Whilst the International world Cup circuit is in full flow this weekend in Varese it is also one of the biggest weekends on the domestic rowing circuit. At Dorney Lake there is the Marlow Regatta, one of the main pre-Henley regattas – it’s attracted an excellent entry from as far afield as China, USA and New Zealand as well as a high class domestic field.
But, perhaps more importantly, this weekend sees the 28th Henley Women’s Regatta – which in my opinion is the single most important women’s rowing event in the world. And it’s Henley Women’s Regatta that I’m going to focus on in this blog.
Elite Eights for the Ron Needs Challenge Cup
A GB v USA event, with three domestic crews and four US crews.
The leading domestic entry is Oxford University. They have 7 of the crew that won The Newton Women’s Boat Race earlier this year. The one change is Alice Carrington-Windo coming in for Maxie Scheske. The crew are stroked by the inspirational double Olympic gold medallist, Caryn Davies and it’s great to see this crew racing on the course that, up until this year, they would’ve raced against Cambridge in the Boat Race. They were hugely impressive over the 4+ miles of the Tideway course and it’s going to be exciting to see them translate that speed to the 2K Henley course.
Behind Oxford the domestic battle will be between Leander and Imperial. The Leander crew is built around the development crew that finished 4th at the Women’s Head of the River, winning the Club Pennant and finishing 1 place and just 2.1 seconds behind Imperial. They have 2 changes to that crew with former Olympian Debbie Flood and U23 athlete Karen Bennett being replaced by U23 international Claire McKeown and GB trialist Margery Pepper. IC have made one change from that Head of the River crew with Helen Wood replacing Georgia Francis. At the Metropolitan Regatta Imperial finished 2nd in Open eights to Leander, but were beaten by Thames RC Senior 8 and Oxford Brookes’ IM1 8
The US Universities have 4 boats in the event, Stanford, Cornell and two boats from Brown. Stanford is probably the pick of the bunch with a 5th place finish at the NCAA Championships. Brown have two boats entered, the Varsity 8 finished 7th at the NCAA championships and were winners of the Ivy League Championships, but there was only a few seconds between them and Stanford in the semi’s at the NCAA. The draw gives a potential final between Brown and Stanford, but first Brown will have to get past IC in the first round.
The fourth US crew are Cornell who have the daunting challenge of taking on the Oxford Blue Boat in round one. At the Ivy League Championships the Cornell Bears were 5th. This is their first visit to Henley and it’ll be a great experience of them to go up against one of the most famous collegiate women’s crew in the world.
I’m going to go for an Oxford v Leander final with the Dark Blues emerging victorious.
Elite Coxless Fours for the Avril Vellacott Cup
The favourites here are the composite crew of Cambridge/Newcastle and Bath. This looks to be the GB U23 4- with both Sam Courty and Melissa Wilson coming out of the U23 W8 that won a silver medal last year. They face a Dutch combination from Laga & Skadi who raced at the European University Games in 2014.
In the other half of the draw Brown v Leander. The Brown crew is made up from the 2nd Varsity 8 and they face a Leander crew which includes senior international Katherine Douglas and they are doubling up in the Elite 8’s
I would think it’s going to be an all-GB final with the U23’s emerging victorious.
Elite Quadruple Sculls for The Borne Cup
Round one is an all-US affair with Brown taking on Stanford. The winner then faces Leander in the final. Brown’s crew are predominantly from their 2nd Varsity 8 and Stanford have 2 from the 2nd Varsity boat and 2 from the 1st Varsity. It’ll be a good battle between these rivals and I’m going to go for Stanford to make it to the final. In that final they will face a tough challenge from Leander, a crew which includes Olympic medallist Debbie Flood and former GB international and Leander coach, Jane Hall.
My pick is a Leander win.
Elite Lightweight Quadruple Sculls for The Rankine Trophy
A straight final between Durham and an U23 composite from Glasgow, Reading and Edinburgh Universities. Durham were winners of the Lwt 4X at the BUCS regatta and their opponents are all medallists from BUCS as well. Maddie Arlett, Emma McDonald and Lucy Cruxton from the composite boat finished 10th 11th and 12th respectively at the GB Final trials in April and will most likely be racing in GB colours later this year. It should be a good contest but you have to expect the composite to come out on top.
Elite Pairs for The Redgrave Challenge Vase
A good quality field, with some interesting lineups and plenty of international experience.
Winners of Elite pairs at the Metropolitan Regatta were the North East’s Bethany Bryan and Nicole Lamb. They were both members of the 2013 silver medal GB U23 women’s 8 (and Lamb followed that up with a 2nd silver in the 2014 crew). They are both still eligible for the U23 squad and will, no doubt, be vying for international selection again this year.
The Nottingham/Queen’s Belfast composite is another which has U23 medal-winning experience, Katie Bartlett of Nottingham was also in the 2014 U23 W8 that won silver. She’s joined by GB trialist, Rebecca Edwards.
The University of London have a very exciting combination that includes German Olympian, Kathrin Thiem, she’s joined by Olivia Uguz in what could be the darkhorse of the event.
Other combinations with international experience are the Irish from Cork and the Dutch from Proteurs-Eretes. Aifric Keogh and Barbara O’Brien were the stern pair in Ireland’s W4- that finished 10th at the 2014 World Championships. Janneke Voorouw and Marlou Pors from Proteus-Eretes are both members of the Zuid-Holland Rowing Talent Centre and raced at the World University Games last year. They will, most likely, be looking for selection to the Dutch U23 team this year.
Durham’s Norwegian pairing of Hannah Inntjore and Anna Sture (now racing for Norske Studenten) are another pair with U23 international honours. Sture was 15th in the BW1X and Inntjore won the “B” final in the BW2-
The other overseas entry comes from Stanford University; Courtney Carrabino and Reilly Hayes were both members of Stanford’s 2nd Varsity boat this season. The draw has them facing the young crew from Norwich in the first round but then they will face the tougher challenge of either the Irish or Norwegian international crews.
The final crew to mention are Molesey; Aimee Jonckers and Sam Fowler have had a good season domestically so far with wins in the Senior 2- on both days of the Metropolitan Regatta. They have a bye in the first round and meet the winners of Trentham and Cantabrigian (the crew of Eleanor Darlington and Myriam Goudet were 2nd in Elite 2- at the Met).
My picks…another tough call. I’m going to plump for the Tees/Newcastle composite.
Elite Lightweight Pairs for The Parkside Trophy
Thames RC’s Ellie Fielding already knows what it’s like to win on this course having been part of the crew that won the Club 8’s in 2014. She’s joined by Lowenna Coad and they were both part of the LW4X that finished 15th in the openweight W4X at the HOR4’s. They have a bye in the first round and face the winners of Wallingford v Mortlake AA. Not a huge amount of info on these two but with Wallingford being a High Performance Centre they will undoubtedly be strong.
Perhaps the marginal favourites in this event are the pairing from Imperial College, Jade Hubbard and Nicola Mason. They finished 2nd at the BUCS regatta two places ahead of OULWBC’s Kirsten Bilham and Alba Pellaroque. These two crews face each-other again in the first round of the event on Saturday.
My pick…Imperial for the win.
Elite Double Sculls for The W Peer Cup
A small, but very high quality field. There is overseas experience in this event with an interesting composite of Commercial RC Australia and Union Nautique Bruxelles. The Australian representative is Fleur Spriggs who raced for Australia in the W4X 20 years ago. The Belgian representative is actually Israeli international Diana Egerton-Warburton – she raced at Lucerne last year.
The two British boats are a very strong U23 pairing of Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne of Reading Uni and Georgia Francis of Sport Imperial. These two were winners of elite 2X at the Met . Francis has already won international medals as part of the GB U23 W8 and Hodgkins-Byrne was 5th as part of the U23 W4X – so, a very, very talented line-up and both names that could well feature in the GB senior squad for the Tokyo Olympiad.
Whilst Francis & Hodgkins-Byrne represent the future for GB rowing their likely opponents in the final represent some of the best of the British squad of the past 10 years. Olympic medallist Debbie Flood may have retired from the international scene but she has remained incredibly competitive since stepping down from the squad (so much so that it wouldn’t surprise me if GB’s chief women’s coach, Paul Thompson, has her number on speed-dial 😉 )
Flood is joined by Fran Rawlins, herself a GB trialist and former Cambridge lightweight Blue.
I’m going to go for the “future”, Reading/Imperial, to take the win.
Elite Lightweight Double Sculls for The Haslam Trophy
The U23 LW4X composite discussed above are doubling-up in the doubles as well. Emma McDonald and Lucy Cruxton n one boat with Robyn Hart-Winks and Maddie Arlett in the other. They are opposite sides of the draw so won’t meet until the final. But, the favourites for me are the UL/Molesey composite of Ruth Walczak and Emily Craig. Walczak has numerous international honours to her credit, including a World Championship bronze medal in the LW1X from 2013. Emily Craig isn’t quite as experienced as her crewmate but she U23 representation already having finished 6th in the LW1X at last year’s U23 championships.
Wallingford also have international experience on-board with U23 bronze medallist Gemma Hall and GB trialist Miriam Jones-Walters.
The only non-International crew are the Exeter University double of Jess Elkington and Hannah Traylen. These two won LW2X at BUCS which should give them selection for the European University Championships in September.
The draw pits Edinburgh v Exeter in round one with the winner facing the UL/Molesey combo.
My pick is a Molesey/UL v Reading/Glasgow final with the Londoners emerging victorious.
Elite Single Sculls for The George Innes Cup
One international entry, Chen Oshri of Daniel Rowing Club Israel. She competed at the World Championships last year finishing 11th in the LW1X. She faces Agecroft’s Georgina Grandfield in the semi-final. The Mancunian has a bronze medal in the W2- from the European University Championships but she may struggle against her senior international opponent.
In the other semi-final as Nottingham’s Laura Wheeler and Tees RC’s Josephine Wratten. Wheeler raced in the GB trials this April finishing an excellent 8th overall. Wratten raced for the GB U23 W4X last year finishing 5th. It’ll be a good battle between these two.
My pick….a win for Chen Oshri of Daniel RC
Elite Lightweight Single Sculls for The Godfrey Rowsports Trophy
The first semi-final pits Agecroft’s Ellie Lewis against Molesey’s Orla Hayes.
Hayes is a former Irish international having raced in the LW1X at the 2009 World Championships finishing 13th. Lewis won the Elite LW1X at the Metropolitan Regatta and was part of the U23 LW4X that finished 4th last year. This should be a good match-up and is difficult to call.
The other semi has Wallingford RC’s Brianna Stubbs against Bradford’s Zoe Coates. This is likely to be less tight. Stubbs is an outstanding young sculler, 7th in the GB final trials she made her senior debut in the LW4X at the World Championships last year and won the U23 LW2X in 2013. Zoe Coates from Bradford is the only competitor without international honours and may find the going a little tough.
My picks….Stubbs v Lewis with the Wallingford sculler taking the win.
I’ll preview the Senior events later…..watch this space.