Crews to Watch This Weekend at the Head of the River Race in London

The calm before the storm in Putney (Photo: B. Kitch)
What is supposed to be the annual statement of winter training for most UK clubs has been missing something vital for the past two editions: a completed race!

Not deterred by the recent cancellations, 345 crews are scheduled to take to the championship course on Sunday—a figure well down on the 420 who used to fill the entry, however. The fickle nature of exchange rates are thought to be an additional factor in this reduction, as seen by the reduced overseas entries, further to the uncertainty that the recent cancellations have brought.

To the racing: Molesey may be going off 'Head', but this is not the crew of 12 months ago who were cruelly denied the official title having already posted the quickest time. Injury and illness deny them of many of the names from that crew, and while late 'reinforcements' are expected to arrive, it will be a battle for them to hold off the top Leander crew starting behind them; a settled combination having had a rare (and needless to say, successful) visit to Kingston Head last weekend. Still, the Molesey banter is strong...

Leander's no. 1 crew is full of international sweep talent, featuring no fewer than five current world champions. Further to this, we expect to see the second crew of international scullers pushing for the top three. Such is the current strength in depth at the Pink Palace, a further crew of Ladies Plate athletes may well make it three eights in the top five!

Our other pick for the top five will be the top crew from Oxford Brookes. Comprising most of the eight who proved so dominant in wrestling back the Temple for the UK at Henley last year (watch the Henley final with a coxswain recording thanks to Rory Copus here), they are a well drilled unit who will have been fiercely prepared by the coaching team at Wallingford over the winter months (as evidenced by their recent winter training video, featured earlier on RR). The top crew from the University of London (featured in the video below) may well have something to say about this, but we see them alongside Newcastle University, Leander's lightweight crew and Oxford Brookes’s second eight as fighting for the top 10.

While the number of overseas entries are down, those with eyes on the club events at Henley will be interested to see how they compare to particularly the 15 German and six Swiss crews who make the journey. Encouraging performances from any of these combinations could see them returning to UK shores in the summer, as the crew from Frankfurt did so successfully last year. It would also prompt the inevitable eligibility debate that rears its head every year a foreign crew performs well at the Head!

Good luck to everyone competing—let's hope the weather gods smile on this four-and-a-quarter mile stretch of river on Sunday to give us the opportunity of finally seeing a proper contest! And for those of you watching...

Stay up to date with everything 'Eights Head' via the official website of the Head of the River Race.

-The RR International Research Department

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