Want to attend a piss-up in a brewery? Winners of the Head of the River Fours get to attend the prize-giving in the basement bar of sponsors Fullers to pick up their painted blades. Here’s a quick guide (with some help from HoR4s press officer Dan “Fatsculler” Spring) to the crews who will lead the charge to the bar. Full crew lists are on the event website.


Men’s Elite quads: Leander go off second but look favourites, featuring Charlie Cousins and Pete Lambert from Great Britain’s world silver-medal quad and the GB double scull of Jonno Walton and John Collins. Tideway Scullers (crew 1) are a club crew this year, although they still have Olympic bronze medallist Alan Campbell on board.


Men’s Elite coxless fours: Oxford Brookes have five entries in the eight-boat category, including an international combo of Mason Durant, Scott Durant, Matt Tarrant and Pete Chambers in crew 23. They will chase the Leander lightweight four of Chris Bartley, Richard Chambers, Jonathan Clegg and Will Fletcher.


Men’s Elite coxed fours: Leander and Molesey battle out this one, the Pink Palace (crew 31) boasting reigning world champions Alex Gregory, Pete Reed, Tom Ransley, Will Satch and cox Phelan Hill and the Black Death (34) world medallists George Nash and Mo Sbihi, James Foad and cox Henry Fieldman. Oxford and Cambridge also pit their top boats here, of which more later.


Women’s Elite quads: This year’s international all-star quad race for Imperial College (58), where all are currently training: world champion single sculler Emma Twigg from New Zealand, Polish Olympic bronze medallist Julia Michalska and GB’s Mel Wilson and Zoe Lee. They chase a Leander crew (57) of Lucinda Gooderham, Vicky Meyer-Laker, Vicky Thornley and Jess Leyden.


Women’s Elite coxless fours: Two crews feature but all are internationals. Starting 65th is an Army/Bath/Oxford Brookes/London composite of world champions Helen Glover and Heather Stanning, plus Jess Eddie and Olivia Carnegie-Brown. They are immediately followed by a Leander line-up of Polly Swann, Louisa Reeve, Ros Bradbury and Katie Greves - all of whom rowed in the GB eight at this year’s World Championships.


Junior events: The Junior Rowing News site has been running the rule over the younger crews in the race and tips Sir William Borlase's GS in J18 quads, St Paul's School in coxed fours and Henley RC in girls' J18 quads, an event which is missing entries from several big schools and clubs.



Women’s Boat Race worry

Another footnote was added to the history of the rowing rivalry between the universities of Oxford and Cambridge when the challenges for this year’s Boat Races took place in central London. For the first time, the challenge to “an eight-oared race from Putney to Mortlake” was issued by a woman, and both races will take place on the same day, 11 April, an hour apart.

Behind the announcements, though, there was widespread muttering about the relative standards of the two women’s crews. Oxford won by fourth lengths over 2000m in Henley last year – their sixth win in seven years. This year Cambridge will hope to reverse the trend over the 4.25-mile Championship Course.

Results from the Head of the Charles – where Oxford were a minute faster than Cambridge over a similar distance in finishing fourth in Champ Eights – are not a full form guide as the light blues left several top oarswomen at home to compete in the British Championships but they must be a worry nevertheless. 

Both sides hope their crew wins by the closest of margins, to show that the new arrival in the schedule can be just as exciting as the incumbent. So it isn’t just Cambridge supporters who will have their fingers firmly crossed over the coming months.

Oxford are strengthened hugely by the arrival of Caryn Davies, a triple Olympian who won gold in 2008 and 2012 in the US eight and is now studying for an MBA at Balliol. She is in one of two strong coxed crews (72) at Fours Head. The other (69) contains president Anastasia Chitty among three blues and starts directly behind the top Cambridge boat.

Also at Fours Head, Isis II (crew 30) is Oxford’s strongest men’s crew with president and world champion Constantine Louloudis at stroke. They start one place ahead of a Cambridge crew containing three blues. 

Sponsors BNY Mellon put together a video from the challenge evening but the video that caught our eye was about Lego technicians building replicas of the two Boat Race trophies, using approximately 5,000 bricks. You can buy a brick for a quid to benefit the SportsAid charity.


Bears and White Horses at Brit Champs

A foreign entry managed to creep in at British Championships judging by this headline from the Telegraph – “Lima crew take quads gold”. Surely not Lima in Darkest Peru, previously best known as the venue of the Home for Retired Bears, where Paddington’s Aunt Lucy resides? Strangely no. It was in fact an acronym for the composite from London, Imperial, Minerva and Army who won with four sticks between them on Saturday and two each on Sunday. 

The second running of the new-look championships - which focus on just four boat types and boast far stronger fields than previous versions because they form the first step of trialling for the GB team – was hit by horrible weather, causing considerable chaos on Saturday then on Sunday seeing medals handed out on the basis of results from the morning time trial, with afternoon finals cancelled.

Some crews complained about having to wait for hours for final decisions about racing conditions. Others packed up and went home before official announcements were made. 


The British Rowing survey on the event has already closed but if you have views on Brit Champs, let us know, using the comment section below, or on Twitter with the hashtag #TheRowlup.


Meijer contender

Westminster School’s Sam Meijer has had a busy month, following his success at Pairs Head. On the same weekend as Brit Champs, he was in action at the Head of the Charles in Boston, USA, winning the Youth Singles event by almost 40 seconds


Later in half term he took another junior win at the Armada Cup in Bern, Switzerland – a 9km race that starts racers 25-abreast. Sam was also 14th overall, six seconds ahead of double Olympic champion Olaf Tufte.

He is in an Imperial/Westminster composite (crew 8) at Fours Head, with Swiss scullers Nico Stahlberg and Barnabe Delarze and GB lightweight Sam Scrimgeour, aiming for a top-five place.

Meijer – who rowed in the quad – is one of four returnees to GB junior trials who won silver medals at this summer’s World Junior Championships.

“I’ve just said I want to be in a crew that can win,” he told me of his international hopes for next summer. “I can sweep decently and I can scull.” Yes, yes he can.


Chaos on the Charles

How’s this for a round-up of the action at the world’s biggest rowing event, the Head of the Charles in Boston?


There was no victorious return for Sirs Redgrave and Pinsent, who finished fifth in the over-50 Senior Masters category and also suffered the indignity of taking a penalty for a steering violation. 


The Molesey women’s crew had more success in the over-40s event, providing Katherine Grainger with victory in her first win since announcing her return to training with the GB squad and setting a course record in the process.

Speaking a couple of days after the race, at the opening of Fulham Reach Boat Club, Grainger enthused about the project, in which she was a driving force, pulling together a crew of mainly British internationals dating back to the 1992 Olympics.



“We covered an amazing 20 years of women’s rowing in Great Britain – some people were established long before I came on the scene. To get the chance to row with them was amazing,” she told me. 

"It was a lovely mix of everything you love about rowing. Some people hadn’t rowed for 10 years but the mindset, the competition, the demand for excellence were still there and the desire to win was still as strong as ever."

If Grainger's crew want another shot at the Women's Eights Head in March, after her star turn at the Fulham Reach boathouse opening she may just swing the only boating slot. The new club can't easily host visiting crews because of a complete lack of parking space.

After Boston, Mass, Grainger's next competitive outing is likely to be in the single in Boston, Lincs, where the first set of GB trials take place on the erg and in singles on 16 November, and the second set on 20 December.




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