We’re already in the middle of a crazy weekend for club rowing, with Schools Head, Junior Sculling Head, the Head of the Race and Veterans Head on successive days.


This Just In...





Schools Head plots brave new course

The weather forecast for Saturday’s Head of the River Race looks pretty rubbish, threatening the third abandonment in five years but, with the wind blowing up sinking conditions along Chiswick Eyot on Thursday, the Schools Head organisers came up with an ingenious solution: shorten the course as much as you need to.



With the finish moved from Putney to Barnes Bandstand, the top six schoolboy eights all covered a course of about 2,000m in under five minutes – despite the white horses that hit them through Barnes Bridge – but 350 crews in all got a race to end their winter season.



Despite having to decamp upstream at short notice, the timing team ran results as live so Shiplake College knew they had won well before they came aground. Obviously catching defending champions Westminster must have given them a good idea too.



Headington won their fifth successive Girls Championship Eights title, with Henley hot on their heels as usual this year. Maidenhead pipped Leander in Championship Quads and Molesey won Girls Champ Quads by 10 seconds.

Organisers of the adult Head of the River Race have in the past suggested a possible Hammersmith finish if the Crabtree reach gets too lumpy and racers on Saturday will have their fingers crossed for some sort of race. 




Big boys back at the Head 

With Olympians occupied elsewhere last year, Oxford Brookes won their first ever Head pennant. Can they defend that title now the big boys are back?



Brookes (crew number 1) boast four of last year's Head-winning crew, bolstered by GB types Matt Tarrant and Joel Cassells. Leander (2) have a sweep eight, including Olympians Will Satch and Stewart Innes (plus GB cox Henry Fieldman) and a scullers crew (7) including Olympians Pete Lambert, John Collins and Jonny Walton. Meanwhile Mo Sbihi joins his Molesey club-mates (6), including the top U23 pair from last month’s GB trails.



Of the top clubs and universities, Thames (3) won the Quintin Head by five seconds over University of London (8), but were beaten by Edinburgh University (16, the BUCS Head winners) and Imperial College (5) on the Amstel in Holland last week. Brookes’ top student crew (4) contains three of last year’s Temple winners at Henley.

As ever, Dan “Fatsculler” Spring has a more detailed preview on his blog




Slow death of club rowing? 

When Iain “Shutteritch” Weir posted this analysis of HoRR entries a few weeks ago, he struck a nerve with many who feel the development of the GB Rowing Team and its high performance centres has attacked the heart of club rowing.

Is British Rowing to blame, and if so what can it do to help competitive club rowing? Or is it just that the British sporting scene has changed over the last decade, with other sports becoming more attractive and time at more of a premium for the average worker?



Women’s Head highlights

Five records fell at the Women’s Eights Head on a glorious spring Saturday a fortnight ago, with Leander’s GB squaddies and the students of Cambridge leading the way in a 295-boat field.

Here are some of the best bits:







And there’s this one too, obviously:




Boat Race bids to stay afloat

After last year’s near-sinking by the Cambridge women, no one is taking any chances as this year’s Boat Races approach. For their final fixture before the big day, Oxford women sported extra decking on their Hudson eight – in a race that was so windy that umpire Sarah Winckless’s flag blew off its stick – while Cambridge men have an extra-large lip along the side of their Empacher.



It seems tougher to find bookies offering odds these days but regular observers seem to be backing Cambridge to end a four-year losing streak in the women’s event. Cambridge coach Rob Baker certainly feels this crew – featuring Irish Olympian Claire Lambe and six other U23 internationals - is the best he has had.

Oxford looked of similar speed to Molesey last weekend, while the light blues beat the black death by 35 seconds at WEHoRR.

Beaten in Olympic year – for the first time since the last Olympic year - Oxford’s men boast two Olympians in their crew at the official announcement: American Michael DiSanto – their president – and Dutchman Olivier Siegelaar plus Oliver Cook, reigning world champion in the coxed pair. 

The biggest news in the Cambridge crew announcement was that three-times blue boat cox Ian Middleton has been deposed in favour of Hugo Ramambason, who apparently gets more fire out of a crew with an average weight of 93.5kg per man. 




Celebs pull together

Word on Putney High Street is that the Celebrity Boat Race – filmed a couple of weeks ago but to be shown as part of the BBC coverage on 2 April – is well worth tuning in for. The lead apparently changes hands several times as crews stacked with rowers who had only undergone a handful of sessions bid to out-crab each other. 




Going live in Henley

The women may have decamped to the Tideway but the Henley Boat Races is still going strong and this year’s programme is boosted by alumnae races for both openweight women and lightweight men, plus the Peter Sutherland Memorial Race – a match between club-standard crews from Upper Thames and Leander Club in tribute to the former Leander captain and UTRC founder, who died in 2012.

In the women's lightweight event, defending champions Oxford have a chance to level the series at 17-all. Cambridge are looking for their fourth straight win in the men's lightweight race, which would move them 11 clear in the series at 27-16.




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