A 211-BOAT armada will be launching out on the River Wye this Sunday for the last big race of the year.

The bumper fleet for the Monmouth Winter Head of the River Race includes 16 eights, with strong entries from the likes of Nottingham, Cardiff, Surrey, Swansea and Portsmouth universities.

Crews will be racing 2.2km against the clock downstream from Hadnock to Monmouth Rowing Club in two divisions at 11am and 1.30pm.

The 27 clubs boating in the Monmouthshire Building Society sponsored event include Castle Dore from Cornwall, Trentham from Stoke and Cheney Falcon from Oxford.

The men's 8s in both divisions look especially tasty with Monmouth School looking to defend home waters against the university students of Nottingham, Swansea and Cardiff, plus Bristol Ariel.

Meanwhile, Haberdashers' Monmouth School for Girls' 1st eight will be aiming to lead home the likes of Surrey and Cardiff universities and City of Bristol.

Monmouth Comprehensive School's British junior cap Emily Richard will want to repeat her Autumn Head triumph of being fastest women's single sculler after impressing at last week's GB junior trials.

The 17-year-old, who took gold in quadruple sculls at the European junior team championships in France last sum- mer, placed fifth in the national 5km time-trial in Boston, Lincs, out of all GB's junior women rowers, to put herself well on course to make next year's British world junior championships team on the Rio 2016 Olympic course.

Placing seventh on time at the half-way stage, she pushed on in the second half to overhaul the Headington and Bedford Girls rowers to finish in 19 minutes 28.5 seconds, 17 seconds back on Henley Royal Regatta winner Alice Bowyer from Gloucester in first.

The result follows a good performance on the Thames in London in the 500-boat national Fours Head of the River, where Emily's Welsh squad quadruple scull finished 10th fastest women's boat overall racing the likes of Olympic champions Helen Glover and Heather Stanning, and third out of 32 in their Intermediate 1 class, in a time of 20.28.

Also on the the 4 1/4-mile reverse Boat Race course last Saturday, Monmouth RC captain Mark Stewart-Woods did well in the 460-boat national Scullers' Head.

The 50-year-old would have won the Masters D category by three seconds from Nor- wich's Henley Masters champion placing 55th overall in 21.59, but as a new entry he entered the IM1 class instead to get a higher starting position on a better tide.

Mark still started at a disadvantage to the age-group winner, though, who went off 170 places in front on a stronger stream.

Entry to watch Sunday's Monmouth Winter Head is free, and refreshments and a bar are available, with the first boat going afloat around 10.45am.

More information can be found online at http://www.monmouthrc.org.uk">www.monmouthrc.org.uk