Time, just, for the final preview, The Fawley Challenge Cup.
10 Selected crews, of which 8 get byes to the 2nd round.
The first of the Selected crews are one of four overseas crews in the main draw, 358 Y Quad Cities Rowing Association, USA. The Y are from Moline in Illinois and are a community rowing programme and part of the Two Rivers YMCA. Both the boys and girls quads are selected (the girls are the reigning US junior champions). The boys quad raced at the US Junior Nationals and won bronze. They race Kingston Rowing Club who came through qualifying having finished 4th in the B-Final at Marlow. I would expect the Americans to win through comfortably where they will face the 2nd of the Selected crews, 329 Pangbourne College.
Pangbourne have been up and down over the past few years. More known as a sweep school they won the PE back in 2003 (under the guidance of Alex Henshilwood). They then went into the doldrums a little and it wasn’t too long ago they had no first 8 rowing sweep. They have a small squad and are now focusing more on sculling. The results are a strong quad this year that finished 3rd at the National Schools. They should have a good battle with the Americans on Thursday.
The third Selected crew are the likely favourites, 338 Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School. They are the defending champions and have three of last year’s crew back again the same line-up again this year; Fraser Russell, Chris Lawrie and Rufus Biggs. This year they are joined by Ben Wright. Winners of the Schools Head, the Junior Sculling Head, and The National Schools they are a truly outstanding outfit. Chris Lawrie stroked the GB JM4X to a superb silver medal at last year’s World Championships. Fraser Russell also raced at the Junior Worlds last year in the JM2X.
Borlase get a bye in the first round and face the winners of York City v Windsor Boys School. York came through the qualifiers and may find the Windsor Boys too hot/ Windsor surprised many people last year by reaching the final and they have two of that crew returning, Oliver Harrison and Henry Smith. They are joined by Arthur Smith and Alex Laws. At Marlow they raced in both the Senior and J18 quads. In the Senior event they were 3rd behind the two Bath University quads and in the J18 event they were somewhat off the pace finishing 6th in the B-Final
The next selected crew in the draw are 305 Glasgow Academy. The Scots were 4th at the National Schools and won J18 quads at Marlow. They are an excellent crew and look to be peaking at just the right moment. They face the winners of Norwich School v Thames Rowing Club. Thames had to come through the qualifying round but there is not much to choose between the two crews. Norwich finished 3rd in their Semi-final at the National Schools and Thames 4th in theirs. I would expect the East Anglians to win this club battle.
The final selected crew in the top half of the draw are 342 Sydney Rowing Club. The Australian’s have won this event twice, in 2005 and 2011. Their talent pool hasn’t been too extensive, they only had four eligible guys at the club! But, that doesn’t mean they will be slow. Max Duignan rowed for Sydney in the Prince of Wales Challenge Cup last year losing in the Quarter final. He’s joined by Hugh Courts, Rob Wells and the 16 year old Max Brenner. They race the winners of Claires Court “A” v Maidenhead Rowing Club “A”. Claires Court were semi-finalists at the National Schools. Maidenhead raced in J18 quads at Marlow finishing 3rd in the B-Final.
In the bottom half of the draw the Selected crews are led off by 345 The Grange School. 6th at National Schools they also finished 6th at Marlow in J18 quads.
The next of the Selected crew is 315 Leander Club “A”. They were 5th at the National Schools and followed that up with a 3rd place finish in J18 Quads at Marlow. They face the winners of Wallingford Rowing Club and RGS High Wycombe. Wallingford came through qualifying and RGS High Wycombe narrowly missed out on an A-Final slot at the National Schools. At Marlow they were 2nd in the B-Final of J18 quads.
325 Northwich are the next selected crew and have been playing 2nd fiddle to Borlase all season. 2nd at National Schools they were 3rd in J18 quads at Marlow, They have half of the crew from last year who were narrowly defeated by Windsor Boys in the heats. They will face the winners of Leander “B” and Reading Rowing Club, both of whom got into the main draw via qualifying (and that’s not something you say to often where Leander crews are concerned)
The final two Selected crews are 328 Nottingham and 336 San Diego Rowing Club USA. Nottingham didn’t race at Nat Schools but at Marlow they finished 2nd to Glasgow in the J18 Quads. San Diego were 4th at the US Youth Nationals 2 ½ seconds behind Y Quad Cities.
My pick to lift the trophy…Borlase.
Apologies if it got a bit brief towards the end but I am rapidly running out of time…the first race of this year’s Regatta starts in less than 7 hours!
I hop you’ve enjoyed my previews, judging by the hit rate they’ve been quite popular! Don’t forget you can watch every race live on the Henley Regatta You Tube channel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJHufRQpLfM