Stratford’s Juniors Show Real Mettle at Ironbridge!

On Saturday 25 June, Stratford upon Avon juniors set off early and racing side by side over 1000m with the stream, upstream from the pretty town of Ironbridge, opposite the former cooling towers, Will Dalrymple-Baker beat a Grosvenor sculler and two City of Bristol Scullers to take the win in the J15 1x Band 1 event. Jamie Wilcock crashed whilst in the lead, recovered well but ran out of time.

The Stratford WJ15 doubles of Nancy Davis/Jessica Long and Harriet Froom/Esmerelda Elfwood sculled with fine technique against powerful opponents from Grange School and Huntingdon, with a win for Nancy and Jessica. The latter duo came just short in the Final.

Following on from the J15’s was Theo Richter, Xavier Sissins-Rofey, Seth Vondrak , Ollie Rowlands in the OpJ14 coxed quad. The boys were determined to make up for their equipment failure at Stratford regatta last weekend. A very strong start enabled the boys to pull ahead within the first quarter of the course. Their cox Meg Nuttall steered a perfect line and pushed the boys to further increase their lead, winning the final against Grange School by a convincing four boat lengths.

Up next was Poppy Baines who faced a very strong sculler Daisy O’Reilly from City of Bristol and despite a strong start where both girls were neck and neck, Daisy managed to pull away crossing the line fist. The City of Bristol sculler went on to win the finals of the WJ14 single event.

In Division Two, Jamie Wilcock and Will Dalrymple-Baker raced twice to win the J15 2x Band 2 event, beating crews from Grange and City of Bristol. In the WJ15 1x events, all three Stratford scullers Aimee Appleton, Molly Vondrak and Eloise Cooper raced very well but came just short against tough opponents from Grange and Liverpool Victoria.

The WJ15 4x+ event saw very close racing and the Stratford girls, Scarlett Richardson, Megan Rowan, Jessica Long and Harriet Froom, coxed by Nancy Davis, beat City of Bristol by two feet and then Grange by half a length to take the event win.

Also in Division Two, Alexandra Francis, Sophie Evans, Alice Jones, and Lily Yang competed in the WJ 14 coxed quad verses Grange School. Grange School were a little too eager to make for their boys’ loss earlier in the day. Grange were quick of the start but were unable to sustain their fast pace. Once again Meg Nuttall, the Stratford cox, stuck to her race plan. Not fazed by her opposition she successfully coxed the girls to a win of one length.

Commenting on the day Hugo Happel, Stratford’s J15 coach said, ”It was a very special atmosphere all day with the crowds gathered in front of the Ironbridge Boathouse being very lively and engaged which made for a great experience for competitors and spectators alike. The J15 athletes did so well, much improved pre-race preparation and fantastic sculling with great determination, well done all!”

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald online and page sixty and also Stratford Observer online

Stratford Boat Club Regatta: Covid Comeback!

The weather could have been better but great participation from crews local and further afield from Evesham Rowing Club, Worcester Rowing Club, AB Severn Rowing Club (Tewkesbury), Cheltenham College, Dragon School Boat Club, King Edward The Sixth Boat Club, King’s School Worcester Boat Club, Magdalen College School Boat Club, Nottingham and Union Rowing Club, Ross Rowing Club and Worcester Royal Grammar School as well as major entries from Stratford upon Avon Boat Club. The regatta this year had three divisions and one hundred and sixty three separate races starting at 08.30 and running all day through until a close at 17.45hrs!

Dan Warren, Stratford Boat Club’s Regatta Secretary said, “This year we were very heartened again by the huge turn out from local and distant clubs and the interest from the public. A massive thanks to all our hard working Stratford Boat Club members, visiting crews, umpires and officials and especially the public for supporting the event. We were especially honoured to have Stratford upon Avon Town Council Mayor Gill Cleeve attend our regatta.”

Colin Davies, Regatta Water Team Lead commented. “It was a long day’s racing: our tea tent was extremely busy dispensing dozens of cakes and snacks. What a magnificent day topped by great racing! We decided to stay with the shortened 500 metre sprint course to ensure the safety of all the competitors and river users: we ran the regatta under very tight protocols. We were especially grateful for the help and tolerance of those operators who work and make their living on the river.”

Commenting on the J13’s squad’s successes at the regatta, Steve Wellstead J13 Coach and Junior Co-Ordinator said, “Our home regatta brought more high quality racing from Stratford’s J13 squad to the calm waters of the Avon.” First to take to the course was the coxed quadruple scull crew of Martha Cooke, Millie Francis, Sophie Franklin, Isla Dunn and Bryony Francis (coxswain). The girls made short work of the first round but then faced a quality crew from Nottingham & Union Rowing Club in the final. The quality of the Stratford crew shone to take the win by a solid three lengths and the first pots of the day. Next down the river was the double sculls event where Cara Berisford-Murray and Poppy Warren dispatched Evesham to face another Stratford crew of Tessa Parkin and Josephine Cooper. Great sculling from both crews wowed the Stratford crowd with Cara and Poppy the eventual winners.

In the single scull event, two J13 Stratford scullers took to the water. With a bye in the first round, Maeve Dunn had to wait whilst Bryony Francis raced. After a nail biting run down the course, Bryony was pipped to the post by just one length leaving Maeve to fly the Stratford flag. Maeve bravely faced a formidable sculler from AB Severn and made the AB athlete work hard for all of the 500m with the final margin being four lengths to AB Severn.

For the J14s it was a chance to try out some new crew combinations, starting with Alice Jones racing in the J14 single for the first time this year. After a strong start, both boats were neck and neck, with the sculler from Nottingham and Union inching away in the second half of the race to take the win by less than two lengths. Next up were the boys coxed quadruple scull crew of Theo Richter, Seth Vondrak, Xavier Sissins, Ollie Rowland and James Albrighton (cox). A powerful start put them well up on their opposition, however a boat malfunction soon after forced them to row a man down giving Magdalen College the upper hand to take the win.

Next up for the J14’s were the girls’ coxed quadruple scull of Meg Nutall, Sophie Evans, Lily Warren, Lucy Yang and Alexandra Francis (cox). In a nail biting race against a strong crew from Evesham, Stratford really showed their skill resulting in a photo finish where Evesham took the win by one foot. In the afternoon James Albrighton and Alexandra Francis took to the water in the open J14 double scull, winning their first two races against solid crews. In the final Stratford were fiercely holding off the Nottingham and Union crew until they caught a boat stopping crab where the opposition squeezed past them to take the win. In addition Sophie Evans generously stepped into a J14 double sculls on the day with a rower from Worcester, Roxie. With Sophie taking the bow seat, they comfortably won both two races to get them to the final. In the final, the Worcester/Stratford composite took the lead from the start and held it down the course to take the win.

The WJ15 1x event saw Aimee Appleton rowing a fantastic first race against her formidable Nottingham & Union opposition and beating her by three lengths with fine technique. Sadly, Lucy Sartain lost her first race against the eventual winner from AB Severn and Eloise Cooper had a capsize shortly after the start.

In the WJ15 2x event, Jessica Long and Nancy Davis showed great technique over the sprint course but lost by three lengths to a very powerful AB Severn crew who would take the overall win later on. In the OJ15 2x event, Jamie Wilcock and Will Dalrymple-Baker were drawn against their nemesis from Evesham Rowing Club. They rowed well and came half a length short.

Following this, the WJ15 4x+ semi-final event saw Scarlett Richardson, Molly Vondrak, Megan Rowan and Esmerelda Elfwood, coxed by Lucy Sartain having a poor start followed by catching a bad crab from which they recovered well and then showed grit and determination but ended up losing by two lengths to the winning finalists from AB Severn.

Stratford’s J16 competition started with Charles Happel  competing against a single sculler from Magdalen College: Charles sculled energetically with stroke precision to cruise home with a four length advantage. His next race proved to be more of a challenge against another sculler from Magdalen. Charles sculled a valiant race but lost out by two lengths. In the afternoon it was the turn of the WJ16 double crew of Grace Beason and Charlotte Isbel who, after a lengthy delay, rowed against a very experienced Evesham doubles crew in their doubles finals race having benefitted from a bye to the final: success eluded Stratford this time despite a spirited and technically good performance losing just by four lengths.

The day started early for the J17/18 squad with Will Beattie and Tomi Wilcock competing in the Open J18 doubles event, one of the first races to set off. They beat crews from Magdalen College and Worcester Rowing Club comfortably in the heats and finished two lengths ahead of the anticipated King Edward The Sixth Boat Club crew in the final to bring home the win. Bella Chappelhow and Honour Keil raced in the Women’s J18 doubles just missing out on the final in their heat against Worcester Grammar School, a crew that went on to win the event. The story was the same for the other girls double of Fleur Griffiths and Harriet Holmes who, despite steering an expert line, also finished just short of the final. The girls’ quad of Freya Watts, Ruby Howells, Amelie Sartain and Lucy Browne raced a straight final against Worcester Grammar School in the Women’s J18 coxless quads event, rowing to a mid-afternoon victory. The final effort of the day came from Toby Sartain in the Open J18 singles event where his competitor’s dubious steering contributed to him just missing out on the final. Alongside racing, J17/18 squad each helped the umpires in their role throughout the day where their assistance was much appreciated.

Meanwhile away at Henley Women’s Regatta, Stratford’s WJ16 four of Amalia Richardson, Maddie Hall, Harriet Noyes, Kate Richardson and coxswain Imogen Hill entered The West End Cup. Stratford rowed with great skill to finished ninth out of twenty crews in the time trial just missing the top eight to progress to the knockout stage of the regatta. J16 coach Sam Hill said, “Henley Women’s Regatta attracts the best crews from clubs and schools across the UK, so to finish in the top half of the time trial is an excellent result!”

Also on the river at Henley Women’s Regatta were some of Stratford Boat Club’s alumna – Talei Dunn and Hermione Hill (Durham), Molly Gill-Swift (Exeter) and Katie Wellstead (Oxford) competing for their respective universities.

Saturday’s busy regatta will be followed by the Club’s Fun Regatta on Saturday 09 July where the Club give crews from local companies, clubs and organisations three hours training, a boat and an experienced cox.

Paul Stanton, Stratford Boat Club’s President said, “Although we weren’t blessed with good weather for the regatta, there were still crowds watching the racing adding much to Stratford’s atmosphere and vitality: we were glad to showcase our sport and demonstrate our part in the success of our town! The support of our sponsors is much appreciated especially from our headline sponsor Stratford Self Store as is the tolerance and help from the other river users and colleagues.”

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald online and Stratford Observer and also see Stratford Observer back sports page

For The Herald’s pictures of the regatta, see×0/XFZHHK000DN7B5TQNQB1.jpg

Falklands, Cork, Nottingham and Belgrade!

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s Masters’ coxed four (aka ‘The Dads’ Four’) supported their crew member former Marine Graham Cann and Falklands Veteran in a commemorative row to mark the 40th anniversary of the Falklands War.

Dave Edwards, Richard, Eric and cox Pippa (ex Army AGC-ETS) rowed with Graham to support The Royal Marines (RM) Charity – Falklands 40 campaign during this last weekend. Hundreds of Royal Marine supporters, serving and Royal Marine veterans ran walked or cycled (or rowed) 5.6 miles (9.2km) between 10-14th June 2022. The 5.6 miles represents the 56mile yomp (march) that 45 Commando Royal Marines did during the Falklands war to then go into combat at Two Sisters in the Falklands.

Meanwhile, Stratford Boat Club’s Adaptive Squad competed in Ireland and took part in the inaugural Mixed Ability International Regatta in Cork. “Mixed Ability” sport allows able-bodied and disabled athletes to compete together. Stratford were joined by teams from Turin (Italy) and Bradford in this new event. Head Adaptive Coach Mark Dewdney said, “We had a great time which was the main purpose. We made lots of new friends These events are the way to go. We are experimenting with an integrated approach at the club and this kind of event, the first of its kind, justifies that initiative.”

The event attracted the attention of various sporting bodies. Representatives from British Rowing and the CEO of Rowing Ireland were in attendance. All went away with a positive impression.” The Stratford Adaptive Squad consisted of Paola and Ian Ward, Dan Godefroy, Gillian Middleton, Rob Pedley, Neville Hand, Paul Harrold and Mark Dewdney. Unfortunately, three others were unable to come due to illness and Covid.

Also on the water this weekend were rowers from Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s Masters who headed to Nottingham for the British Rowing Masters Championships taking place at the national water sports centre at Holme Pierrepoint. Held over a six lane 1000m metre course, this is the premier Masters’ rowing competition of the season and attracts the top crews from all parts of the British Isles.

With the weather set fair but windy, the weekend promised some exciting and challenging racing with Holme Pierrepoint promising to live up to its reputation for choppy and blustery conditions. Saturday proved to be the case with a very strong

head wind providing choppy conditions and large waves which resulted in several crews capsizing and delays and difficulties in getting crews onto the tethered start boats for the beginning of events. This proved particularly difficult for those rowing in smaller singles and doubles.

Saturday morning saw Stratford’s first event with Heather Hayton and Tom Doherty forming part of a mixed Masters’ quadruple sculls crew with Tabatha and Julian Scrivener from Upton Rowing Club to compete in the championship quadruple sculls event. The crew which has had a successful season was looking to make amends for narrowly missing out on the National Winter Fours Head competition and started smoothly in rough conditions. They were able to settle into a good rhythm setting a comfortable 34 strokes per minute race pace. With technique being at a premium to cope with what were by now waves on the course the crew were able to pull away from their rival crews from Portora rowing club in Northern Ireland and came home to win Stratford’s first National Championship Gold medal.

Said Tom Doherty afterwards” This was very pleasing to see Heather win her first national championship given the immense commitment she has put in since taking up the sport with all the very early morning winter training sessions in the dark and cold paying off, and to do it with our friends from Upton was particularly satisfying”.

Saturday’s racing was not over for Stratford with Kjersti Woolley and Gary Clay competing in the championship mixed double sculls. With conditions getting more severe and in a small double it was going to be very challenging for all the crews in the event and this provide to be the case. With the national champions from Bewl Bridge Rowing Club in the same race it was always going to be tough and despite a hard-fought race unfortunately they just missed out in qualifying for the final by less than a second.

Sunday saw Stratford back on the course with conditions slightly less blustery but with a cross wind which favoured crews in lanes five and six. First off for Stratford was Heather Hayton and Tom Doherty, this time in their mixed double scull. Difficulties persisted in getting crews onto the start boats with the cross wind blowing boats around. Eventually with crews reasonably straight the race commenced with a full field of six boats from Bewl Bridge [2 crews], Hereford, Molesey and Maidstone Invicta.

After a very good start Stratford lead out to the 500m halfway mark with about two lengths separating all six crews. In the second half of the race Hereford, Molesey and Stratford began to pull away from the other crews. Stratford in lane one was at a disadvantage with the cross wind requiring continual steering corrections but they still managed to pull into second position towards the last 250 metres with the fight on with Molesey for the Gold. With Molesey having the wind advantage of lane six, they were able to pull ahead to win by a length of clear water with Stratford in second place. Said Heather Hayton, “We had a great start and were able to keep a relaxed rhythm in the swell and chop and keep the boat running and are extremely pleased to have given Molesey one of the top crews in the country a very close race.”

Later in the day saw a much anticipated first appearance at a national championship for Stratford’s Gina Fusco and Christine Goodwin in their women’s double sculls event. The ladies whose rowing journey has developed over the last year came into the event with no expectations and were looking only for a competent performance in an event with six competitors from as far afield as Exeter, Sudbury, Ardingly, Twickenham, York, and Kingston. With conditions not improved it was going to take good technique to mange to choppy cross wind and after the usual starting hiccups, the race settled into a close fought battle between Ardingly and Stratford with the other crews nowhere to be seen. Stratford’s extra power and much better technique saw them put a much more experienced Ardingly crew under pressure for the whole of the race. Coming into the last 250metres and cheered on by Stratford supporters, there was only about a length between the crews with Ardingly just managing to hang on for the win leaving Stratford in a hugely creditable second place. Commenting, Christine Goodwin said afterwards, “We came here with no expectations and to put in a very good performance in tough conditions was so pleasing and testament to our commitment over the season. A huge thanks to Colin, Danni and Rob for all their coaching, help and support. This will spur us on to return next year.”

More proud moments for Stratford Boat Club recently include one of its alumna rowers winning gold! Former Stratford upon Avon Boat Club member and King Edward VI School Boat Club rower Esme Booth kicked off the 2022 international rowing regatta season at the World Rowing Cup 1 event held on Lake Sava in Belgrade, Serbia winning gold in the final of the Women’s Pair (W2-) event.

Esme, rowing at stroke with her partner Emily Ford at bow are both Leander Club rowers and members of the current Great Britain Women’s Senior squad. They had only a relatively short period in which to prepare for the event, with this being their

first race together. The World Rowing Cup 1 event was the first in a series of three international rowing regattas held over the summer months, which attract the top elite rowers and para-rowers from around the world.

Recent racing saw Esme and Emily rowing in the first of two heats: the winners from each heat progress straight through to the A final whilst the remaining crews would race in two additional repechage races to establish the crews for the A and B finals.

Racing in lane one in their heat, Esme and Emily quickly established a slight lead over the Czech, Dutch and Croatian pairs. They continued to increase their lead throughout the race, finishing the 2000 metre course nine seconds ahead of the Croatian pair with the Czech pair in third place. As heat winners and the fastest pair over the two heats, this gave the British pair a middle lane draw in the A final, to be held on the next day.

The A final saw the British up against pairs from Croatia, Chile and three from the Netherlands. As the race got underway, it was the pair from Chile that took an early lead with the British pair back in third place. However, by the 1000 metre mark, the British pair had turned the slight deficit into a 1.5 second lead. They managed to extend their lead, controlling the race to finish in the gold medal position in the time of seven minutes and four seconds, 2.5 seconds ahead of the second placed pair from Chile with the Dutch pair placed in third place. It was a very successful weekend for the GB squad, topping the medal table with a total of fourteen medals with eight gold, two silver and four bronze.

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club looks forward to another action packed weekend with their Stratford Self Store Boat Club Regatta this Saturday 18 September with racing from 08.30 through 17.30hrs

See also Stratford Herald page fifty three and Stratford Observer online

Silver Glory for Stratford’s J16 Juniors!

The National Schools’ Regatta is the largest and most exciting regatta junior race calendar in Great Britain. The regatta attracts crews from over three hundred and fifty clubs and schools with over five thousand competitors. It is the premiere junior regatta in the country. With racing for ten hours per day, exciting closely matched rounds and finals, this is the regatta where you will see future Olympic Champions start out! … and Stratford upon Avon Boat Club juniors were there in force!

Returning to Dorney Lake near Windsor, the Junior 14’s were welcomed by sunshine, a marked improvement from their previous attendance at the 2012 Olympic venue where they had previously competed in torrential rain!

The boys crew of Seth Vondrak, Xavier Sissins-Roffey, James Albrighton, Oliver Rowlands and cox Theo Richter were first to face the time trial raced over the 1000M course. After an unsettled start, the boys soon got into their rhythm and delivered a solid row. Despite a valiant effort, the boys missed out on selection for the finals by eight seconds. Following hot on their heels were the girls’ crew of Alexandra Francis, Poppy Baines, Sophie Evans, Alice Jones, and cox Meg Nuttall. Another solid performance by the girls resulted in selection for the B final. Crossing the finish line in fourth place delivered an outcome of tenth out of thirty-six competing crews. The squad are looking forward to competing at the British Rowing Junior Championships at the National Water Sports Centre in July.

Competing at NSR for the first time, the coxed WJ15 quad of Harriet Froom (cox), Lucy Sartain, Molly Vondrak, Scarlett Richardson and Aimee Appleton (bow) rowed a superb 1000m in the time trial with a top twenty finish in a gargantuan entry of sixth nine crews, 15.7 seconds off the top crew and three seconds away from a B Final. Their time was faster than Thames Scullers A, Kingston, Lea Rowing Club, Fulham Reach Kings School Chester, Henley E and many more. Commenting Hugo Happel, J16 Coach said, “Terrific result, great work ethic and a great foundation to build on!”

The J16’s entered Amalia Richardson, Maddie Hall, Harriet Noyes, Kate Richardson and coxswain Imogen Hill for the Anna Fegen Cup event on Saturday. On the back of a successful head racing season in the four and a strong performance in a quad at The Junior Sculling Regatta, the girls set their sights on reaching the A final. The time trial went according to plan with Stratford recording the second fastest time behind hot favourites Headington School. Stratford needed a top three finish in the semi-final to progress to the coveted A Final. The girls produced a perfect race leading from the start and sitting on their split and rate all the way to the finish taking the win without needing to increase the pressure. The starters’ role call for the A Final was a list of the top rowing schools in the country: Headington, Stratford, Godolphin, Pangbourne, Yarm and Sir William Perkins. The girls had achieved their goal, now could they go one step further and win a medal? Stratford put down another blistering start to lead by a canvas at 100 meters. By 500m Stratford and Headington were neck and neck easing out a lead from Godolphin and Pangbourne. By the 1000m board Stratford had dropped Godolphin and Pangbourne to fight for the Bronze, but Headington were half a length ahead. Stratford gave all they had in the last 500m to secure the Silver medal as Headington hung on to take the Gold.

J16 Coach Sam Hill commented, “To win a Silver medal at National Schools Regatta is a major achievement and just reward for all the hard training the girls put in every week. We look forward to the next challenge at Henley Women’s Regatta in three weeks time!”

For the J17/18 squad, the day started with the boys’ double of Tomi Wilcock and Will Beattie with them taking to the lake to compete in the Open Championship Doubles event. Putting up a strong battle against the wind, they finished a respectable twenty first in their time trial. The girls pairing of Amelie Sartain and Freya Watts were next up in the Women’s Championship Doubles event, finishing a symmetrical twenty first against crews from some impressive clubs. Last out for the squad was Toby Sartain competing in the Open Championship Singles event: Toby finished an impressive thirty seventh against stiff competition from across the country.

It may have been a half term holiday but there was no let up for Stratford Boat Club athletes and coaches as they took part in the Club’s Junior Coaching Assistants’ Course on Monday. Said Abi Terry, J17/18 Performance Squad Coach, “This course is designed to give competent junior athletes the skills to pass on their knowledge to their younger colleagues and those new to rowing and sculling: it covers essential points such as safety, techniques and how to put these across to others. It was heartening to see how many volunteered for the course and the effort they put in over a long day!”

For more great pictures of the J14’s achievements and others, please see Kathy Baines’ selection!AiW2DAyn9tg9j5M5T-GeVQz0ndO5iQ?e=C2Qgjm

Awards Galore for Boat Club Members!

At its recent AGM, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club took time out to recognize ‘Personalities of the Year’: these are awards voted on by all the coaches of the Club. The pots for the awards were donated by Felix Badcock’s (immediate Past President) wife Jane from the vast collection that Felix had amassed over many years of competitive rowing which gave the awards special provenance and significance
The Junior Felix Award was presented to Martha Usselmann. Her citation read, “Martha has assisted with every session of the Participation Group since the Autumn. She has developed a good relationship with the athletes and provides excellent technical input and coaching on land and on water”
The Senior Felix Award for 2022 was awarded to Paul Beardmore. His citation read, “Paul is a regular, constant and reliable helper with the adaptive, progression and daytime rower squads, getting boats ready for the adaptive rowers and helping the athletes into their boats and crewing on the safety launch. In addition, Paul is always willing to help in other duties such as jet washing and cleaning the launches, jet washing the boating areas and other maintenance tasks”
Commenting, Dawson Curnock, Chairman of Stratford Boat Club said, “Stratford Boat Club is built on the ethos of volunteering and Martha and Paul exemplify this in bucket loads. It is heartening to see more volunteers stepping forward to help with our regatta in a couple of weeks’ time on Saturday 18 June and many helpers have also signed up to become qualified launch drivers to assist our coaches and ensure the safety of our members whilst out on the water”
The week started well also for the Club’s Head Adaptive Coach Mark Dewdney who was presented with Mayor’s Award 2021/2022 by Cllr Kevin Taylor, the outgoing Mayor of Stratford upon Avon. Cllr Taylor commented, “This was one of the last and most pleasurable task that I undertook whilst I was still in office, and this was to present my Mayor’s Award 2021/2022 to someone I believe has got that little extra when it comes to community spirit. Mark is a truly inspirational character with a vision of creating an incredibly inclusive and important section of a great sporting club. He works tirelessly to deliver and although now supported by a very willing number of dedicated volunteers, without his vision drive and enthusiasm this would have never happened. Volunteers such as Mark are critical in the delivery of projects in the area: they are the catalysts in delivering programmes such as this. Well done, Mark: this award is incredibly well deserved!”
Commenting further, Paul Stanton, Stratford Boat Club’s President said, “Mark continues to inspire all around with his tireless efforts with the adaptive squad not only within Stratford but nationally where Stratford’s adaptive squad has become an exemplar for disabled sport”

For media mention, please see Stratford Herald page fifty nine and Stratford Observer online…/rowing-stratford… and back sports page

Stratford Conquer at Worcester and Nottingham

This Saturday, the athletes of Stratford upon Avon Boat Club travelled across the county into Worcestershire to compete at the Worcester Spring Regatta. Stratford was represented by two squads, Senior Men and J13 juniors. Senior sculler Jake Blatcher made short work of a sculler from Birmingham University in the first round. Sadly his run of form was not sustained into the final where a strong row was bettered by a Worcester Rowing Club sculler making full use of the home advantage.

With the regatta being held over 850m on the River Severn, the event presented the youngest Stratford athletes with the opportunity to experience big river racing for the first time. Perfect conditions greeted the J13 squad as they arrived in Worcester to prepare. First to go was Cara Berisford-Murray in the WJ13 single scull. A tricky draw saw Cara put in a big push in the closing 100m of the race but couldn’t quite catch the Exeter sculler. Exeter then continued to take the win in the final against Stratford’s Becca Smith who made her opposition work hard for the win.

The morning excitement continued with a Stratford versus Stratford final in the WJ13.4x+. The crew of Tessa Parkin, Josephine Cooper, Martha Cooke, Martha Baines and Maeve Dunn (coxswain) started well and pushed hard throughout the race but undeterred by their bumpy start the crew of Bryony Francis, Isla Dunn, Sophie Franklin, Poppy Warren and Millie Smith (coxswain) rowed through their fellow Stratford athletes to take the win in style. More coxed quadruple scull racing continued in the afternoon when, due to a lack of competition, the Stratford J13 crew of Martha Baines, Maeve Dunn, Martha Cooke, Josephine Cooper and Poppy Warren (coxswain) competed in the Open J14 category mixing it with schoolboy crews one year their senior. In the first round, a boys’ crew from St Edwards School (Oxford) boated with some trepidation having seen the Stratford girls racing earlier in the day. Their fears were well founded as Stratford thundered down the course leaving the Teddies boys in their wake. Unfortunately, the semi-final saw a quality boys crew from Winchester School overhaul the Stratford girls with fresh legs in their first race of the day.

The final competition of the day for Stratford was the WJ13 double sculls with three crews entered. The scene was set in the semi-finals with the Stratford crew of Millie Smith and Becca Smith motoring home to better a quality pairing from Exeter Rowing Club. On the other side of the draw, it was Stratford versus Stratford again with Bryony Francis and Sophie Franklin lining up against Tessa Parkin and Isla Dunn, each crew vying for a place in the final. The Francis/Franklin combination proved the quicker which set the scene for the third race to be contested between Stratford crews. What a race it was! The people of Worcester were treated to a fine display of junior sculling and sportsmanship in the final. It was a nip and tuck affair for the duration of the race as each sought to nose ahead of the other. As the two crews rounded the bend, coming within sight of the finish it was still too close to call and the crowd rose to their feet to catch sight of the duel crossing the line. The final verdict was a win for Bryony Francis and Sophie Franklin by just a quarter of a boat length – the slimmest of margin and testament to the quality of rowing seen throughout the day!

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club Masters Women and Senior Men took to the water on Sunday for Nottingham Rowing Club’s Masters & Club Regatta at Holme Pierrepoint Nottingham, home of the National Watersport Centre. Rowing in a crew formed literally that morning due to illness, Stratford’s Ed Lewry mounted an impressive display in his double with George Crouchly from Nottingham, coming in first place by three lengths.

As they passed the 250mark, the official race commentary team announced how ‘Stratford‘s double are showing everyone how to scull today‘. Underlining their class, the double also took the fastest double of the day title: an amazing achievement for a sea tech crew! Sadly, due to the rules of composites for the Open category, Lewry was not awarded a medal but showed true winning style and just how two quality rowers can win, even if they have never been in a boat together before!

Stratford‘s relatively new Masters’ Women double of Gina Fusco and Christine Goodwin achieved their three planned goals for today; a racing start off a stake boat for the first time, staying straight and in their lane and finishing the race! Facing tough opposition, their coach Danni Fusco encouraged them home and gave plenty of good feedback and building blocks for their next battle in three weeks’ time, Christine and Gina commented, “The standard was high and it is great to come and compete at a higher level. We have many learning points and will get back on the Avon and are determined to keep improving!”

For media coverage, please see Stratford Herald page sixty two and also Stratford Observer online

For more great pictures of Worcester Spring Regatta, see The Baines’ great selection!AiW2DAyn9tg9j5ExDZVrMsPIma1_6g?e=hKuCOT

Another Busy Weekend for Stratford Juniors and KES

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s J16 squad faced a busy weekend: after a light outing and more boat loading, the J16 squad set off at the crack of dawn for Dorney Lake and The Junior Sculling Regatta. With crews from clubs and schools all over the UK and even the South African Schools Rowing Union, top competition was assured. Charles Happel sculled brilliantly over the 1900 meter time trial to finish seventh out of thirteen scullers in his event, missing out on a place in the A final by just 1.5 seconds, a splendid come back from his misfortune at Evesham. Charlotte Isbell and Grace Beason again in their double acquitted themselves well gaining a lot from the experience of competing at a high level event. Amalia Richardson, Harriet Noyes, Maddie Hall and Kate Richardson competing again in their quadruple scull faced twenty one other crews in the time trial finishing seventh, just 0.3 seconds behind Maidenhead.

Also qualifying for the B final just 0.3 sec behind Stratford and starting in the next lane were Tideway Scullers. Stratford made a sensational start leading the field by a quarter of a length after seven strokes. Tideway edged back after 500 meters and took a one length lead by 1400 meters with South Africa closing the gap: Amalia made the call to up the pressure and go for home. South Africa couldn’t answer and with a high rate burst for the last ten strokes, Stratford secured second place by just three quarters of a length to Tideway Scullers. Said Sam Hill, J16 Coach, “The J16’s showed great skill and determination this weekend proving they have what it takes to compete with the best!”

In addition, some of the J17 performance squad travelled to Dorney Lake to compete in small boats also at the National Junior Sculling Regatta. This was their first opportunity this season to compete in small boats and each learned a lot and put in some really good performances. First up were the J17 double scull of Tomi Wilcock and Will Beattie. They were up against some strong opposition from some of the top rowing clubs from around the country. They managed to come in seventh place, less than three seconds from the A Final.

Next to go was Toby Sartain in the J17 single sculls. Toby sculled a good race and finished up in thirteenth place with a solid technical performance. Lastly from the J17 squad was Freya Watts in the WJ17 single sculls. Freya had never raced in a single at a national competition before and this was a good challenge for her. Finishing in a solid ninth place with just thirty five seconds separating her from first place. Commenting, Abi Terry, J17/18 Performance Squad Coach said, “This was a great event to give the squad a real test against some top opposition. Next up is National Schools Regatta at the end of May!”

Also rowing at Dorney Lake in the Ball Cup was Stratford’s sister club, King Edward The Sixth School Boat Club, this time in the Ball Cup, a competition which KES founded. KES won gold in the quad and a silver in the coxed four events.

For media coverage, please see Stratford Herald online and page fifty three. See also Stratford Observer online and back sports page

Stratford’s Bumper Weekend at Evesham and Marlow!

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 and on back sports page

For more great pictures of Evesham regatta, see Kathy and Stuart Baines’ selections at!AgY7EiDB2lCOhY5uHPyivDC7tTkc7Q?e=F0KGmw and!AiW2DAyn9tg9j45NUoENU9m4AbAATw

Stratford Masters conquer the 50th Anniversary Head of the Dart 2022

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club masters squad competed in the 50th Anniversary Head of the Dart last weekend which is held on a fifteen kilometre course on the River Dart from Totnes to Dartmouth. The river offers stunning countryside views and is the home of thriller writer Agatha Christie. The tidal river can be remote and challenging with conditions ranging from calm and ideal to a significant swell which can prove difficult to a fine rowing boat.

Competition was strong this year with over one hundred boats entered and the event ran over two days. On Saturday fours and eights were raced from Totnes to Dartmouth: on Sunday, singles, doubles and pairs were run from Dartmouth to Totnes.

This year the Saturday boats rowed on a ebb tide with near ideal conditions: the tricky middle section which has sunk boats before now proved to be fairly benign with only a few waves breaking over the boats.

The Men’s Masters-E Coxed Four crew of David Edwards, Richard Aitchison, Graham Cann and Simon Skillings were coxed by Jen Cary. Jen’s excellent steering and cool nerves while being bounced around led the crew to a solid third place, beating crews from Dart Totnes Club and Plymouth Amateur Rowing Club with a time of 58:05

Graham Cann, crew member, said, “What a fantastic opportunity in great weather and company to represent Stratford Boat Club and to have rowed the River Dart in under an hour. We should thank each other for our commitments and the early starts in all types of weather and circumstances! A special thanks to our cox Jen for guiding us down through the Dart and our wonderful wives for their support, patience and assistance not only on the day but providing us with the opportunity to row!”

Tom Doherty and Heather Hayton also competed and entered a composite Mixed 4x- boat with Upton upon Severn Club and recorded an excellent time of 51:05, leading to a solid win over Tees Rowing Club, Dart Totnes and Der Club Germania.

Sunday saw the event run in the reverse direction with Tom and Heather entering a mixed double. Conditions were less favourable, with stronger winds and a faster tide. Despite these conditions, they recorded a time of 56:29 coming fourth in their class and twentieth overall.

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald page fifty three and Stratford Observer online and also on back sports page. Also now on back sports page Stratford Observer’s Friday edition:

Stratford’s Juniors Finish Head Season On High Note!

To round off the winter head racing season, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s juniors headed east for Bedford and Great Ouse. Not one of the Club’s regular events, it was the first time the junior athletes had rowed the 2k course that winds through the town under seven bridges to the finish in a very scenic park.

The J16 squad entered Charles Happel in a single scull, who put in his best performance of the season so far. In a field of twelve, Charles finished third, just one second behind Leicester Rowing Club.

J16 Coach Sam Hill said, “I am very pleased for the athletes. To achieve such a good result at Bedford is very encouraging for the regatta season that starts in two weeks at Nottingham.”

The Stratford WJ15 girls also put on a great performance at the 2022 Bedford Spring head. The squad of Eloise Cooper, Molly Vondrak, Lucy Sartain, Esmerelda Elfwood and Aimee Appleton (cox), sculled the 2000m course in a fantastic time of eight minutes and sixteen seconds. Commenting, Hugo Happel, J15 Coach said: “They missed out on Gold by only four seconds to the girls from Falcon RC (Oxford). However, they beat five other crews, three of them based on the Thames: Wallingford, Eton Excelsior and Staines plus Leicester and Bedford!”

Also at Bedford were the J17/18 Performance squad represented by Freya Watts, Martha Usselmann, Amelie Sartain and Harriet Holmes who competed first in the Women’s coxless quad event. Commenting, Abi Terry, the J17/18 Performance Squad Coach said, “With Harriet steering an excellent line down the tricky course, the girls finished a respectable third in the most competitive band and fourth overall in a field of stiff competition.”

Later on, the WJ squad split into two doubles, Martha and Amelie competing in the Women’s event, and Freya and Harriet in the Women’s J17 category. The two scratch crews finished third and sixth respectively in their events, against some prestigious crews.

Also competing at Bedford Head was the double of Nick Sartain and Ed Lewry: they were the first Stratford crew to hit the water competing in the Open Double Sculls event. They posted the fastest time of the Club for the day across the 2km distance to finish at the top of their band and seventh overall.

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald page fifty nine and online and also Stratford Observer online and back sports page