Junior Rowing News: Wycliffe and Shiplake share spoils at record Schools’ Head of the River 2023
339 boats competed at a soggy Schools’ Head of the River, writes Tom Morgan
Over 300 crews took to the water to round off the head racing season over the reverse Championship course in London. The sun rarely threatened to penetrate a thickening grey sky as hundreds of junior athletes from all over the country – and as far afield as Ireland – played their part in a record roster of participants, as 339 boats passed underneath the struts of Chiswick Bridge.
Under the stewardship of Dave Currie, Shiplake recorded the fastest time of the day by over 13 seconds to take the Championship Eights (the largest winning margin since St Paul’s School won this category in 2018 by just shy of 20 seconds in 2018). They were also victorious in the School Second Eights category, cementing their place as one of the UK’s premier rowing institutions. “I’m really pleased with the group’s performance,” said Currie. “It’s a reflection of a good winter’s training and I’m now focused on ensuring we step on into summer racing.”
“It’s really down to dedication and unwavering commitment”
The girls’ headship went to Wycliffe Junior Rowing Club, the first time since 2012 that neither Henley nor Headington have won the event. Stroked by GB junior international Ella Fullman, the crew won the event by five seconds over a second-placed Henley with Headington a further 13 seconds back in third. “After only a dozen sweep sessions and a first-ever Wycliffe girls’ eight, I’m incredibly proud,” said Greg Flower, Director of Rowing. “It’s really down to dedication and unwavering commitment.”
It was a brilliant day of racing for Bedford School, who secured the win in every first eight age group category (three golds in total). Their win in School First Eights, by just over three seconds ahead of St Joseph’s College, Ireland, was their first in this event since 2018 and placed them 13th overall. Pete Mulkerrins, Director of Rowing, praised his team, saying: “I am lucky to work with a great group of coaches who have helped develop a technical model that is used by all year groups. This year’s athletes have dedicated themselves to the program, and I am immensely pleased that they achieved the results this deserved.”
Although they missed out on the girls’ championship headship, Henley Rowing Club were in fine form on the Tideway across their other age groups, recording wins in Girls’ Second Eights, Third Eights and Championship J15 Girls’ Eights.
Other highlights included Marlow continuing their fascinating battle with Shiplake for female sculling supremacy; Pete Chambers’ Marlow girls came out on top in the latest installment, securing victory in Girls’ Quads by 0.8 seconds over their fierce rivals. “It was great for our junior women to get a win,” said Chambers. “The Tideway provides tough racing and I’m pleased they performed well”. On the boys’ quad side, Leander decimated the field to win by over 14 seconds ahead of Marlow in second and Sir William Borlase’s School in third.
St Paul’s School continued to impress their presence upon the junior rowing community with three victories in J16 Championship Eights, Championship J15 Eights and Second J15 Eights. With their first eight, containing several athletes who were victorious in the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup in 2022, finishing third overall, the future is clearly bright for Bobby Thatcher and his charges.
Surbiton High School confirmed to the rowing community that their grip on girls’ junior 16 rowing is not to be trifled with; they were winners in the Championship and Second Eights category.
Other wins went to Eton College in the School Second J16 Eights, St Paul’s Girls School in the Girls’ School First Eights, Bedford Girls’ School in the Girls’ School J16 Eights, King Edward VI School in Mixed School Eights, Putney High School in Girls’ School J15 Eights and Headington School in Girls’ J15 Second Eights.