|'There is nothing quite so comforting as a panel of experts.' (Photo: K. Kitch)|
The elite events will feature several battles between very strong crews from Australia and Great Britain. The GB crews will be very keen to make a statement after sitting out World Cup II (due to E. coli fears in Hamburg), and the Aussies will look to set the tone for Lucern and Worlds later this summer in Slovenia. Keep an eye on Chula Vista Training Center (US National Team) in the Stewards' Challenge Cup. In the Double Sculls, we can't see anything other than a showdown between the top seeds – the 2008 Olympic Champions Crawshay and Brennan of Australia, and the 'Red Express' duo of Wells and Bateman. In the Queen Mother, the Croatians are obviously clear favorites, while Princeton Training Center (US National Team) in the Remenham are surely going to have too much for anyone else.
Ladies' Challenge Plate
In our view, Harvard are the clear favorites. The Leander crews lack the speed they've shown in year's past – only a length and a bit quicker than the top Thames Cup crews. Harvard could take the event by over a length of clear water if they feel like it.
Visitors' Challenge Cup
The entries for the Visitors are a bit down as well, but at least there are two standout crews in the Leander/IC Composite and the Oxford Brookes/Molesey BC entries that should make a fantastic semifinal (where the two must meet, with Leander/IC not having been selected by the Stewards this year, despite winning last year). We are picking the Leander/IC composite (reigning U23 LM4- champions) to retain the trophy, especially if the conditions remain relatively flat.
We are taking Leander to win the Prince of Wales, as it looks to be ¾ of the guys who won last year, GB U23 M4X representatives.
Student (Collegiate) Events:
Temple Challenge Cup
Both Harvard and Yale's entries (Yale won the lightweight eight event at IRAs this year, while Harvard's heavy frosh took third behind Cal and Washington in New Jersey) will be extremely strong, but California have gotten quicker and quicker and given the conditions expected, we are picking them to come out on top over the Crimson and the Bulldogs (in a very strange draw, all of them are on the same side of the bracket). Harvard have strengthened their frosh eight with guys from the 2V and 3V we hear – Jack Morrissey would have been in the Molesey Thames Cup eight otherwise – but we think they have too much to do to catch the Golden Bears, who are undefeated this season. On the other side of the bracket, we are looking for Matt Miller and the UVa men to have a strong showing, making it to Friday or Saturday along with Queen's University Belfast). A. S. R. Nereus showed good speed at Holland Beker last weekend and will be carrying that momentum into Henley – look for a showdown between A. S. R. Nereus and California in the final.
All the top British Unis have run here as usual. Brookes have had the edge over Newcastle in the past two regattas, but given the nous of coach Angelo Savarino at Newcastle and the calibre of athletes in the crew, we're tempted to pick them to overcome Brookes at the big one.
1) Thames RC - Big favorites. A huge squad that has pushed each other all year, club invested huge amounts in telemetry last year (a dangerous precedent for club rowing) with numerous combinations tested throughout the season, but have held the same crew since Wallingford. We will be very surprised if they throw it away.
2) Star – Dark horse no. 1. A small squad who finished well at the Head of the River – beat Thames in the heats on the Sunday of Met by 1 second – Thames overturned the margin to the same extent in the final. Have been on training camp since, didn’t race Marlow.
3) Molesey – Dark horse no. 2. They raced the eight on the Saturday at Met with two ineligible guys in place of the two 'Gruntie Freshmen' they knew they were getting back post IRAs. Times from the heat were extremely close before 4 of the guys doubled into the 4+ and two others were in a 4- . They were then dropped by Thames after 750m in the final. They've decided to race the Thames even though the crew will be completely untested against any of its opposition. Big inclusion is Rowley Douglas in the coxswain’s seat, Olympic champion from Sydney 2000. A brief video of the crew paddling shows his influence already, but it will be interesting to see if this style can translate to boat speed in a club standard crew given the short amount of time he has had to work with them.
4) Upper Yarra – The big controversy. This crew is coached by Alex Henshilwood, he of the Eton College triple winning crews of 2009 and 2010 (as well as Pangbourne in 2003). Henshilwood moved to Melbourne last summer to coach MUBC – Upper Yarra is just a badge of convenience. MUBC is an open club, but its not sure how many of the crew are actually students. Still, the Stewards have approved the entry so it looks like they’ll be lining up alongside Temple Island on Wednesday. Henshilwood knows the standard and would not come all this way unless he thought they had a shot. We will see…
London RC's to lose – they have been impressive in last two Dorney regattas, about 7 seconds behind the standard in the Visitors. Can’t see any domestic challengers, only interest could be the Antipodeans, but it’s thought that the strongest guys from Banks RC are in their Brit entry.
The real turn up this year has been the quality entries from abroad in what is seen as the least prestigious event in the entire regatta. London RC are well ahead of any of their domestic rivals but are faced with Banks RC, Australian national champions, a crew from the great Mercantile RC who warmed up at the Amsterdam International this weekend, and finally an unknown entry from Hamburg. London definitely have the horsepower required for the event this year, but will the two Australian crews have the edge?
So there we have it, as best we can make it out given the huge number of entries, and the ever-unpredictable nature of head-to-head racing. It promises, as always, to be a great regatta, and we'll be watching with suitable interest from California and the Henley towpath.