This year's National Schools’ Regatta started off with disappointment for the J14 Octuples as wind and rain forced Friday's races to be cancelled. However, Saturday could not have been more different as winds dropped and the sun came out, making conditions near perfect for fair and fast racing.
Hampton's crews took full advantage and produced two days of excellent racing, resulting in top ranking on the NSR medal table:
Gold medal - J18 Championship 4-, J18 2nd VIII, J18 3rd VIII, J16 2nd VIII, J15 2nd VIII
Silver medal - J16 Championship VIII, J16 coxless four
Bronze medal - J18 Championship VIII
Course Records - J15 and J16 Second VIII’s
Championship Four - take Gold, 14 seconds clear of the field
Photo courtesy - Iain Weir Photography
The J18 Championship Four race was one of the most impressive victories of the Regatta. The Hampton School crew of Matthew Benstead, Alastair Douglass, Robert Wickstead and Alexander Lloyd, who have all rowed for the GB team over the past few years, dominated the race from the outset, starting strongly and stretching their lead to win 14 seconds clear of the rest of the field.
Director of Rowing at Hampton, Mr Colin Greenaway, praised the boys’ exceptional performance:
"All four athletes demonstrated their international quality at the National Schools’ Regatta and won their race in style. We will be sad to see them go as they leave Hampton at the end of this term however, looking at the strength and skills of our younger rowers, I am confident that we will have no shortage of contenders vying to live up to their exceptional standards."
All the heats went well with every Hampton crew progressing to the finals to the delight of the dozens of friends and relatives who had turned out to cheer on the boys.
The first Eights' final of the day included two Hampton J15 2nd VIII’s. Having won their semi-final 7 seconds clear of the field, the ‘A’ 2nd VIII were the crew to beat. In the final they went out with confidence and by 500 meters had almost a length on the field, they squeezed this to a full length by half way and at 1500 meters had broken clear. Hampton won by a length in a new record time of 6:36.05 cutting six seconds off the previous record.
The J16 2nd VIII have worked on their second half of the race during training since Wallingford Regatta earlier in the year where they were rowed down by Eton. In their final they proved this training had worked well, leading from the start they moved into a two second lead by 500 which they continued to stretch out each 500 meters thereafter until they reached the finish line almost six seconds ahead of Eton who were second. The Hampton crew beat the existing record held by last year’s Hampton J16’s by 2.7 seconds finishing in 6:27.07
With two Gold medals and silver already in the bag by early afternoon, everyone was looking forward to seeing the senior boys’ race. First off was the 3rd VIII who were led off the start by Eton but by half way the bow balls had swapped places with Hampton just up. This lead was stretched over the second Kilometre and in the end the Hampton 3rd VIII won by a length.
The 2nd VIII produced a very mature and measured race, looking to establish a consistent and strong rhythm. They did not panic when at half way they lay in second place just behind Eton. The fitness and determination of the Hampton crew came into play in the final 500 when they pushed to drop four seconds off their pace to finish a comfortable length ahead of the field to win in commanding style.
With two more Gold medals the last race of the day was the Championship Eights and hopes were high for the Hampton 1st VIII who had won their semi very comfortably. In the other semi, Abingdon School and St Edward's School had a real battle and produced very quick times. Going into the final without being pushed may have been a disadvantage for Hampton as both Abingdon and St Edwards knew they had a race on and had already produced some fast rowing that day. Out of the blocks these two crews took the initiative. The Hampton crew was third at the first 500 meter marker but drew level with St Edward’s at the half way mark with Abingdon holding onto the lead. Abingdon never lost pole position and then in the final push for the line St Edward's narrowly moved ahead of Hampton to get second place by half a second, leaving Hampton to pick up the Bronze.
All in all a great set of results over the weekend, which saw Hampton at the top of the table with all the senior rowers coming home with a medal. The 1st VIII will be a little disappointed with their third place but with Henley Royal Regatta still to come they have another chance to race and see what they can do against St Edward’s School and Abingdon School in a few weeks’ time.