Fuller’s Head of the River Fours – Preview

Time for one of the “big” head of the river events of the season, the Fuller’s Head of the River Fours.
First of all let me state that the views and opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own and do not represent the opinions of the committee or organisers of the Fuller’s Head of the River Fours (I’m on the committee as Press Officer for the first time this year, so I just needed to make that clear!)

Right on with the preview of the elite events:

Elite M4X
15 entries.
Tideway Scullers have done it again, they’ve put together an “All Stars” quad. This time Scullers stalwart Alan Campbell is joined by not 1, but 2 reigning world champions and (in my opinion) a world champion in the making as well. The crew includes world M1X champion Ondrej Synek from the Czech Republic, Valent Sinkovic from the world championship winning Craotian M4X and HRR Diamonds winner Aleksander Aleksandrov of Azerbaijan. that is one seriously talented line up. But the quad is a curious boat and often the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Just putting 4 supremely talented scullers in a boat together is no guarantee of speed, especially as they won’t have had too long in the boat together.
Sandwiching this All Stars crew are the No.1 & 2 Leander Boats. The top Leander boat has 3 of the crew that won the British Championships last month, Charlie Cousins, Jonno Walton and Matt Langridge joined by Pete Lambert. Leander 2 has “old hand” Tom Wilkinson joined by three very talented current and recent U23’s Josh Bugajski, Stewart Innes and Barnaby Stentiford.
But they have their work cut out holding off the Reading Uni/London RC/Agecroft composite starting 5th. This crew includes world medalists Graeme Thomas, Sam Townsend and Lightweight Adam Freeman-Pask. The 4th member of the crew, Bill Lucas, ain’t no slouch either!
The Leander III crew could well get the better of the no.2 boat, senior internationals John Collind and Nick Middleton are joined by 2 of the top U23 scullers in the country, Jack Beaumont and Angus Groom. The inter-club rivalry is going to be very interesting.
Also keep an eye out for the sole foreign entry at this years event, the Dutch of Proteus Eretes. 3 of the crew (Arnoud Greidanus, Bart Lukkes and Maarten Van Blokland) have international experience, although they may find the pace at the top a little too strong.
My pick….I think Leander 1 will be a bit too slick for the Tideway All-stars with the Reading/London/Agecroft boat 3rd.

Elite Lightweight 4X
5 entries.
I pick this to be a Leander v Imperial battle. Leander have 2 experienced internationals Jamie Kirkwood and Chris Boddy joined by two of the Leander development squad, Nick Buckle (formerly of Newcastle Uni) and Donald Evans (formerley of Queen’s Belfast). In the Imperial boat Sam Scrimgeour won bronze in the LM2- at the World Championships and both Tim Richards and Wilf Kimberley won medals at the U23 World Championships this year.
Look out for Tideway Scullers with the veteran internationals Tim Male and Adam Lodygowski on board.
My pick….Imperial for the win ahead of Leander.

Elite 4-
10 entries.
Molesey have made this their no.1 boat and although Andy Triggs-Hodge is not racing they have a fearsome line-up and it is the same crew(Mo Sbihi, Phil Congdon, James Foad & George Nash) that came 2nd at the British Championships.
Leander have 2 crews in this event, the heavies and the lighties. The Lighties are going off 3rd and include 3 of the GB LM4- that won bronze at the World Championships along with fellow world championship bronze medalist (not to mention the Olympic silver medal 😉 ) Richard Chambers.
The Leander heavies are stroked by world champion Dan Ritchie. Behind him are GB squad members Matt Gotrel, Lance Tredell and Alan Sinclair. I’ll be interested to see which is the faster Leander boat….I have a feeling it’ll be the lighties.
leading off the M4- are Isis. Their lead boat (Joe Dawson, Iain Mandale, Tom Watson & Chris Fairweather) have all rowed for Isis in the reserve race in 2012 or 2013. I have a feeling they won’t relish leading off with the Molesey boat starting immediately behind them! The 2nd Isis boat starting 8th in the division includes one of Oxford’s 4 Olympians, Zimbabwe’s James Fraser-Mackenzie.
Another interesting battle will be between the Leander lightweights and Oxford Brookes 1 starting immediately behind them. This boat includes Richard Chambers’ younger brother, Peter. Not sure they’ll have the pace to catch the boys in pink but it’s a definite target!
Yet another interesting battle will be between UL and Oxford Brookes 2. These Brookes crew includes Matt Tarrant and Scott Durant from the GB M4-. Starting immediately ahead of them are UL containing their GB M4- crewmate Nathaniel Reilly-O’Donnell. Brookes also includes Scott Durant’s twin brother Mason and Tim Grant whilst UL have Oli Cook, Paul Bennett and Matt Bedford. All 8 of these guys have international experience and it promises to be a fascinating battle (hopefully UL’s steering will behave unlike last year ;))

Elite 4+
9 entries.
Leander have rolled out all their big guns for this boat, their line up is Pete Reed, Alex Gregory, Tom Ransley, Will Satch and cox Phelan Hill….world champions all and “just” the 5 Olympic medals between them!This is the same line-up (minus Phelan) that won the M4- at the British Championships. Hopefully Reed will feel this event is a bit more worthwhile than the British Championships (if you haven’t already read it here is Pete’s blog about the Championships http://www.petereed.com/britchampsreview/ )
3rd at the British Champs were Isis. However it’s fair to say they have significantly strengthened the crew since then with Constantine Louloudis and Karl Hudspith being joined by Canadian double Olympic medalist Malcolm Howard and US international Mike DiSanto. As an aside, both Hudspith and Louloudis raced at the GB trials this weekend. Apparently the loser out of these two had to get a tattoo! Louloudis won the 5K time trial by 16 seconds with Hudspith in 4th. So I wonder what Karl’s tat will be 😉
Cambridge’s top boat are starting immediately behind Isis. But, unlike Isis, the Tabs have not rolled out all their big guns. Their sole Olympian, Canadian Anthony Jacobs, is not racing. Instead their top 4+ contains Blue’s Steve Dudek and Mike Thorp with Goldie oarsman Helge Gruetjen and newcomer Henry Hoffstot (formerly of Georgetown University)
Cambridge are sandwiched between 2 Isis boats. The 2nd 4+ for the dark Blues contains yet another Olympian, Kiwi Storm Uru. He’s joined by 2013 Blue Sam O’Connor, Nick Hazell from the 2013 Isis crew and ex-Yale oarsman Thomas Swartz. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the light blues overtaken by the 2nd Isis boat.
It’s not often I talk about Sons of the Thames in the eilte events but a look at the crew list of the crew starting 36th is an eye opener. Sitting in the 3 seat is Bulgarian single sculler, Georgi Bozhilov (8th at the World Championships this year). No doubt his appearance is down to his crewmate and countryman Kiril Stoyanov in the stroke seat. Some people may gripe about these foreign “superstars” parachuting in for this event but personally I think it’s brilliant.
My picks…I think it’ll be pretty close between Leander and Isis with the men in pink taking it.

Women’s Elite 4X
7 entries. Leander v Leander I reckon. In the lead Leander boat is GB’s top woman single sculler in 2013, Vicky Thornley. She’s joined by the most experienced member of the GB squad (male or female) Fran Houghton along with her doubles partner Vicky Meyer-Laker and finally Lucy Gooderham from the 2013 GB W4X. If the Leander first boat represents the current “cream of the crop” then the 2nd boat could represent the cream of the future. This crew includes the only British woman to win an open weight world single sculls title; Jess Leyden, the reigning junior world champion. She’s joined by Rachel Gamble-Flint making a welcome and long overdue return to competition following a long lay off through injury. The rest of the crew are Rosa Bradbury and Monica Relph from this year’s GB quad. Again, it’s the inter-club Leander rivalry that will prove fascinating in this event.
But, if the two Leander boats represent the current and future of British women’s sculling then the Leander/Thames composite could be said to represent the recent past;) Debbie Flood, Annie Vernon & Elise Laverick are 3 of the most illustrious names in British sculling in the last decade, they are joined by Jo Barton and may well “teach these youngsters a thing or two” 🙂

My pick…The Leander 1st crew ahead of the 2nd boat

Women’s Elite Lightweight 4X
6 entries. At the British Championships the Wallingford crew of Caroline Greves, Elizabeth Polegreen, Kath Twyman & Brianna Stubbs were the fastest lightweights and I would anticipate them doing the same on the Tideway. However the UL/Mortlake AA composite of Fran Rawlins, Rosa Atkinson, Emily Craig & Jade Wright will push them hard, and starting directly behind Wallingford will be gunning for them the whole way down the course.
Also in this event are the two boats from the Oxford Lightweights. The OUWLRC recently raced at the Scullers Head of the River with Becky Lane winning the lightweight division finishing as the 7th fastest woman, the squad also had a succesful trip to the Bristol Autumn Head of the River winning all five of the categories they entered. Whilst they may not challenge Wallingford for the win they will certainly be chasing UL/MAA.
My picks…Wallingford for the win

Women’s Elite 4-
2 entries. Leander will win this by a country mile. Vesta are a good, strong club crew, but they are up against a Leander boat containing world champion, Polly Swann along with Katie Greves, Lou Reeve & Caragh McMurtry from the GB W8 that finished 4th at the World Championships this year.

So that’s it for the Elite events. I’m sure http://juniorrowing.wordpress.com/ will produce an excellent guide to the junior events so keep an eye out for that.
I hope the weather gods are kind and I shall (hopefully) get to watch some fabulous racing from the Press Office on Corney Reach and if you’re one of the victors I hope to see you at prize giving!

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