Time is against me so I’m going to publish each remaining event preview as I finish it.
First of all I just want to thank Tom Morgan of Row360 magazine for help with the research for this event.
96 Oxford Brookes University “A” the hot favourites and defending champions, although, of course the Henley rules mean this is a completely different crew to last year. Brookes have three 8’s entered in this event and they are probably one of only 2 or 3 University programmes in the UK that could come anywhere near the structure and organisation of some of the US collegiate programmes.
The Brookes “A” crew is, officially, the fastest ever Brookes crew after posting a 5:37 at the Metropolitan Regatta (where they finished 2ndto Leander’s Ladies Plate crew in Elite 8s). The British University champions they’ve kept themselves busy racing in Europe with a 3rd place finish at Essen and were winners of men’s 8’s on the Saturday of Ghent Regatta. They will be very, very difficult to beat. Some may argue that they would be more suited to the Ladies Plate, but they are eligible for the Temple, so why not enter it!
They face a first round tie with Westminster School’s J16 8…a talented crew (they made it through the qualifiers) and have a bronze medal from the National Schools Regatta but they will be totally outgunned by Brookes. But it’s good experience for the youngsters which will stand them in good stead if they make the 1st 8 next year and race in the PE.
61 Amsterdamsche Studenten Roeivereeniging Nereus, Holland. Possibly one of the main challengers to Oxford Brookes, certainly in the top half of the draw. They have a strong pedigree at Henley, winners of the Temple in 2003 they were runners-up in 2010 and 2011. Last year they lost in the semis to Brown University. This season they were winners at the Heineken Roeivierkamp and were 3rd in Open 8’s on the Sunday of Ghent Regatta. Coached by the Dutch Olympic legend, Diederik Simon they are the strongest of the three Dutch challengers this year, in fact I’m a little surprised to see them in the same half of the draw to Brookes and they will most likely meet on Friday which should produce some fireworks. They face Manchester in the first round who may find the competition a little too hot.
70 Cornell University. Another very strong crew in the top half of the draw. Cornell are undefeated in the lightweight 8 this season and are the reigning IRA Lightweight champions and also won lightweight 8’s at Eastern Sprints. They raced in the Temple last year, losing to Brookes by just half a length in the semi-finals, in fact they got closer to Brookes than anyone else at the regatta. There are three of that crew back again and they could pose a real threat to Brookes in the top half of the draw. Mind you, they have a very tough first round draw against Brooke’s “B” crew. They maybe a 2nd 8 but they are faster than most 1st 8’s, Winners of Senior 8’s at Marlow and Intermediate 8’s at BUCS they will give the US Lightweight champions a real challenge.
116 University of London “A”. UL have always been incredibly strong when it comes to Henley, they have won just about every event over the years (except the junior ones of course!) In the 80’s and 90’s they were probably the best rowing University in the World. In recent years their mantel has slipped and they have been eclipsed by the likes of Brookes and Newcastle and the ruling that “no oarsman shall compete in this event if he is a….”Purple”” no longer seems to be appropriate….unless Purples (the UL equivalent of an Oxbridge “Blue”) aren’t handed out until after the regatta??
Anyway, this year’s crew show’s that UL are on the up again. They were 4th in Elite 8’s at Marlow and 3rd at the Metropolitan Regatta. They have a point to prove having been controversially disqualified at BUCS for being late to the start.
They start their campaign against Eton College’s “B” crew (amazingly Eton qualified two crew into the Temple – when many “big” rowing universities couldn’t even manage one ahem! – as well at their 1st 8 racing in the PE). The “B” crew is a mishmash of their National Schools champion J16 crew and members of the 2nd and 3rd 8’s. One would expect the Purples to dispatch them comfortably.
In the bottom half of the draw the first selected crew is 69 Columbia University, USA. Columbia have been having some epic battles with Cornell all season. So far the Lions have always come off 2nd best to the Cornell “Big Red”, beaten into silver at both the IRA’s and Eastern Sprints. It would be great to see these two go head-to-head again but that won’t happen until the final which I think is unlikely. In fact Columbia have a tough task on their hands to get beyond Wednesday. They face Imperial College, 3rd in Senior 8’s at Marlow and include some of the crew that won bronze in Champ 8’s at BUCS. The lightweights may prove to slick for IC but it’s not going to be easy.
Not selected, but an intriguing entry is that of Kings College, Queensland. A schoolboy crew who, I imagine, are racing the Temple rather than the PE because of some overage oarsmen. They are the reigning Australian U19 champions and face the University of the West of England on Wednesday. I think the Bristolians are in for a shock.
The next selected crew are 81 Hobart College. I’m a little bit surprised they were selected as they are not one of the top flight US collegiate programmes. They do have international experience on board with 2-man August Wherry having raced for the USA at the U23 World Championships. This season Hobart finished in fourth in the C-Final at the IRA’s. They face a tricky challenge to get past day 1 in the form of Edinburgh University. Winners of the lightweight 8’s at BUCS and finished 7th in Intermediate 1 8’s at Marlow. It’s an intriguing little match-up which could go all the way to the line.
The University of Virginia will be a little disappointed they weren’t selected. Coached by the irrepressible Frank Biller and unmistakable with their Day-glo orange blades (a particular hue they only use for Henley). They last raced at Henley in 2013 reaching the quarter-finals before losing to Harvard. They’ve had a good season so far with a bronze at the American Collegiate Champs and a 4th at the Dad Vails. They race qualifiers St Hilde & St Bede College Durham in round one whom they should defeat relatively comfortably.
The single French entry in the whole regatta are the selected crew 112 Universitie de Lyon. They could well stir things up in the bottom half of the draw, with a number of U23 internationals onboard including Benoit Baratin, Antoine Nougarede and Eloi Debourdeau. The nucleus of this crew won silver at the World University Championships in 2014 and this year won silver in the M4+ at the French championships. They could well be the dark horses of the event.
The final selected crew in the bottom half of the draw are 100 Princeton University. This is Princeton’s 3rd Varsity 8 and I’m a little surprised they’ve caught the eye of the Stewards to be selected. One of three Princeton 8’s at Henley (the first time Princeton have sent three 8’s) the first and second Varsity boats are both in the Ladies Plate. They have performed well this season though with a win in 3rd 8’s at the Eastern Sprints and a 3V Grand Final appearance at the IRA’s. They have an all-USA race as they take on MIT. This is a lightweight crew and finished 6th at the Eastern Sprints and 7th at the IRA’s. It’ll be a good matchup between a strong lightweight programme like MIT with the 3rd 8 from one of the biggest rowing programmes in the world.
Another crew who are perhaps a little surprised not to be selected are the Dutch students from Laga. Winners of the event 2 years ago they are the arch-rivals of Nereus (who beat them in an epic quarter-final last year). They have three of that 2014 crew back this year and would love a chance to revenge themselves on their countrymen. They race the Oxford Brookes “C” crew in round 1.
So who will win….Brookes are definitely the favourites although Nereus won’t make it easy for them in the top half of the draw. I think we could well see a Brookes v Lyon final with the Oxford students retaining their title.
I’m aware that time is marching on (I’m writing this a 1.00am! So I’ll get this online and then do the Prince Albert, Princess Elizabeth, Fawley and Diamond Jubilee previews tomorrow)