 2nd to UL at the recent BUCS Head of the River, their crew incudes U23 World Champion Lucy Glover. Starting no.9 is the first overseas crew, the juniors of CUS Milano of Italy, including junior internationals Laura Pagnoncelli, Nadine Agymang Heard (who turns 16 on Tuesday) and Vittoria Tonolli. Rounding out the top 10 are the Tideway Scullers School.


The men get their turn to race on Sunday. For the first time in a long time the men’s head actually has fewer entries than the women’s, 313 crews are slated to start the race on Sunday morning. Last year Oxford Brookes took the headship for the first time in the club’s history and they will be strong favourites to retain the title. They are coming off wins against both the Oxford and Cambridge Blue Boats (something they’ve never achieved before). The crew is being further strengthened with the addition of some of their GB squad members like Matt Tarrant (although he quipped that given how well Brookes have been going recently he would “try not to slow them down”).

Chasing Brookes will be Leander Club. Normally the Pink Palace would start as clear favourites for the Head as the GB squad members return for one of the few opportunities to race in their club colours. However illness and injuries have blighted their preparations and the originally posted crews are being changed significantly. Leander were already without the services of Olympic champions Pete Reed and Will Satch and at the time of writing no formal announcement has been made about who will be racing in Leander colours.

Starting in 3rd place will be Thames, they lost narrowly to Isis last weekend. Brookes’ strength in depth is demonstrated by the fact they have 4 crews starting in the top 20, the Brookes 2nd 8 (starting 4th) will be strengthened by guys from the 1st 8 stepping down to make way for the GB Squad guys, so another top 5 or even top 3 finish is not impossible. Molesey (starting 6th) can usually call upon their own big guns from the GB squad, no more so than Mo Sbihi, but it remains to be seen if he is included in the crew. This race always attracts a good entry from overseas, although the 20 foreign entries this year is significantly lower than in previous years. Pick of the foreign entries are Stuttgarter 1899 from Germany (starting 22nd) and CVK Praha of the Czech Republic (starting 41st).

The racing doesn’t stop at the end of the weekend though, on Monday it’s time for the juniors to race the Championship course at the Schools Head of the River.


Photo: Junior Rowing News

This has 356 8’s 4+’s and Quads racing from Mortlake to Putney. Junior Rowing News have done their usual comprehensive preview (they’re lads and lasses after my own heart!) So I won’t dwell too much on the entries, but among the boys 8’s it’ll be a major surprise is St Paul’s don’t take their first win since 2014. In the girls 8’s it’ll be another showdown between Headington and Henley – a rivalry that seems to have dominated junior girls rowing in this country for a number of years. In the boys quads Maidenhead look to be the form crew with Latymer Upper the ones to watch in the girls quads.

As if that wasn’t enough there’s yet more racing to be had on Tuesday with the “Oarsport Junior Sculling Head” otherwise known as “The Scullery”.


This takes a slightly different format to other Head races, held on the Olympic course at Eton Dorney, it is 2x 1800m time trials, with the winner being the crew to post the fastest combined time. Many of the crews racing at the schools Head are also racing at the Scullery (indeed there may even be a few hardy fools that are racing the senior 8’s head, the Schools Head and the Scullery!)

The fact that these four on-water events are running on consecutive days is due mainly to the foibles of the tides, but it’s a really interesting experiment and has created, albeit unintentionally, a festival of rowing to mark the end of winter training.

Now we just have to hope that the weather gods play nice!


The Boat Race – Women’s crews

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Cambridge on their way to victory in 2017 (photo AOL.co.uk)

Now onto the women’s crews.  So far this century, Cambridge have won just 4 races and last year was their first since the race moved to the Championship course. The Light Blue’s President, Daphne Martschenko has four Blues returning (three from last year’s crew and one from 2016). But, somewhat unusually the President herself isn’t in the crew. For the Dark Blues there is only one returning Blue and President Katherine Erickson is one of a number of rowers who learnt their craft at Oxford.





Tricia Smith

Name: Patricia Smith

Nationality: British

Age: 24

Height: 178cm

Weight: 70.3kg

A member of the winning Cambridge Lightweight crew in 2015, Smith makes the move up to the open-weight Blue Boat this season. She competed at the GB Trials last month, finishing 10th in the W2- with Emma Andrews.




Renee Koolschijn

Name: Renee Koolschijn

Nationality: Dutch

Age: 28

Height: 180cm

Weight: 73.4kg

A graduate of the University of Groningen and now reading for a DPhil in Biomedical Imaging, Koolschijn started rowing at Oxford and is the Kit Officer at Oriel College.

Verdict: Advantage Cambridge. Smith as good experience from the Lightweight race and has produced solid results in the GB trials.




Imogen Grant

Imogen Grant

Name: Imogen Grant

Nationality: British

Age: 22

Height: 168cm

Weight: 58.1kg

The lightest woman in the race (less than 3 kg heavier than the Cambridge Cox). Grant is a highly experienced Boat Race competitor. She raced in the Lightweight Boat Race in 2016 (losing by just a canvas) and then moved up to the Blue Boat in 2017, helping the Light Blues to their first victory since 2012.  She followed up her win in the Boat Race with her international debut for Great Britain, racing at the U23 World Championships finishing 5th in the BLW4X. She competed at the 1st GB Assessment taking an excellent 2nd place in the LW1X.




Oxford’s President, Katherine Erickson

Name: Katherine Erickson (President)

Nationality: American

Age: 28

Height: 175cm

Weight: 69.6kg

The Oxford President is a relative novice when it comes to rowing. Despite being an undergraduate at one of the top US rowing universities, Stanford, she only picked up an oar when she arrived at Oxford to read for her DPhil in History. But, she’s no stranger to top level sport, having represented the US in Eventing at U18 and U21 level. She was a trialist for the Lightweight boat before moving to the open-weight squad in 2016 and was a member of the losing Osiris crew.

Verdict: Advantage Cambridge. Despite giving away 10kg to her Dark Blue rival, Grant of Cambridge is a highly experienced Boat Race competitor and could well add to her international experience this year.





Kelsey Barolak

Name: Kelsey Barolak

Nationality: American

Age: 22

Height: 182cm

Weight: 78.5kg

A graduate of Harvard, Barolak rowed in the Varsity 8 during her Sophmore and Junior years winning gold at the EARC Sprints. She has trialed for the US U23 team and has now come up to Cambridge to read for an MPhil in Psychology & Education.




Juliette Perry

Name: Juliette Perry

Nationality: British

Age: 21

Height: 176.5cm

Weight: 73.4kg

Like her President, Perry didn’t start to row until she went up to Oxford to read Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Somerville. But, she’s made outstanding progress to go from complete novice to a seat in the Blue Boat in less than 2 years.


Verdict: Advantage Cambridge again. Whilst Perry is making great strides she loses out to the more experienced Barolak – who spent her career at Harvard in side-by-side match racing.





Thea Zabell

Name: Thea Zabell

Nationality: British

Age: 22

Height: 185cm

Weight: 77.5kg

A member of the losing 2016 (remembered for struggling to the finish despite almost completely swamped). She didn’t compete in the Boat Race in 2017 but did race at the GB trials and won a seat in the GB U23 W8 and went on to make the A Final at the U23 World Championships in Plovdiv.



Alice Roberts

Alice Roberts

Name: Alice Roberts

Nationality: British

Age: 19

Height: 169cm

Weight: 67kg

The only returning Blue in the Oxford Boat, Roberts is also the youngest member of the Dark Blue boat (and the youngest in the women’s race). An Oxford local, she was educated at Cheney School in the city and took up rowing when the school first introduced the sport in 2012.

Verdict: Advantage Cambridge. Both have losing Boat Race experience, but it’s more likely that Zabell will gain a winning Blue. She’s another talented athlete at the start of a promising international career.





Paula Wesselmann

Name: Paula Wesselmann

Nationality: German

Age: 24

Height: 176cm

Weight: 67.3kg

The German is a graduate of Clemson University in South Carolina. She rowed in the Varsity 8 throughout her 4 years at Clemson winning a bronze medal at the ACC Championships in her Freshman year. As a junior she won a number of medals at the German Championships and the Baltic Cup.




Morgan McGovern

Name: Morgan McGovern

Nationality: American

Age: 30

Height: 175cm

Weight: 72.1kg

At 30 years of age McGovern is the oldest athlete in the race. She’s also the only member of the Oxford boat with senior international experience, at the Rotterdam World Championships in 2016 she finished 5th in the LW4X. A graduate of Georgetown University she was also US National Champion in the LW1X in 2015 and won the LW2X at the Head of the Charles in the same year.

Verdict: Advantage to Oxford – McGovern’s international experience edges her ahead of the talented young German.





Alice White

Name: Alice White

Nationality: British

Age: 25

Height: 177cm

Weight: 75.9kg

The third returning Blue, White made her international debut for GB in 2015 winning a bronze medal in the W8 at the U23 World Championships. Born in New Zealand, she studied for her undergraduate degree at UCLA rowing in the Varsity 8 throughout her 4 year course. She was a member of the winning Cambridge 4+ at the Head of the River Fours in November. Now at Homerton College she is reading for a PhD in Clinical Neurosciences.




Sara Kushma

Name: Sara Kushma

Nationality: American

Age: 26

Height: 178cm

Weight: 73.5kg

The 3rd American in the Oxford boat, Kushma went to school at the American School in London before going back to the US for her undergraduate studies at Princeton. Whilst at Princeton she won gold in the Varsity IV at the EAWRC Championships and also took gold in the 2V at the Ivy Sprints.

Verdict: Another seat where Cambridge have the advantage. Not only is White a returning victorious Blue she’s also an athlete with a strong international pedigree.





Myriam Goudet-Boukhtami

Name: Myriam Goudet-Boukhtami

Nationality: French

Age: 29

Height: 183cm

Weight: 79.6kg

The fourth Blue returning for the Light Blues, Goudet-Boukhtami has tasted both victory and defeat having been a member of the 2016 and 2017 crews. Now set to win her third Blue, the Frenchwoman is an experienced international. She made her debut as a junior in 2005 and then her senior debut at the European Championships in 2009 – finishing 6th in the FRA W8. She raced at the Europeans again in 2010 and then was a member of the W4X that narrowly missed qualification for the London Olympics when finishing 3rd at the Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta. A graduate of University Paul Sabatier Toulouse III and Imperial College, London, she is now reading for a PhD in Plant Sciences at Lucy Cavendish College.




Abigail Killen

Name: Abigail Killen

Nationality: British

Age: 26

Height: 175cm

Weight: 70.4kg

Another athlete who learnt to row at Oxford, Killen was a member of the OUWBC development squad in 2016 and raced for the University in the Intermediate Academic 8’s at Henley Women’s Regatta, reaching the final before losing out narrowly to Newcastle University. Now studying for a DPhil in Physiology, Anatomy & Genetics, she’s been given the task of filling the all-important 7 seat.


Verdict: Another clear advantage to Cambridge. Goudet-Boukhtami is a seasoned International and Boat Race campaigner.





Olivia Coffey

Name: Olivia Coffey

Nationality: American

Age: 29

Height: 185cm

Weight: 76.6kg

The most decorated of all the athletes in both the women’s and men’s Blue Boats. Coffey is a two-time senior World Champion having won the W4- in 2013 and the W4X in 2015. She also has a senior world bronze from the W4X in 2014 and several World Cup medals. She made her international debut in 2009 and raced for the US U23 team from 2009-2011 winning gold, silver and bronze as a member of the W8. A graduate of Harvard, she raced in the Varsity 8 throughout her four years and in her Senior year stroked Harvard-Radcliffe to a first win in 8 years against in the Case Cup against Yale.




Beth Bridgman

Name: Beth Bridgman

Nationality: British

Age: 20

Height: 178cm

Weight: 67.8kg

Another product of the Oxford University Women’s Development squad, Bridgman raced for Osiris in 2017 going down to a 13 length defeat to Blondie. As a member of the OUWBC development squad she was a crewmate of Killen’s in the Intermediate W8 that made the final at Henley women’s Regatta in 2016.

Verdict: Cambridge clearly have the advantage in this seat. Coffey is an outstanding stroke and is highly experienced in match racing.





Sophie Shapter – “DaBoss”

Name: Sophie Shapter

Nationality: British

Age: 23

Height: 164cm

Weight: 55.3kg

Shapter learnt her craft at London Rowing Club where she earned the nickname of “DaBoss” and with whom she’s made a number of appearances at Henley royal Regatta. A native of Putney she will know the idiosyncrasies of the Championship Course better than most.




Jessica Buck

Name: Jessica Buck

Nationality: Australian

Age: 27

Height: 153cm

Weight: 53.5kg

Buck studied Biomedical Science at the University of Newcastle in her native Australia and is now embarked on a DPhil in oncology and is engaged in ground-breaking cancer research. She’s of Aboriginal descent (Kamilaroi nation) and is (I think) the first Aboriginal to compete in the Boat Race. She learned her coxing at Green Templeton College.

Verdict: with her extensive local knowledge this is a clear advantage to Cambridge.


On paper Cambridge have the advantage in all but one seat, and, so far the performances on the water have backed this up. Cambridge have produced some excellent results with wins at the Head of the River Fours, Quintin Head and a comprehensive victory over the University of London. But, Andy Nelder’s Oxford have begun to show form at just the right time with a good performance against Oxford Brookes last weekend. It’ll be really interesting to see Cambridge take on the same Brookes crew this weekend – that’ll give us the first real chance to compare the relative speeds of the two boats. But, Cambridge will be heading into the final weeks of preparation as the clear favourites. My instinct says that Cambridge will win and win comfortably.

CUWBC 2018.jpeg

The Cambridge Blue Boat

OUWBC 18.jpg

The Oxford Blue Boat (photo @OUWBCSquad)

The Men’s Boat Race Blue Boats


With less than 4 weeks to go until the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Races the formalities of the crew announcement took place today. So that means it’s time for me to have a close look at the various crews that will represent the two Universities in one of the oldest annual sporting contest in the world and do a seat-by-seat comparison.

First of all the men’s crews.





Patrick Elwood (photo: Theboatrace.org)

Name: Patrick Elwood

Nationality: British

Age: 23

Height: 192cm

Weight: 85.3kg

Elwood learnt his rowing at Broxbourne Rowing Club in Essex. Reading for a PhD in Astrophysics he was a member of the losing Goldie crews in 2016 and 2017. Now he finally wins a seat in the Blue Boat and will be looking for his first victory over the Championship course.




Oxford’s President, Iain Mandale

Name: Iain Mandale (President)

Nationality: British

Age: 25

Height: 182cm

Weight: 75.1kg

The Oxford President already has three race wins to his credit racing for Isis in 2013-15. Now reading for an MBA he is set to win his first Blue.  He learnt his rowing at Kingston Grammar School and rowed for Great Britain at the U23 World Championships winning a silver medal in the BLM4- in 2014.

Verdict: a narrow advantage to Oxford, two members of the reserves now stepping up to the Blue Boat. Mandale has the edge with his three reserve wins and his international experience




Charles Fisher 3 CUBC

Charlie Fisher

Name: Charlie Fisher

Nationality: British

Age: 23

Height: 198cm

Weight: 90.7kg

A member of the winning 2016 Cambridge crew, Fisher missed out on a Blue last season and raced in the losing Goldie crew. He learnt to row at Kings’ College Wimbledon and represented Great Britain at the Coupe De La Jeunesse in 2012 winning a gold medal in the JM8.




Felix Drinkall

Name: Felix Drinkall

Nationality: British

Age: 18

Height: 196cm

Weight: 83.8kg

The youngest man in the race, and the only undergraduate in the Dark Blue boat, Drinkall is an outstanding young oarsman. The old-Etonian won a bronze medal at the junior world championships in 2016 in the JM8 and followed that up with a gold in the JM4- in 2017. At the first GB trial in November he and partner Tobias Schroeder took the overall win in the 5K time trial (14 seconds ahead of the fastest Cambridge pair).

Verdict: Fisher has greater experience of the Boat Race, which can be crucial in a tight race, but Drinkall is an outstanding young oarsman. I reckon this is even.





Dara Alizadeh

Name: Dara Alizadeh

Nationality: American

Age: 24

Height: 192cm

Weight: 90.1kg

A graduate of Penn University, Alizadeh learnt to row at Belmont Hill School in Massachusetts. In 2015 he made his international debut racing for the USA in the M8 at the U23 World Championships coming away with a silver medal. He spent the 2017 season coaching and teaching Economics at Winchester College.




William Cahill

Name: William Cahill

Nationality: South African

Age: 25

Height: 183cm

Weight: 84.3kg

Cahill raced in the victorious Isis crew in 2017 and is a graduate of the University of Cape Town. He has international representative honours having raced for South Africa at the World University Games.

Verdict: A narrow advantage to Cambridge. Cahill of Oxford has the advantage of having raced over the Championship course last year as a reserve, but Alizadeh’s greater international experience just gives him the edge.





James Letten

Name: James Letten

Nationality: American

Age: 24

Height: 208cm

Weight: 106.5kg

The heaviest man in this year’s race and also the tallest man ever to row in the Boat Race, Letten is set to win his 2nd Blue having been a member of the losing Cambridge crew last year. The University of Wisconsin graduate represented the USA at the World University Games in 2013 sitting in the 5 seat of the M8 that finished 6th.




Anders Weiss 

Name: Anders Weiss

Nationality: American

Age: 25

Height: 195.5cm

Weight: 91.5kg

The most experienced man in the Oxford boat in terms of international experience, Weiss raced for the USA at the 2013 U23 World Championships winning a silver medal in the M8. He made his senior international debut at the Rio Olympic Games where he partnered Nareg Guregian to an 11th place finish in the M2-. He raced the same event at the Sarasota World Championships last season, this time partnered by Michael Colella, again taking 11th place. A “Walk-On” at Brown University he helped them to a strong 3rd place at the IRA Championships.

Verdict: In this battle of the Americans its advantage to the Dark Blues. Letten has the advantage of a Boat Race campaign already under his belt, but Weiss is a seasoned international which gives him the edge.





Spencer Furey

Name: Spencer Furey

Nationality: American

Age: 24

Height: 193cm

Weight: 89.6kg

The 3rd American in the Cambridge boat, Furey is a graduate of Dartmouth College, New Hampshire. Whilst at the “Big Green” he stroked the Varsity 8 that finished 9th at the IRA Championships last year. Dartmouth also made the trip to Henley Royal Regatta last season to race in the Ladies Plate narrowly losing to the German U23’s from Bayer Leverkusen in the first round.




Will Geffen

Name: Will Geffen

Nationality: British

Age: 22

Height: 186cm

Weight: 87.2kg

Geffen is one of three returning Dark Blues, although he won his Blue as part of the outstanding Oxford boat of 2015. He also has a winning appearance with Isis in 2016. He learnt to row at Eton and in 2013 he raced for GB at the Junior World Championships finishing 6th in the JM4+.


Verdict: I’m going to call this as evens, Furey has the experience of  match racing from his days at Dartmouth, but Geffen already has one Boat Race win to his credit and knows what it takes to win.





Finn Meeks

Name: Finn Meeks

Nationality: American

Age: 23

Height: 191cm

Weight: 87.3kg

The fourth member of the All-American engine-room of the Cambridge boat, Meeks was a crewmate of Alizadeh’s in the US U23 M8 that won silver in 2015. He was also a crewmate of Anders Weiss whilst at Brown. He sat in the bow seat of the Varsity eight in the 2014-15 season with Weiss in 5 seat that finished 4th at the IRA’s. He then went on to stroke the Brown varsity crew in 2016 and 2017 that made the IRA Grand Finals and last year raced in the Ladies Plate at Henley losing to the GB U23 crew (racing as Molesey & London) in the semi-finals.




Josh Bugajski

Name: Josh Bugajski

Nationality: British

Age: 27

Height: 194cm

Weight: 100.5kg

The heaviest man in the Oxford boat, and the 2nd of 3 returning Blues. Bugajski is set to win his 3rd Blue and has one win and one loss to his name.  He made his international debut for Great Britain at the U23 World Championships in 2012 finishing 11th in the BM4X. He’s competed at the recent GB Trials this season finishing 3rd in the M1X in the 1st Assessment, 9th in the M2- at the 2nd Trials and 7th at the 3rd Trials (partnering Matt Tarrant). He also rowed with Oxford Brookes at Henley last season winning the Ladies Plate. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Bugajski make his (long overdue) senior debut between now and the Tokyo Olympics.

Verdict: another really close battle with two outstanding oarsmen. But, with 2 Blues to his name the advantage is (just) with the Dark Blues.





Rob Hurn

Name: Rob Hurn

Nationality: British

Age: 23

Height: 194cm

Weight: 86.5kg

Hurn started his rowing career in Australia and represented that nation at the Junior World Championships in 2012 and 2013. He attended Yale University reading Physics and was a member of the outstanding Varsity crew that won the Harvard-Yale race in 2015 and the Head of the Charles and the Ladies Plate at Henley in 2016. He made his debut for Great Britain in 2016 winning silver in the U23 M8 and another silver in the U23 M4- last year. He’s raced at the first 2 GB Senior Trials this season finishing 3rd in the M2- at the 2nd Assessment with fellow Yale oarsman Sholto Carnegie. He’s another oarsman who could well make his senior international debut during this Olympiad.




Claas Georrg Mertens

Name: Claas Georg Mertens

Nationality: German

Age: 26

Height: 180cm

Weight: 73.9kg

The smallest and lightest rower in the race (he’s actually 2cm shorter than the Dark Blue’s cox), the German made his international debut in 2012 with a bronze medal in the U23 LM4X. He followed this up by making his senior debut the same year with a 5th place in the LM4X. After finishing 12th in the BLM1X in 2013 he switched to sweep finishing 4th in the BLM4- and then won senior World Championship gold in the last ever LM8 race.

Verdict: yet another close thing. Hurn has age-group World Championship medals and was an integral part of the outstanding Yale Varsity boat. Mertens is a senior World Champion and has the tenacity and fight of an outstanding lightweight. I’m going to say Cambridge just have the edge.




Freddie Davidson


Name: Freddie Davidson

Nationality: British

Age: 19

Height: 189cm

Weight: 82.6kg

The youngest man in the Cambridge boat and Coach Steve Trapmore has entrusted him with the crucial stroke seat. Davidson is no stranger to the Boat Race having won a Blue in the 2 seat of the 2017 crew. He’s no stranger to the Tideway having learnt to row at St Pauls’ School. He’s one of the most outstanding young oarsmen in the country having made his international debut stroking the GB JM8 in 2015 and then winning a silver in the JM4- in 2016. In 2017 he stepped up to the British U23 team finishing 6th in the BM2-




Vassilis Ragoussis

Name: Vassilis Ragoussis

Nationality: British

Age: 24

Height: 193cm

Weight: 88.2kg

The 3rd returning Blue, Ragoussis retains the seat he occupied for last year’s race. The former Abingdon School pupil studied for his undergraduate degree at Boston University in the USA. Whilst at Abingdon he won the Princess Elizabeth at Henley in 2011 and then the Thames Challenge Cup with the Abingdon alumni crew, Griffen, in 2013. Whilst at Boston he raced in the Varsity 8 in several match races including wins against Wisconsin, Dartmouth and Northeastern. At the 3rd GB Trials this season he partnered three-time Olympic champion, Pete Reed, finishing 14th.

Verdict: Ragoussis finished 9 places ahead of Davidson at the recent British trials and I think he will have the edge over his younger rival. The Oxford man also has experience of stroking a winning Blue Boat which could be crucial.





Cambridge President Hugo Ramambason

Name: Hugo Ramambason (President)

Nationality: British

Age: 21

Height: 175cm

Weight: 55.3kg

This year’s President, Ramambason steered the Goldie crew in 2015 and 2016 and then stepped up to the Blue Boat in 2017. He’s yet to taste victory over the Championship course, but, along with Chief Coach Steve Trapmore, has constructed an excellent crew with a huge amount of potential, and one that could just deliver that first win.




Zachary Thomas Johnson

Name: Zachary Thomas Johnson

Nationality: British

Age: 21

Height: 182cm

Weight: 54.7kg

Captain of Coxes at Lady Margaret Hall, Thomas Johnson, reading Musicology, beat off Anna Carbery (cox of the Pembroke 1st 8) to secure the Blue Boat seat.


Verdict: A clear advantage to the Light Blues, with Ramambason already having significant Boat Race experience.


So, that’s the men’s crew. I’ve picked Oxford ahead in 4 seats with Cambridge ahead in 3 and 2 evens. By that reckoning the Dark Blues should have the edge, but, as a unit Cambridge look to be the stronger. Oxford’s defeat to their neighbours, Oxford Brookes, will not have done Coach Sean Bowden any favours. Cambridge take on Brookes this weekend and that will give a “proper” comparative assessment.  So, despite picking the Dark Blues just ahead in a seat-by-seat comparison, I’m going to go for a Light Blue victory. But, I think it could be very close, possibly one of the closest for many years.

Oxford 2018.jpgCambridge 2018.jpg


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


Following the look at the Women’s Boat Race squads it’s now time to look at the men’s squads.

Whilst the 2018 Women’s squads are quite diverse in their relative levels of experience, the men’s squads look much closer. It was first blood to Steve Trapmore’s men at the Head of the River Fours when his Light Blues captured both the Band 1 and Band 2 coxed four’s pennants. The top Cambridge boat finished 13 seconds ahead of their Dark Blue rivals, but more importantly for Trapmore is that his crews also placed 3rd and 4th with the next Oxford boat finishing 6th. All was not doom and gloom for Bowden though, as his top coxless four finished 2nd behind Leander and 26 seconds ahead of their Cambridge opponents. So, who is in the mix for the Blue Boat in March?



This year’s President is Hugo Ramambason, cox of the 2017 Blue Boat – he and Coach Steve Trapmore have an impressive line-up from which to build a crew, although this is the first crew since 2000 not to contain an athlete with senior international experience.


This year’s Cambridge President, Hugo Ramambason

Some facts and figures:

Returning Blues: 4

Average age: 22

Nationalities: 4 (19 Brits, 6 Americans, 2 Dutch, 1 Italian)

Internationals: 4 (all at U23 level)

Despite not having any senior internationals, this year’s Cambridge squad has a number of very talented U23’s. One of the pick of these is Robert Hurn. Australian born Hurn was an undergraduate at Yale and rowed in their Varsity 8 throughout his four years, including wins in the Harvard v Yale race, the Eastern Sprints and the Ladies Plate at Henley. He raced for Great Britain at the 2016 and 2017 U23 World Championships winning a silver medal both times.


Robert Hurn

Another medal winning U23 is Dara Alizadeh from the USA.  He rowed for Penn University and spent the 2017 season coaching at Winchester College in the UK (interestingly, one of his top charges, Tobias Schroeder, is a member of the Oxford squad – it’ll be fascinating to see if he lines up against one of his former coaches in March, not sure if that’s ever happened before). In 2015 Alizadeh was selected for the US U23 M8 and won silver behind the Germans.

A crewmate of Alizadeh’s from the 2015 US U23 M8 is Finn Meeks. He studied at Brown University and rowed in their Varsity 8 in 2015, 2016 and 2017 reaching the Grand Final of the IRA Championships each year. He also raced for Brown in the Ladies Plate at Henley this year losing to Molesey/London in the semi-finals.

The 4th U23 international in the Cambridge squad is Great Britain’s Freddie Davidson, he finished 6th in the U23 M2- at this year’s World Championships. He is aiming to win his 2nd Blue having rowed in the 2 seat of the 2017 crew. He’s also got a World Junior silver medal to his name and was a part of the outstanding St Pauls School crew that reached the final of the Princess Elizabeth at Henley in 2016. At the 2017 November GB trials he Hurn finished 4th, the fastest Goldie pair…but 14 seconds behind the winning pair from Oxford.

Another returning Blue is James Letten. He is a graduate of Wisconsin University having transferred from Villanova to pursue his rowing. He spent most of his time at Wisconsin in the 2nd Varsity 8 that finished 5th at the IRA’s in 2016. He’s got an impressive record on the erg having won the Crash-B’s in 2016 with a time of 5:49. He’s also the 19-29 year old world record holder for the 10K (31:43.1).


James Letten

The 4th returning Blue is Charlie Fisher from Kings College School, Wimbledon– he raced in the winning 2016 crew and is this year’s Vice President.

As well as four returning Blues, Trapmore has four Goldie oarsmen, three of whom have raced in the reserves for two consecutive years. Patrick Elwood, from Broxbourne Rowing Club, was in both the 2016 and 2017 Goldie boats and is hoping it’ll be third time lucky to win a seat in the Blue Boat. The 2nd Goldie oarsman is Peter Rees who, like Elwood, was in the 2016 and 2017 Goldie boat will be hoping this year to win his Blue. The third returning Goldie oarsman is Piers Kasas who raced in the 2015 and 2016 reserve races. The final Goldie oarsman is Tom Strudwick who was in the 2017 Goldie boat. He was selected to race for Great Britain at the inaugural U23 European Championships this season coming away with a silver medal.

A strong contender for a seat in the Blue Boat is American Spencer Furey. The 23 year old is a graduate of Dartmouth College where he stroked the Varsity 8 which finished in the petitie final at the IRA’s and raced in the Ladies Plate at Henley. He sat in the 2 seat of the top Cambridge 4+ which won the Head of the River Fours (along with Finn Meeks, Rob Hurn and Freddie Davidson).

Another good contender for the Blue Boat is Dave Bell, the oldest man in either the Oxford or Cambridge Men’s squads. He’s a familiar name on the domestic rowing circuit and a member of Molesey Boat Club. He raced in the Diamond Challenge Sculls at Henley in 2014 and finished 4th in the February 2016 National Trials in the M1X and won the championship M1x at the Metropolitan Regatta and then the Champ 4X at Marlow Regatta. At the 2017 November GB trials he raced in a pair with club-mate Peter Rees finishing 21st (the 4th fastest Goldie pair).

Dave Bell

Dave Bell of Molesey Boat Club – the oldest man in the Cambridge Squad.

Other newcomer to the squad is 6ft 7in Gerard Kuenning. He’s a Yale graduate and raced in the Bulldogs 2nd Varsity 8 that finished 5th at the Eastern Sprints.

Another athlete to watch is Riccardo Conti, the Italian was a member of the victorious Eton College crew that won the Princess Elizabeth at Henley in 2014 and competed for his college, Clare in the Temple Challenge Cup in 2016 and then the Thames Challenge Cup with Cantabrigian in 2017.

As mentioned above, Cambridge had an excellent day at the Head of the River Fours with their top boat of Spencer Furey, Bob Hurn, Finn Meeks and Freddie Davidson were the fastest coxed four with Tim Nugent, Sam Ringer, Jonty Page and Riccardo Conti winning Band 2 coxed fours. The 2nd and 3rd Band 1 coxed fours also did well finishing 3rd and 4th.

In the Trial 8’s this week Trapmore selected the following crews:

“Goons”                                                                               “Goblins”

Bow: Dave Bell                                                                  Robbie Harris

2: Peter Rees                                                                     Piers Kasas

3: Callum Sullivan                                                             Thomas Strudwick

4: Reggie Mitchell                                                            Gerard Kuenning

5: James Letten                                                                Charlie Fisher

6: Dara Alizadeh                                                                Patrick Elwood

7: Spencer Furey                                                              Rob Hurn

Stroke: Freddie Davidson                                             Finn Meeks

Cox: Hugh Spaughton                                                    Hugo Ramambason

The race was an absolute classic Trial 8’s contest, with the lead changing hands several times during the race with “Goblins” emerging as winners by just ½ length.

CUBC Trial 8 2017.jpg

The Cambridge Trial 8’s – Goblins on Middlesex (closest) and Goons on Surrey. Photo: TheBoatRaces.org



Returning Blues: 3

Average age: 22

Nationalities: 6 (18 Brits, 2 Americans, 2 Germans, 1 South African, 1 Italian)

Internationals: 4

This year’s President, Iain Mandale, has the most Boat Race experience of either squad, but is still yet to win a Blue. Instead he has 3 winning appearances for Isis in 2013 – 15. He made his international debut in 2014 winning a silver medal in the BLM4- at the U23 World Championships.

A portrait of of Oxford at Fleming Boarhouse on October 19, 2013

This year’s Oxford President – Iain Mandale

Mandale has three of the 2017 crew to call on, one of the strongest is Josh Bugajski who was also in the 2016 Blue Boat (and a stint in Isis in 2015). He learnt to row at Cardiff University and made his one and only international appearance in the U23 M4X in 2012. He’s been a regular trialist for Great Britain and at the GB trials last month he set the fastest 2K ergo of 5:45.5 and then took 3rd in the M1X time trial. It’s surely only a matter of time before Bugajski makes the senior GB team.

The 2nd returning Blue is the stroke of the 2017 Oxford Blue Boat, Vass Ragoussis. The former Abingdon school pupil took his undergraduate degree at Boston University where he rowed in the Varsity 8 that made the Grand Final at the IRA Championships in 2016.

The final returning Blue is old Etonian Will Geffen. He won his Blue in 2015 and then rowed for Isis in 2016.


Will Geffen – a member of the 2015 Blue Boat

As well as three returning Blues, Mandale has four more oarsmen with experience of racing for Isis. Benedict Aldous is another old Etonian, he has a junior World Championship medal to his name and was a member of the victorious Isis crew this year. He made headlines for the wrong reasons earlier this year when he was pictured at a fancy dress party dressed as a member of the Klu Klux Klan. – queue much outrage in the Daily Mail!  The 2nd Isis oarsman in William Cahill. The South African learnt to row at St Andrew’s College, Grahamstown and represented South Africa at the World University Games.

The next Isis oarsman is Germany’s Claas Georg Mertens. He stroked the 2017 Isis crew. It’s not often a World Champion appears in an Isis crew, but Mertens has a gold medal from the LM8 in 2015 ( and will remain the reigning LM8 World Champion as the event has now been dropped from the programme).

The 4th Isis oarsman is Tom Commins from the Royal Grammar School High Wycombe. He was stroke of the winning 2016 Isis crew.

The pick of the newcomers to this year’s squad is US Olympian Anders Weiss. He raced the M2- in Rio finishing 11th. He also raced the M2- at this year’s World Championships again finishing 11th. He’s a graduate of Brown University with whom he won two IRA medals. He’ll be expected to be a major part of the Oxford challenge for the 2018 race.


US Olympian – Anders Weiss

Another talented newcomer is Chris Wales. The Harvard graduate raced for the USA at the U23 World Championships in 2014 finishing 11th in the BLM2X. Whilst at Harvard he won a medal in the lightweight 4 at the IRA Championships.

Coach Sean Bowden also has two highly talented freshmen in his squad. Felix Drinkall of Eton and Tobias Schroeder of Winchester raced together as a M2- at the GB Trials last month taking 1st overall (14 seconds ahead of the nearest Goldie pair). Drinkall won gold in the JM4- at the Junior World Championships this year and Schroeder (the youngest athlete in either squad) took bronze in the JM8.


Tobias Schroeder

Schroeder is one of three Winchester College pupils in the Oxford squad, all of whom have raced in the Great Britain junior team. Luke Robinson was a crew mate of Schroeder’s in the JM8 in 2017 and Alexander Wythe raced in the JM2- in 2016.

The final athlete to mention is the sole Australian in the squad, Josh Combs. The 27 year old is a graduate of Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia. He’s renowned as an awesome ergo monster and is the reigning World Record holder for the 5K Dynamic Erg for the 19-29 year old age group.

Sean Bowden has selected the following crews for the trial 8’s on Wednesday 6th December:

“Stable”                                                               “Strong”

Bow: Jonathan Olandi                                    Luke Robinson

2: Charles Buchanan                                       Angus Forbes

3: Will Cahill                                                     Nicholas Elkington

4: Alexander Wythe                                        Benedict Aldous

5: William Geffen                                             Tobias Shcroeder

6: Anders Weiss                                                Josh Bugajski

7: Iain Mandale                                                 Claas Mertens

Stroke: Vass Ragoussis                                  Felix Drinkall

Cox: Zachary Thomas Johnson                   Anna Carbery


So those are the squads. Neither look to be significantly ahead of the other. Cambridge gained the early season bragging rights at the Head of the River Fours, but Oxford produced some excellent results at the GB Trials. Oxford have the greater international experience with the likes of Weiss and Bugajksi, but Cambridge have some outstanding U23 international oarsmen in their squad. It really is too close to call as to who will take the win in March and it’s going to be really interesting to see how the crews develop in the next few months.


A few thoughts on the Oxford and Cambridge Women’s Boat Race squads


I’ve finally found time to put “pen to paper” with some thoughts about the relative strengths of the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race squads. They’ve made their first public appearances at the Head of the River Fours and, for the Brits at any rate, the GB Trials.  First off it’s the women’s squads.



Cambridge won their first race since the event returned to the Tideway this year following two heavy defeats in 2015 and 2016. To be fair to those Cambridge crews their opponents from Oxford in 2015 were truly outstanding and in 2016 Cambridge struggled in the rough water and all but sank. But, in 2017 it was the Light Blues who had the stronger squad and they delivered a crushing 11 length victory and set a new course record. So, what does this year’s squad look like?

A few facts and figures…

Returning Blues: 3

Average age: 22.8

Nationalities: 4 (19 Brits, 7 Americans, 1 Irish, 1 German)

Internationals: 5


Cambridge Coach Rob Baker

Coach Rob Baker and President Daphne Martschenko have an exciting group of athletes to work with. Martschenko is one of the two returning Blues and will be racing in her 3rd Boat Race. She suffered the ignominy of the crushing defeats of 2015 and 2016 but didn’t race in 2017. She’ll be looking to end her Cambridge career with a win. The 25 year old PhD student was a member of the US U23 W4X in 2012 and 2014 with a best result of 6th in 2012.


Cambridge President Daphne Martschenko

The standout name in this year’s Cambridge team is Olivia Coffey from the USA. She’s the only athlete in any of the University squads (men’s and women’s) to have won a senior World Championships gold medal having won the W4- title in 2013 and the W4X gold in 2015. The Harvard graduate has an outstanding record at world Championship level having made the podium each time she raced at either the U23 or Senior World Championships. She will surely be the first name on the team sheet.

Imogen Grant of Great Britain has a half-Blue from the Lightweight Boat Race and a full Blue from the Heavyweight Boat Races (losing as a lightweight in 2016 and then winning as a heavyweight in 2017). She made her international debut in 2017 as part of the GB U23 LW4X finishing 5th.

Another returning Blue is Alice White. She won a Junior World Championships bronze medal for New Zealand in 2011 before moving to the UK. She made her debut for the Great Britain team at the 2015 U23 World Championships taking a bronze medal.

One of the newcomers to the squad has one of the most famous names in Collegiate rowing – Abigail (known as Abba) Parker – daughter of the late, great Harry Parker the legendary Head Coach at Harvard. Abba attended Harvard and was a key member of the Radcliffe Varsity 8 winning gold at the Eastern Sprints.

abba parker.jpg

Abigail “Abba” Parker

Another athlete with a well-known rowing name is Eve Caroe – niece of RowPerfect’s Rebecca Caroe. Eve is no stranger to rowing in Cambridge having learnt her rowing at the town club Cantabrigian.

The 5th member of the squad with international experience is Olivia Jamrog from the USA. The Michigan graduate raced for the USA at the U23 World Championships in 2015 finishing 8th in the BLW4X.

Another Harvard graduate is Kelsey Barolak, she was a crew mate of Parker’s and was in the boat that won the Eastern sprints in 2015 and 2016 and was a trialist for the US U23 team.

The sole German in the squad is Paula Wesselmann. As a junior she won a number of medals at the German Championships and after school studied at Clemson University in the USA, racing in the Varsity 8 throughout her 4 year stay.


Clemson University graduate Paula Wesselmann

There are two returners from the 2017 Blondie crew, Lucy Pike and Rachel Elwood. They raced together as a W2- at the 2016 GB Trials winning the 1st Assessment.

At the Head of the River Fours Cambridge entered 6 crews, with the top W4+ of Martschenko, White, Coffey and Barolak taking the win 23 seconds ahead of their nearest Dark Blue rivals.


The winning Cambridge boat at the Head of the River Fours (from stroke: Olivia Coffey, Kelsey Barolak, Alice White, Dapne Martschenko, Sophie Shapter)




Returning Blues: 3

Average age: 24.5

Nationalities: 6 (13 Brits, 5 Americans, 1 Australian, 1 New Zealander, 1 Finn, 1 Netherlander)

Internationals: 2


Oxford Coach Andy Nelder

Like his Light Blue counterpart, Oxford’s Coach Andy Nelder has 3 returning Blues – Jennifer Herbert, Alice Roberts and cox Eleanor Shearer. This year’s President, Katherine Erickson is a Stanford graduate but didn’t learn to row until she came to Oxford to read for a DPhil in History. In 2017’s race she competed for the Oxford reserves, Osiris going down to their Light Blue rivals by 13 lengths.


Oxford President Katherine Erickson

Jennifer Herbert was a member of the Penn University Varsity crew and raced for the United States at the U23 World Championships in 2013. In the 2017 Boat Race she stroked the Oxford Blue Boat to a disappointing 11 length defeat.

The 2nd returning Blue is Alice Roberts.  She was the youngest member of the Blue Boat in the 2017 race and is, once again, the youngest member of the squad for the 2018 race. She’s an Oxford local having attended Cheney School in the city and took up rowing when the school introduced the sport in 2012 under the guidance of former world champion Peter Haining.

Alice Roberts

Returning Blue Alice Roberts, the youngest member of the Oxford squad

The 3rd returning Blue is the cox of the 2017 race Eleanor Shearer, the former Westminster School pupil will be wanting to erase the memories of the 11 length defeat she and her crew suffered in the 2017 race.

There is another rowing half-Blue in the squad, Rachel Anderson. She was a member of the losing Oxford Lightweight Boat in 2017

The pick of the newbies at Oxford is American Morgan McGovern. The 30 year old Georgetown graduate raced for the USA at the 2016 World Championships finishing 5th in the LW4X. At the 2015 USA Championships she came away with gold medals in the LW1X, LW2X and LW4X.


Senior American international  Morgan McGovern

Another strong contender for a seat in the Blue Boat is American Maddy Goss. The Texas University graduate stroked the 2nd Varsity 4+ to victory at the 2017 Big 12 Championships.

Sara Kushma from New York is a Princeton graduate and whilst a Tiger she rowed in the 2nd Varsity 8 and also won gold in the Varsity 4+ at the EAWRC Championships.


Princeton graduate Sara Kushma

There is one member of last year’s reserves, Osiris, trying for a seat in the Blue Boat, Beth Bridgeman. She performed well to be selected for Osiris in 2017 having only started rowing when she went up to St Hughes College. She’ll be hoping to use that experience to go one better in 2018 and gain a full Blue.

A newcomer with significant Tideway experience is Olivia Ambler. She learnt to row at Godolphin & Latymer School and then joined The Tideway Scullers School. As a member of the TSS she rowed for England at the Home International Regatta in 2016. She also raced for The Tideway Scullers at Henley Women’s Regatta last year winning the Intermediate Eights.

The oldest member of the squad is Sarah Payne Riches from New Zealand, she’s no stranger to the Tideway having completed a Masters degree at Imperial College. If she makes the Blue Boat she will become the oldest Blue in the history of the Boat Race.


So, on paper Cambridge look to have a much stronger squad with a double senior World Champion and four U23 Internationals against Oxford’s 1 lightweight international and 1 U23 international. Oxford also have a significant number of athletes in the squad who hadn’t rowed before going up. At the Head of the River Fours Oxford only entered 2 boats but they were both outgunned by Cambridge finishing over 1 minute behind the leading Light Blue Boat. Based on the strength in depth and experience of the Cambridge squad I have to pick them as the favourites – but there’s still a long way to go before the race starts at 4:31pm on Saturday 24th March.

Fuller’s Head of the River Fours



Leander Club emphasised their dominance at the Fuller’s Head of the River Fours today by winning four of the six Open event pennants and finishing with 5 crews in the top 10 placings overall. Favourites for the win were the Leander quad of Nick Middleton, Tom Barras, John Collins and Angus Groom and they duly finished the fastest of the Band 1 Men’s Quads. However it was the Leander Club U23 crew of Rowan Law, Jonny Jackson, Harry Leask and Andrew Joel who were fastest overall, finishing 6 seconds ahead of their senior teammates. 3rd overall were Oxford Brookes University 5 seconds further back.  In the Women’s quads the top Leander Club boat of Vicky Thornley, Kat Copeland, Beth Bryan & Holly Nixon won comfortably by over 20 seconds despite breaking a blade on the way to the start and having to stop to borrow a set. Leander Club also took the wins in the Men’s and Women’s coxless fours and the Women’s U23 Quads.

In the first public showdown between the Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Race squads, it was the Light Blues of Cambridge who had the edge. The top Cambridge M4+ of Thomas Meeks, Spencer Furey, Rob Hurn, Freddie Davidson and cox Hugo Ramambason took the win in Band 1 Coxed 4’s, finishing 6th overall and defeating their Dark Blue rivals by 13 seconds. Worryingly for Oxford the Light Blue’s coxed four finished 1 second ahead of their top coxless four. Cambridge (racing as Goldie) also won the Band 2 Coxed 4’s. in the women’s events Cambridge also had the edge with their top 4+ of Kelsey Barolak, Alice White, Daphne Martschenko, Olivia Coffey and cox Sophie Shapter finishing 22 seconds ahead of the nearest Oxford boat.

In the junior events St Paul’s School won the JM4+ for the 5th year in a row, and their win in the JM4X made them the first school to win both junior men’s events. In the women’s junior events, Henley Rowing Club also won both the JW4+ and JW4X, their 3rd double victory in a row.

The bright and breezy conditions did cause difficulties for some crews, especially around Chiswick Steps as the strong cross-wind blew crews over to Surrey, resulting in a number of crews hitting a marker buoy. Worst affected were Eton College who collided with a marshal’s launch puncturing a hole in the boat.

Putney based Imperial College and Thames Rowing Club also had successful days with two wins apiece, Imperial taking the Band 2 W4x and W4- and Thames the equivalent men’s events. The University of Bristol also took two pennants with victories in the Band 3 M4+ and Band 2 W4+.

All the winners will be invited to the prize-giving to be held at Fuller’s Brewery on the 11th January 2018.


4's head.jpg

The World Championships preview part 7: The Para-Rowing events



Now for the final part of the preview…the para-rowing events.

The classifications have changed since Rio so perhaps need a little explaining.

PR3  (Formerly LTA)
Physical Impairment, Visual Impairment and Intellectual Disability (ID). This sport class is for rowers who have the use of their legs, trunk and arms, who can utilize the sliding seat. Note that ID is not an eligible impairment for FISA events.

Examples of PR3 impairments include (but are not limited to):

Limb loss, at least full loss of three fingers on one hand, or at least a tarsal metatarsal amputation of the foot

  • Loss of muscle strength e.g. equivalent to incomplete spinal cord injury at S1
  • Minimal ataxia, athetosis, hypertonia. E.g. Cerebral Palsy, brain injury, stroke or MS, usually affecting only one limb

PR2 (Formerly TA)
Physical Impairment. This sport class is for rowers who have trunk and arm movement, who are unable to use their legs to propel the sliding seat.

Examples of PR2 impairments include (but are not limited to):

  • Limb loss equivalent to a double around the knee amputation
  • Significant muscle strength loss in both legs equivalent to complete spinal cord injury at L3 level or incomplete lesion at L1
  • Ataxia, athetosis or hypertonia from CP, brain injury or stroke which affects both legs or one side of the body
  • Significant permanently decreased range of motion in one or both knees

PR1 (Formerly AS)
Physical Impairment. This sport class is for athletes who row predominately with their arms and shoulders. Athletes use strapping around their mid section to provide support and stability in the boat.

Examples of PR1 impairments include (but are not limited to):

  • Ataxia, athetosis or hypertonia from CP, brain injury or stroke who use a wheelchair, with both legs and the trunk involved
  • Loss of muscle strength equivalent to complete spinal cord injury at T12 level”



It’s also worth commenting that this year all the Para-Rowing classes are racing over the full 2000m. It’s a massive feat of strength and endurance, especially for the PR1 events, for the athletes racing the full 2K with just their upper bodies.

Right..so now that’s understood onto the events.



9 scullers

China, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Norway, South Africa, USA

China’s Lili Wang won silver at the Rio Paralympic Games. She’s not raced so far this season but comes into Sarasota as the athlete with one of the strongest pedigrees.

The favourite for the event may well be Israel’s Moran Samuel. She was 5th at the London Olympics and was World Champion in 2015 and bronze medallist at the Rio Games. She didn’t race at the Poznan World Cup (the only World Cup which fielded para-rowing events) but did race at the Gavirate Adaptive Rowing Regatta where she won gold.

Runner-up to Moran in Gavirate was Norway’s Birgit Skarstein. She was World Champion in 2015 and just missed out on the medals in Rio. She dominated a small 3 boat field in Poznan winning by 45 seconds.

Nor PR1Ww1X

Norway’s Birgit Skarstein

48 year old Sylvia Pille-Steppart from Germany won bronze in Gavirate and followed this up with silver at the Poznan World Cup was runner-her first international medal.

Italy’s Anita Hoxha finished in the bronze medal position in the three boat final at the Poznan Regatta and was 5th in Gavirate.

Also keep an eye out for the USA’s Hallie Smith from Washington D.C. She’s making her international debut after securing her spot on the team with victory at the US Trials. The US always produce strong para-rowing athletes and Smith could well be the dark horse of the event.

Wang PRW1X.jpg

Lili Wang of China. Photo: World Rowing

My picks…China in gold with Norway in silver and Israel just holding off the US for the bronze.



17 scullers

Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, China, France, Great Britain, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, Mexico, Russia, Ukraine, USA

This looks set to be a showdown between two fierce rivals, Erik Horrie of Australia and Roman Polianskyi of Ukraine.

Horrie is one of the most experienced athletes in the field. The 37 year old won silver at the London Paralympics and then became World Champion in 2013, a title he successfully defended in both 2014 and 2015. In Rio he won his 2nd Paralympic silver medal. The man who beat him in Rio was Polianskyi. Horrie has yet to race internationally over the new 2K distance whereas the Ukrainian competed both at Gavirate and in Poznan, winning gold on both occasions. The first meeting of these two athletes for the 2017 season should be really interesting to watch.


Erik Horrie of Australia. Photo: World Rowing

Behind these two the next favourite for a medal is Great Britain’s Andrew Houghton. Filling the mighty shoes of the legendary Tom Aggar, Houghton has made an impressive start to his 2017 campaign with a silver medal in Gavirate.

Another athlete chasing a medal is the USA’s Blake Hoxton. He finished just outside of the medals at the 2014 and 2015 World Championships and took 4th at the Rio Paralympics. A graduate of the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University he will be looking to go at least one better than his result in Rio.

Also keep an eye out for Brazil’s Rene Pereira, 7th in the world in 2015 and an A-Fnalist in Rio and was 6th at the Poznan World Cup.

The final athlete to mention is Russia’s Alexey Chuvashev. A bronze medallist at the Lodon Paralympics he won World bronze medals in 2013 and 2014. The suspension of the entire Russian team from the Rio Paralympics probably robbed him of another medal. So far in 2017 he’s raced at the Poznan World Cup finishing 9 seconds behind Polianskyi in the silver medal position.

My picks…Horrie for the gold just ahead of the Ukrainian with Houghton of GB in bronze.


PR2 Mix2X

5 crews

China, Netherlands, Poland, Ukraine, USA

China, Shuang Liu and Tianming Fei are the silver medallists from the Rio Paralympics. Fei also raced in London (with Xiaoxian Lou) winning the gold. These are the only 2 races Fei has done and he’s won medals in both. The Chinese pair will surely start as favourites in Sarasota.

The Dutch, Annika Van Der Meer and Corne De Koning, are acing both the PR2 and PR3 events. The PR2 in Gavirate and also took the gold at the Poznan World Cup. De Koning raced in the TAMix2X category in Rio (with Ester Van Der Loos) finishing 4th just 2 seconds off a medal.

Ukraine have a crew which contains the oldest competitor at the championships, 57 year old Iryna Kyrchenko. She, and partner Iaroslav Koiuda, finished 5th in Rio and so far this season have a bronze medal from the Poznan World Cup.

As well as the oldest competitor at the championships, this event also sees the youngest – 17 year old Isaac French of the USA. He’s partnered by 37 year old Laura Goodkind. She raced at the Rio Games with Roman Helman, finishing 10th overall.

Poland have the long-established pairing of Michal Gadowski and Jolanta Majka. This double were 10th in London and reached the A-final in Rio. So far this season they have a bronze medal from Gavirate and 4th in Poznan.

My picks..China in gold ahead of the Netherlands and Ukraine.


PR3 Mix 2X

9 crews

Austria, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Latvia, Mexico, Netherlands, USA

Only 3 crews competed in the PR3 event at the Poznan World Cup, with Germany emerging as the winners, however Germany have selected a different pairing to compete in Florida with Valentin Luz and Jessica Dietz. They raced at Gavirate finishing 3rd of 3 1.5 minutes behind the winners.

The gold in Gavirate went to the French, Antoine Jesel and Guylaine Marchand. Marchand was world champion in the LTAMix2X event in 2016 with Fabien Saint-Lannes. She and Jesel were members of the French LTAMix 4+ that finished 8th in Rio. They continued in that boat class for the Poznan World Cup taking the silver medal. They won in Gavirate in a small field by over 5o seconds ahead of Israel.

Austria will be strong contenders for a medal with Johanna Beyer and Rainer Putz. This duo won silver at the 2016 World Championships and so far this season have a silver medal from the Poznan World Cup.

As mentioned earlier, the Netherlands are racing in both the PR2 and PR3 categories it’ll be interesting to see how they get on against athletes with less impairment.

China will be strong contenders for the medals, their crew of Qian Wang and Yunlong Wu raced as part of the LTAMix 4+ at both the London and Rio Paralympics – finishing 4th and 6th respectively. It remains to be seen how quick they are in the double, but they certainly have a wealth of experience under their belts.

My picks…France for the win, with Austria in 2nd and the Chinese in bronze.


The final event is the PR3 Mix 4+

5 crews

Great Britain, Israel, Italy, Ukraine, USA

Great Britain will start as clear favourites in this event. They’ve not been beaten at a World Championships or Paralympics since 2010. There are two changes to the crew that won in Rio with James Fox and Grace Clough being joined by newcomers Oliver Stanhope from Molesey Boat Club and Lithuanian-born Giedre Rakauskaite of Worcester Rowing Club. New into the coxes seat is Anna Corderoy (also of Molesey Boat Club). They didn’t race at the world Cup but did compete at Gavirate (with Emma Todd racing in place of Rakauskaite) and recorded a 14 second win over Ukraine. It’ll be a major upset if the British don’t come away with another World title.

GB PR34+ Gavirate.jpg

The GBR PR3 Mix4+ Winners at the Gavirate Regatta. Photo: British Rowing

Looking to spoil the British party are the Americans. They were runners-up to the British in Rio and have made just one change to that crew, with Michael Varro joining Jaclyn Smith, Zachary Burns, Danielle Hansen and cox Jennifer Sichel. The Americans will be getting fed up with playing 2nd fiddle to the British having done so in 2014, 2015 and 2016. They will be hoping that finally this year they can get to hear the Stars and stripes rather than God Save The Queen!

The last crew to beat the British at a Paralympics were the Italians in 2008 and for 2017 they have two of that crew on-board – Paola Protopapa and 55 year old Luca Agoletto (making his first return to international competition since 2011). They are joined by 2 fellow crew members from the boat that raced at the 2013,14 & 15 World Championships; Lucilla Aglioti and Tommaso Schettino. They had a best finish of 2nd in 2013. Only Schettino raced in Rio where the crew finished a disappointing 10th. Now, with much more experience in the boat they pose a serious threat to the British and Americans.

Ukraine are always strong in Para-rowing and their PR3 Mix4+ stand a very good chance of getting among the medals, the crew of Olexandra Yankova, Iryna Yarynka, Olexandr Bilonozhko, Maksym Zhuk and Volodymyr Kozlov finished 6th in 2015 and 9th in Rio. They’ve made a good start to the 2017 campaign with silver at the Gavirate Regatta and then gold in the 3 boat final in Poznan.

The final crew racing are the Israelis with Simona Goren, Achiya Klein, Barak Hazor, Shay-lee Mizrachi and Leah Marissa Sass. They raced in Poznan finishing 3rd in a tight three boat final.

My picks…hard to see anyone beating the British, but the battle for the silver and bronze will be quite a contest between the Americans and Italians, with the Americans coming out on top.


So that’s it. All events previewed. Hopefully the weather gods will be kind and we’ll have a fabulous week of racing.