Spectacular racing on final day of the British Rowing Junior Championships

With high-quality competition amidst plenty of sunshine, the national juniors ended on a high at Nottingham this weekend

The buzz continued on the final day of the British Rowing Junior Championships, as the Nottingham course was bathed in sunshine once again. Despite the blistering 31-degree heat, the J18 rowers produced many impressive performances.

Overall, Henley RC took the Victor Ludorum on 47 points, with Marlow RC in second with 33 and Shiplake College in third on 31.

Over 1,500 competitors from 115 clubs took part in the three-day competition, with rowers coming from as far afield as Aberdeen and Calpe in Gibraltar.

Each day featured a different age group with the last day culminating with the J18s.

On the Sunday, there was some thrilling racing with one of the tightest races coming in the men’s quads. Windsor Boys’ School were winners in the open quads – hot on their heels were Tideway Scullers’ School, who just clinched silver ahead of Leander with .20 of a second separating them. Shiplake College women’s crews took a clean sweep of the sculling events, winning the single sculls, double and the women’s quads. Less than five seconds separated the medallists in the quads, with Wycliffe Junior RC just beating Wallingford RC to the finish line.

The women’s pair too was hotly contested, with King’s Worcester narrowly winning the women’s pair edging out Aberdeen Schools by .85 of a second, while Reading Blue Coat School won the open pairs.

St Paul’s School BC won the open eights, with Shiplake College and Shrewsbury School close behind.

Representing St Paul’s School, Felix said: “It’s been super fun- really nice to be out there and to do three races in a day too. I think Nat Schools and the other events have only had two.”

Crew mate Raheel reflected on the event, saying: “The British Rowing Champs is usually after Henley, but this year it’s before, so a lot of crews want to come here for the racing practice and a lot of our competition has been here.”

Fresh from their win at Henley Women’s Regatta, Headington School won the women’s eights with Henley RC and Glasgow Academy in second and third. Headington juniors Phoebe and Rose were in the crew and both were racing at the BRJC for the first time.

After receiving her medal, Phoebe said: “A hard day’s work paid off. Having a close race is always nice.

“It’s good to have loads of crews around and being able to race again. It’s exciting. The best thing is that junior events are put first and having a day for each age group allows loads of crews to stand out.”

Westminster School won the open fours, while Marlow RC took honours in the women’s category.

Bewl Bridge took the open single sculls and Shiplake College the women’s single sculls and the women’s doubles. Exeter RC took the open doubles, with local crew NCRA just beating King’s Ely to silver.

Commentators Jack Dryden and Fergus Mainland undoubtedly had the best view of the course and were savouring the high-quality racing.

Jack said: “I think it’s been great to see the depth of the field and the clubs and the schools out in force. We’ve had E finals, we’ve had F finals so there’s a real depth of competition across the event which is one of the things that I look for as a commentator.

“We had some incredibly close races yesterday – some real photo finishes that were always good to look at.”

A former junior medallist for George Watson’s College at the BRJC, Fergus said: “We have a lot of the top crews here and you can’t ask for anything better than that at a national championships – it’s a really high quality field.”

Reflecting on some of the best moments over the weekend, he added: “We saw a really strong performance from Hereford Cathedral in the J16 quads race – that was outstanding. Same as Kingston Grammar School as well – they were a really strong J16 quad, particularly as they haven’t had as much time on the water. To see them come in and dominate in their field was exceptional.”

Each of the three days began with time-trials followed by semi-finals and finals from A to G, giving crews the chance to increase their experience in side-by-side racing.

Oliver Frazer, Head Junior Coach at Cantabrigian RC, said: “Our J16 boys had a great time – they came back and had a really good minor final and a great experience. In some events you don’t get these finals unless you’re in the top 12 finishers, so it just helps with their development for next year.

“Our older juniors can say I’ve raced against Leander and Tideway Scullers, and our younger juniors can now say that they’ve done a race. It was really good that they got a chance to experience side-by-side, so they then get the bug and they want to come back.”

It was all about getting experience for Calpe juniors too, whose coaches and 10 rowers made the trip, despite all the logistical obstacles and extra expense of paying £1500 alone for COVID tests. Unable to bring their own boats to Nottingham, the club had to hire boats as well.

Club coach Jonathan Zammitt said: “It’s been a very challenging this year because of COVID, but it’s worth it because we know we have a good level of competition. We do a lot of our training on the sea, so we don’t get these calm conditions and it’s an education for our young rowers to come here.

“Just to see them – and my son is one of the rowers – doing what they love on the water has been the best thing for me.”

While the athletes provided the entertainment on the water, an army of more than 80 volunteers supported the BRJC behind the scenes, contributing to a successful competition.

Sue Blackshaw spent the day helping with the boat numbers at the finish pontoons. This involved collecting each boat number after a race, disinfecting them as part of COVID protocols and then making sure they were ready to be used for another race – a crucial cog in the regatta results logistics.

She said: “The highlight for me is the sunshine, just being here and seeing everyone.”

On the water, daughters Polly and Eve were representing Trentham BC.

“They’re so happy to be here,” added Sue. “I think they’ve really missed competing. It’s been really difficult for them mentally to keep going and to keep training, so it’s fantastic to be back. It means the world.”

Chris Callow, Chair of the British Rowing Junior Championships, said: “It has been great to be able to run the British Rowing Junior Championships again after missing last year. The racing has been compelling to watch and the sunshine has added to the festival atmosphere over the weekend.

“I would like to thank all the athletes, coaches, volunteers and British Rowing staff for making the last three days such a success. It’s been brilliant to see the junior rowing community come together and celebrate our wonderful sport.”

To see the full results, click here.

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