The Fuller’s Head of the River Fours – Preview

4's head

It’s that time of year again when it’s my favourite Head of the river race (in the UK at least….still have a hankering after getting to the Head of the Charles….one day, one day). Anyway, back to the point…the Fuller’s Head of the River Fours.
This year’s race has, unfortunately, been caught between a “rock and a hard place” with the Senior Championships happening in mid-October and the GB trials just 1 week before the race. This has meant that a number of clubs have chosen to prioritise trials over the 4’s – so no Oxford Brookes, no University of London (despite it being on “home” water). So this means that some events are a bit lower in numbers than some years. But, 420 crews are slated to take to the start line so this is my run down of those to watch…

Elite M4x
11 crews.
Fortunately Leander Club have entered en masse and have 3 strong boats in the elite quads. The top boat has the 2015 GB M2X John Collins and Jonno Walton along with the stern pair from the GB M4X Pete Lambert and Charlie Cousins. This boat (an intriguing combination for Rio πŸ˜‰ ) should be some way ahead of the competition. The Leander 2nd boat will probably be their closest challengers with Angus Groom, Nick Middleton, Alan Sinclair and Chris Boddy.
In previous year’s Tideway Sculler’s have put out some “All-Star” quads (the 2013 winning crew in particular springs to mind). This year’s boat isn’t quite in that league, but joining Alan Campbell is Irish lightweight Niall Kenny and former GB U23 international James Dunley.
Speaking of the Irish there are three crews from the emerald Isle representing Tara Rowing Club.
The third Leander boat are the “young guns” with Harry Glenister, Tom Barras, Harry Leask and Andy Joel – 3 U23 internationals and 1 former junior international. I’d pick these guys for a definite top 5 finish.
Reading Uni specialise in sculling and their number 1 boat includes senior international Sam Townsend.
My pick for the win is Leander 1 (with the Leander 2 boat in 2nd)

Elite LM4X
5 crews
2 Leander, 2 Imperial and 1 Reading Uni crew. The no.1 Leander boat looks an exciting combination with Richard Chambers, Will Fletcher, Jonno Clegg and Jamie Kirkwood – the top 4 lightweight scullers in the UK. Like their heavyweight clubmates they should be well clear of the rest of the field with the main challenge possibly coming from Imperial College 1 with Adam Freeman-Pask, Sam Scrimgeour, Tim Richards and John Hale.
The Leander no.2 boat is an U23 boat with Sam Mottram, Ed Fisher, Jon Jackson and Charlie Waite-Roberts. They could well be pushing for the second spot against Imperial.
My pick is another win for Leander.

Elite M4-
4 crews
This is one event that has been hit hard by the lack entries from the likes of Brookes and UL. Just 4 boats. But they are four very strong boats.It’s set to be a showdown between Leander and a Molesey/Brookes/UL composite (yes I know I said that Brookes and UL haven’t entered but a few individuals have bucked the trend). In the top Leander boat are Alex Gregory, Tom Ransley, Will Satch and Matt Gotrel. In the composite boat are Mo Sbihi, Paul Bennett, George Nash and Scott Durant. This should prove a brilliant contest to watch. The head of the River Fours is also an opportunity to see how the respective Boat Race squads match up. Oxford have one crew (Isis) racing Elite coxless with Dominic Parr, Guy Arnold, Charlie Cornish and Rufus Stirling. Not the strongest boat in the Isis squad and are racing above their status. The 4th boat is a 2nd Leander crew with U23 internationals Sam Arnot, Cameron Buchan.
My pick….going to be a great battle but I’m going with Leander 1st, the Molesey composite in 2nd, Leander 2 in 3rd and Isis in 4th.

Elite M4+
13 crews
Now this is more like it…some great competition in store, particular the Isis v Goldie battle with 4 and 3 boats competing respectively. Leander have also put together a big crew to join the party. Goldie have already shown some good form with a 2nd place in Champ 4’s at the Head of the Charles. Their top boat of Luke Juckett, Henry Hoffstot, Ben Ruble and Lance Tredell (coxed by Ian Middleton) finished just 1 second behind a US squad boat in Boston. Oxford’s top boat (Isis II) have Josh Bugajski, Jamie Cook, George McKirdy and James White (coxed by Jill Carlson). It’s always fun watching the two Universities battling it out but I think they will both be playing second fiddle to Leander who have Pete Reed, Stewart Innes, Callum McBrierty and cox Phelan Hill. The 5th member of the crew listed is Jack Beaumont – but, given that Jack is currently recuperating from his bad accident in training (and is a sculler rather than a sweep) I’ve a feeling he’s listed as a seat-warmer….it remains to be seen who steps into his seat. Leander will be very keen to get revenge on Isis having been comprehensively beaten by them last year.
It’s also going to be fascinating to see the strength in depth of the Boat Race squads. Isis III includes Blue Will Geffen and Isis oarsmen Dominic Grant and Nik Hazell with Isis IV also containing 1 Blue (Morgan Gerlak) and 2 Isis oarsmen (Charlie Thurston and Jordan Tveit).
My pick….I reckon Goldie will pip Leander with Isis II in 3rd

Women’s Elite 4X
7 crews
Another event where Leander will start as favourites. Their no.1 boat has Jess Leyden, Vikki Meyer-Laker, Vicky Thornley and Polly Swann. They should win comfortably ahead of Imperial College with Mel Wilson, Zoe Lee, Georgia Francis and Helen Wood. They will be pushed by the young Reading/Ely composite with Alice Bowyer, Holly Hill, Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne and Sam Courty. Also watch out for a crew from the Portuguese federation.
My pick is yet another win for the Pink Palace with IC 2nd and the Reading composite in 3rd

Women’s Elite LW4X
4 crews
The interesting thing about this event is that Leander won’t win – they don’t have an entry! Instead it’s likely to be Wallingford who take the title with their crew of Brianna Stubbs, Gemma Hall, Mary Wilson and Ellie Piggott. They will be pushed by their clubmates which includes Kiwi 2013 U23 medalist Lisa Owen.
It’s not just the heavyweight Oxbridge crew who make an appearance at the Head of the River Fours, the Oxford lightweight women have also enetered.
My pick will be a 1-2 for Wallingford

Women’s Elite 4-
4 crews It’s basically a fleet of Cambridge bats v Leander. The Light Blues have 3 boats entered against 1 Leander crew. The Pink Palace have senior internationals Ros Bradbury, Lou Reeve and Kath Douglas along with former US junior international Faith Richardson. The Light Blues no.1 boat has Blues Ashton Brown and Daphne Martschenko joined by Miryiam Goudet and Thea Zabell. Cambridge 2 has Alice Jackson, Fiona Macklin, Hannah Roberts and Thea Zabell. The final Cambridge boat of Imogen Grant, Ellie Hopgood, Dorrotya Nagy and Rachel Snow are a bit of an unknown as none of them are listed on the CUWBC squad list.
My money is on Leander to head the Light Blues who will finish in boat order 1,2,3

Women’s Elite 4+
Just 3 crews. This time it’s Imperial v Cambridge. IC have senior international Donna Etiebet at bow former U23 international Michelle Vezie at stroke. Cambridge’s top boat has 19 year old Rachel Elwood, US graduate Caroline Habjan, Oonagh Cousins and Durham grad Alex Wood. The 2nd Cambridge boat has Blondie oarswoman Evelyn Boettcher, Kate Baker from the USA along with Brits Sarah Carlotti and Molly Hindaugh.
It’ll be a bit of a turn up if the IC crew don’t take a comfortable victory.

That’s it for now. I’ll look at the lower events later if I can.

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