Posted: May 26, 2017
Over 100 young athletes from seven Scottish clubs have taken the long road south to compete in this weekend’s National Schools Regatta at Dorney Lake (26-28 May).
For the 27 Scottish crews in action Aberdeen Schools Rowing Association (ASRA) have made the longest journey to take part in what is the highlight of the annual calendar.
"National schools is the main target for our club each year and we gear our season around it,” said ASRA Pathways Development Coach Jonny Muir, who believes this year's squad is the best since he got involved four years ago.
“We're in a bubble in Scotland anyway, and we feel we are in another bubble up in the north east," he continued.
“So we have to gauge how we think we are going to do, going on previous years and make comparisons that way.
“But if it goes the way we want it to I think this will be the strongest squad we have taken in the last three to four years. And our hope is that we will have six competitive crews looking at A-B finals.”
Edinburgh’s George Watsons College have sent down a team of four scullers in a slightly reduced squad than in previous years due to clashes with Higher and Advanced Higher exams and a lesser number of sculling events in this regatta.
The school’s Head of Rowing, Jason Foster, admits his squad could be “fighting in a higher weight category” than normal, but believes they have genuine prospects and J18 single sculler Fergus Mainland has set his hopes high.
James Davidson, Head Rowing Coach and Manager of Boats at Edinburgh’s George Heriot’s School, is equally positive about his club having seen big improvements and more athletes competing over the past year.
“We are really pleased with our progress,” said James, who is hoping his pupils will make A finals of boys and girls fours this weekend.
“We got a third in the girls four at the schools head in London, and fifth for the boys four, both of which were improvements from last year.
“In total last year we got 13 wins whereas this year we are up to 30 wins and the season isn’t over yet. So everything is moving in the right direction.”
“Jane Hardie is the leading junior girl in Scotland and is ranked number nine in the GB trials process and has achieved that despite being based on the Union canal, where training opportunities are limited.”
Hardie, Mainland, Robert Powell and Miles Beeson (ASRA), Alex Milne and Ru Smith (Glasgow Academy) are all in good form having been involved in the GB junior trialling process this season.
Good things are happening at Castle Semple Rowing Club which has experienced a boom since it capitalised on rowing interest after the London 2012 Games.
It's a reflection of the surge in its youth numbers (the club has around 60 juniors) that its athletes will compete on all three days of this weekend’s National Schools Regatta.
“For a long time the club produced individual scullers who came down to national schools,” said Lesley Afuakwah, the club’s junior coach.
“But now we are beginning to bring crew boats which is a big development for us.
“The club has worked hard and we are very healthy, so it’s great that National Schools has become an event we automatically add to our calendar.”
Castle Semple’s junior programme has attracted children from a wide catchment of ten schools in Ayrshire, Glasgow, Inverclyde, Renfrewshire and Stirlingshire, and there’s a good spread of ages amongst the children at Dorney Lake this weekend.
“Our youngest competitors this weekend are in the J14 category,” continued Lesley.
“They are extremely keen and coming down for experience. My J16 girls do really well in Scotland, so this weekend is about us finding out where they lie down here.
“But I would say for all our crews that they are coming down this weekend to increase their competition and to see where they can push themselves to when they are racing against stiffer competition.”
Full list of Scottish clubs and boats competing in this weekend’s National Schools Regatta at Dorney Lake (26-28 May):
Aberdeen Schools Rowing Association (ASRA)
J16 G 4+
Castle Semple Rowing Club
J15 G 4x+
J16 G 4x-
Ch G 2-
George Heriot’s School
Ch G 2x
George Watson’s College
Ch 1x (F.Mainland)
Ch 1x (R.Potter)
Ch G 1x (S. Orr)
Ch G 1x (A.Buchanan)
Ch 1x (A.Milne)
J16 G 4+
Ch G 2-
Ch G 4-
Ch G 8+
Glasgow Schools Rowing Club
J14 G 4x+
Strathclyde Park Rowing Club