This weekend saw Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s Men’s masters competing in both Saturday’s 1000m event and Sunday’s 500m Sprints at Evesham Rowing Club’s Spring Regatta. On Saturday, the Master’s E 4+ crew , (Edwards, Aitchison, Cann, Skillings, cox Francis) were up against a national championship crew from Pengwern Boat Club, Shropshire. The race started well with Pengwern showing the benefit of many years racing and getting an early lead over Stratford. Stratford did not let this affect them and held the gap until the halfway point where Stratford started gaining on their opposition. Stratford continued to gain, with cox Francis driving the crew hard in her first competitive event. However, in the final 200m Pengwern once again showed the benefit of race experience and put in an heroic push to secure a win over Stratford. After the event, Pengwern’s crew said, “You certainly gave us a good run for our money, we’ve looking forward to the next time!”
Sunday saw the Masters’ E 4+ crew, (Simkins, Charlesworth, Shepherd, Freeman, cox Ward) in the 500m event against a Masters’ F crew from Warwick. The Stratford crew had a two length handicap and after an epic sprint to the clubhouse, they lost out by just half a length! Bowman Simkins said, “Even though we lost by half a length, it was nice to be competing again!”
Also racing at Evesham Regatta were Stratford’s Mixed Masters’ double sculls of Heather Hayton and Tom Doherty and they led off the Stratford Masters’ participation in the afternoon division racing in the D/E [50 to 55] age category.
A good clean start saw Hayton and Doherty take an early racing lead against local rivals Warwick into the first of two large bends on the course. A push on the straight after the bend saw Stratford slightly increase their lead to about three lengths up to the 500 metre halfway mark. Warwick were not to be outdone however and approaching the second large bend, put in a strong push on the inside favourable side of the river to close back on Stratford reducing the lead to about a length and a half with 300 metres to go. Stratford did not panic and maintained a smooth rhythm and rating of 34 strokes per minute to extend their lead over the last two hundred meters to win by two lengths!
Stratford’s J15 squad raced in four events at the Evesham Regatta on Saturday. In the WJ15 4x+ event, Nancy Davis cox Scarlett Richardson, Megan Rowan, Jessica Long and Harriet Froom to Gold success, beating a fine Evesham crew in the final on their home waters. In J15 singles event, Jamie Wilcock sculled into the semi-final beating one of his nemeses from Evesham. In the WJ15 singles event, Eloise Cooper, Lucy Sartain and Molly Vondrak sculled very well with the latter making the final, losing by a length to a formidable opponent from Bristol. In the WJ15 doubles event, Stratford occupied two of the four semi-final slots, sadly with neither making it to the final. Commenting, Hugo Happel, J15 Coach said, “We were very pleased with the J15 performances, all round good sculling, tremendous work ethic and some well deserved outcomes. Well done to all the athletes!”
A highly successful days racing at Evesham at the weekend accumulating in Stratford Boat Club being awarded the Victor Ludorum, “the winner of the games” on Saturday. The trophy is presented to the club who have won the most events or accumulated the most points on the day. Following on from the Junior Inter Regional Regatta last weekend, Stratford’s J14’s competed in both the Saturday, 1000m event and Sunday 500m Sprints.
First up on Saturday the crew of the OP J14 coxed quadruple sculls Seth Vondrak, Xavier Sissins-Rofey, James Albrighton, Theo Richter, and Ollie Rowlands (coxswain) faced a crew from the host club Evesham in a straight final: the boys dominated the race from the start resulting in an easy win to Stratford.
Following on from the boys, the WJ14 double of Lily Warren and Poppy Baines faced a crew from Bristol City: despite a close start, the girls lost out to Bristol who went on to win the overall event. In the other side of the draw were the crew of Alice Jones and Sophie Evans who were given a bye to the semi-final. Despite a delay at the start due to equipment issues with their opposition, the Stratford crew kept pace over the first quarter of the course, sadly losing out to a strong crew from AB Severn.
Joining the J13 squad on the Sunday “Sprint “were Ollie Rowlands and Alexandra Francis in their debut single sculls event. Due to the withdrawal of opposition in the semi-final, Rowlands faced a long wait for the finals of the OJ 14 singles event. Facing an old quadruple quad adversary and despite a valid attempt, Rowlands eventually lost out to the Abingdon sculler.
Francis dominated the first and semi-final rounds easily: the same could not be said of the final as Francis faced formidable opposition from AB Severn. An exciting race ensued, both crews neck and neck for most of the course receiving vocal encouragement by the spectators on the boathouse bank. In what was a nail-biting finish, Francis took advantage of the staggered finish line and eventually won by a quarter of a length.
The J18 Club Squad were also present and competing in the afternoon division. Hannah Broome and Isabella Sandland, competing in their first regatta event, rowed a strong race beating their opponents in their first heat easily with a strong start and great teamwork but losing out to the eventual winners of the event in their semi-final event. Racing continued with Elisabeth Edwards next to race in the W1x event. Competing against an experienced sculler from Exeter, Edwards put up a strong fight, keeping level with her opponent throughout but lost out at the finish by just one length.
Martha Usselmann was last to race against the Exeter sculler having had a bye to the final of the W1x category: a barge on the course led to the race being restarted but Usselmann had a strong start and kept level with her opposition. Steering a confident line down the course, Usselmann drew ahead halfway through the race and kept up her lead to the finish securing a win of two lengths for the event.
On Sunday, Day Two of the ever popular Evesham Regatta got underway with the “Sprint Edition”: half the distance of Saturday’s event but by no means any less competitive. The 500m course ran from bridge to club through the heart of Evesham’s Abbey Park to provide the spectators with an excellent view of the racing as the action unfolded.
In their debut regatta, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club was represented by the J13 squad racing in single, double and quadruple sculls. First up, the double scull of Martha Baines and Martha Cooke sculled smoothly into the final where they met the other Stratford pairing of Tessa Parkin and Maeve Dunn. The race did not disappoint with the crew of Marathas (plus lucky avocado) the eventual winners!
Next up were six of the young scullers competing in the J13 single sculls event. A daunting prospect for the most seasoned oarswoman, the Stratford girls demonstrated boatmanship beyond their years. Throughout the event, the scullers Martha Baines, Cara Berisford-Murray, Isla Dunn, Poppy Warren, Sophie Franklin and Martha Cooke tore up the Avon dealing with the competition in the process. Isla Dunn emerged from the fray victorious to collect the second win for Stratford Boat Club with a classy scull beating Avon County Rowing Club in the final by two lengths.
In the final event for the J13 squad, the coxed quadruple sculls event was closely fought against local rivals on the water, Evesham Rowing Club. The Stratford crew of Becca Smith, Cara Berisford-Murray, Poppy Warren, Sophie Franklin and Martha Cooke (coxswain) pushed hard in their semi-final with just two lengths separating them from victory. In the other side of the draw, the other Stratford crew of Millie Smith, Isla Dunn, Josephine Cooper, Bryony Francis and Martha Baines (coxswain) fared better to secure their place in the final by a comfortable margin. Sadly, they were unable to convert their semi-final performance into victory and lost out to a quality Evesham outfit by just one length.
Commenting on the day’s racing, Stratford’s Junior Coordinator and J13 coach Steve Wellstead said, “These young athletes showed the strength of their already tight squad with how they supported and helped one another in their first competition. The two event wins were the icing on the cake that was a great day on the water!”
The J16 squad faced a busy bank holiday weekend competing in two regattas. The first at Evesham on Saturday was held on a tight 1,000 meter course with a tricky bend after the start. Charles Happel boated first in his single scull taking a confident win to progress to the final where he met Worcester Rowing Club. Charles made a flying start only to clip a submerged log with his oar ending his race in spectacular fashion. Amalia Richardson, Harriet Noyes, Maddie Hall and Kate Richardson had no competition in the WJ16 category so they entered their quad in the women’s event. They took a convincing win in the semi final against Exeter to meet Stourport in the final. Despite a top class performance from the Stratford girls the Stourport women had the power to take the win. To round off the afternoon for the J16s Charlotte Isbell and Grace Beason, racing for the first time together in their double scull, met Royal Grammar School Worcester in the final. They sculled very well, but were beaten by a more experienced crew.
Stratford’s sister club King Edward Sixth School Boat Club also competed at Evesham Rowing Club’s Spring Regatta and made outstanding effort with their Performance Squad beating a muscular Clifton College in the final. Great preparation for next week’s Ball Cup!
Also competing on Saturday but further south at Marlow Rowing Club’s Spring Regatta were Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s ever expanding adaptive squad. With a win for Stratford sculler Lee Cairns, competing in his first competitive event, Lee won the fixed seat singles event. Fixed seat racing is a pararowing competition for individuals who due to a medical condition are not able to use legs to propel the boat. Lee’s final was the closest and most exciting race of the adaptive day. The lead changed hands more than once: in the closing stages, by maintaining good technique, Lee finally got the better of his opponent, Luke Payne from Sudbury, winning by a length.
The day was an unusual one for the Stratford adaptive squad: usually the squad comes away from an event with multiple wins. However, this time, the squad lost five out of six finals. Head Adaptive Coach Mark Dewdney commented, “That’s sport: today we rowed well but our opponents rowed better! Congratulations to them!”
Some of Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s alumnae including Katie Wellstead (Oxford University), Talei Dunn (Durham University), Molly Gill-Swift (Exeter University ) and Hermione Hill (Durham University) were competing at the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) Regatta 2022 at Nottingham over the weekend as well.
For media coverage, see Stratford Herald page fifty one and Stratford Observer online https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-stratford-upon-avon-boat-club-enjoy-bumper-weekend-at-evesham-and-marlow and on back sports page https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/editions/view/?/Stratford/2022/05/06&pages=024
For more great pictures of Evesham regatta, see Kathy and Stuart Baines’ selections at https://1drv.ms/u/s!AgY7EiDB2lCOhY5uHPyivDC7tTkc7Q?e=F0KGmw and https://1drv.ms/f/s!AiW2DAyn9tg9j45NUoENU9m4AbAATw