Lessons Learnt By Masters on the Soar!

It is said that competing is more about what you learn than where you finish: Stratford uponAvon Boat Club Masters Squad Christine Goodwin, Tim Lunel and Chris Strawlearnt a lot whilst they competed at the Soar Head in Loughborough on Saturday!

Loughborough have a saying, “You race the straights and you steer the bends”.  Stratford’s Masters learnt there is good reason for this as the green weed at the side of the bends may look friendly but however many times the steersman says, “let’s go”, it doesn’t let go of your blade until you hack your way back out into clear water!

The hare and the tortoise also applies to rowing – when you overtake two other scullers and then if you then row so far into the reeds that you have to back out of the reeds then the tortoises just effortlessly pass by!

The final lesson that Stratford’s Masters learnt was to have a steersman that knows the course and then you can stay rowing on the water rather than examining the wildlife!

 Said Tim Lunel,Masters competitor, “All said, it was a really enjoyable day made by better by the fact that this is a head race run by rowers for rowers, none of the endless waiting about at the start. Marshalls with a sense of humour who don’t feel any need to shout and free tea and coffee for everyone there – we’ll be back next year now that we know the course.”

Later on in the day, Chris Straw and Tim Lunel put in a very creditable performance in the double coming second out of three crews in the Masters E category and third out of seven crews in the overall combined D/E categories. On the straights, Christine Goodwin and Tim Lunel did a great job of matching the boat speed of the very competitive Derwent mixed double that Stratford competitors know all too well.  They did find that bouncing from bank to bank round the tight bends seemed to reduce the boat speed, a lesson learnt earlier, and so came second best on this occasion. But being only twenty seconds behind having watched the Derwent crew steer a perfect course behind them means they are looking forward to their next encounter on a straighter course! Christine had an excellent first two thirds of her race overtaking to other scullers and is looking forward to returning to the Soar Head next year to complete unfinishedbusiness.

For media coverage, pleases see Stratford Observer online https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/lessons-learned-by-masters-on-the-soar and page 31 and Stratford Herald page 17

Stratford upon Avon BC wins 2018 Davison Award

“We are pleased to announce that Stratford upon Avon Boat Club are winners of the inaugural Davison Award.

There were many clubs and many commendable performances that met the criteria of the Davison Award which were all reviewed by the Fuller’s Head of the River Fours Committee and after much deliberation, the conclusion was that Stratford upon Avon Boat Club would be worthy winners.

We look forward to seeing members of the club at the prize giving on 10 January 2019 where they will be presented their Davison ‘blade’ by members of Noel Davison’s family.

Richard Phelps
Chairman, Fuller’s Head of the River Fours”

The Davison Award is a new discretionary award in memory of Noel Davison. Noel was, in addition to many other rowing related volunteer roles, the Honorary Secretary of the Head of the River Fours from 2014 to 2018. He tragically lost his battle with cancer thus summer.

In honour of his significant contribution to this event and in recognition of his stalwart support of our sport, the Fuller’s Head of the River Fours Committee has decided to create the Davison Award. After consultation with Noel’s family, and in line with his roots, interests and passions, the award will be given to “the standout performance from a small club” and it will be at the Fuller’s Head of the River Fours Chairman’s discretion. The winning club will receive a decorated blade and club representatives will be invited to the prize giving party at Fullers Brewery in January 2019.

Paul Stanton, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club President commented, “This is an outstanding achievement and puts the Club right in the centre of top class rowing in the UK. It was especially pleasing to see such strong performances at both Senior and Junior level. It bodes well for rowing at Stratford upon Avon for the immediate future and the long term. Our sincere thanks from our members, athletes, supporters, coaches and helpers to the Fuller’s Head of the River Fours Committee and the Davison family for their commitment to our small club and honouring us with this inaugural award. ”

For media coverage, see Stratford Observer page 31 and online https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/top-honour-for-stratford-boat-club and also Stratford Herald online http://www.stratford-herald.com/92779-boat-club-receives-inaugural-award-head-river-fours.html

Stratford Battle The Weather at Henley

On Saturday, Stratford upon Avon Junior Squad travelled south to the spiritual home of rowing, Henley on Thames, to compete in the annual Long Distance Sculls event.  Contested over three kilometers on Henley Reach, the event attracts top clubs and schools from around the country. Athletes from J14 up to J17 represented Stratford over two divisions.


As the sun blessed the course, division one got underway. First to go was the women’s J16 double scull of Mili Wilcock and Alice Baines enjoying the conditions and making their mark with a solid seventh place. Next up, Masters Women sculler Kjersti Woolley tackled course but a lack of competition meant her row over the course formed part of her training for later in the season as opposed to a competitive measure.

The J15 squad began their season strongly in the morning division with a mixed quad of Martha Usselmann, Sienna Rawlings, William Clarke and Conar Aitchison, coxed by Mary Walton, finishing a respectable seventh place against strong competition from the boy crews of Henley and Wallingford. Later in the division, the two WJ15 double scull boats of Amelie Sartain and Sophie Elstone and Emma Harrison and Abbey Meggeson raced well, with Sartain and Elstone winning third place with Harrison and Meggeson in seventeenth place.

The action continued in the afternoon, however conditions deteriorated significantly as the skies opened. All athletes contended with hail, rain and a strong head wind as they lined up to race. The women’s J16 single sculls of Nixie Brunt and Jasmine Mountney battled hard to make it back to the boating rafts in eighteenth and twentieth place respectively.  

The WJ15 quad of Rawlings, Sartain, Elstone, Usselmann and cox Walton, all rowing the distance a second time, fought hard through the worsening conditions to finish a commendable sixth place. The squad’s final race of the day saw Harriet Hodgson and Will Clarke in their double scull up against not only the hail and wind, but strong competition from the boys of Henley and Shanklin, to finish in an admirable fifth place.

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald page 22 and online http://www.stratford-herald.com/92849-stratford-juniors-battle-rivals-tough-conditions.html and also Stratford Observer back page and online https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/saturday-successes-at-henley-long-distance-sculls.For more great pictures, see Stuart Baines’ selection at https://1drv.ms/f/s!AiW2DAyn9tg9jNwbwkhAYDUUu3-dLw

We Will Remember Them

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club observed a two minutes’ silence on this Remembrance Sunday to honour those who fell in the World Wars and other conflicts. The Club’s thoughts were led by the Club’s President, Paul Stanton

Wreaths were laid at the memorial in the Club grounds by the youngest member Emily Cryer and Colin Upchurch, one of the oldest members: seventy six years separate their rowing experience!

All the crews and rowers came off the water during a busy Remembrance Sunday to attend the act of remembrance. Said Steve Wellstead, Stratford Boat Club’s Junior Co-ordinator, “The memorial is literally at the heart of the Club and our sporting life goes on around it: this was an opportunity to stop, reflect and remember those Stratford Boat Club members who had died so that we can live in peace and enjoy our sport.”

This year there was the added poignancy of marking of the hundredth anniversary of the First World War. Amongst other members of the Club who died because of WW1 was Norman Kinman: the Club was honoured that Norman’s grandson, Chris Kinman, also laid a wreath at the Club’s memorial. Chris was accompanied by his wife, son in law and daughters, Norman Kinman’s great grandchildren. Contact was made with the Kinman family after extensive research by the Club’s Archivist Mark Dewdney

The ceremony was further enhanced by the playing of reveille by the Club’s Piper Joe Moore: coincidently, Chris Kinman and Joe hadn’t seen each other for some fifty years after being at school together in the Warwickshire area!

Great pictures by David Phillips and Trevor Tiller: many thanks!For media coverage, see Stratford Observer online https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/news/wreaths-for-fallen-laid-at-stratford-boat-club-memorial and page eleven and Stratford Herald page eight

Stratford Boat Club Battles It Out On The Tideway!

Saturday saw the first major event of the rowing head season with the prestigious Fours Head taking place on the Tideway in London. Raced over the reverse Boat Race course, from Chiswick to Putney, the Fours Head saw 450 crews, including rowers from the GB National Squad, taking part in quads, as well as coxed and coxless fours.

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club put out two crews, a coxed four and a coxed junior women’s four. Conditions on the day were a mix, being relatively benign up until past Hammersmith Bridge before the strong southerly wind picked up the waves in the last third of the course.

The Senior men’s crew of Mike Hourigan at stroke, Tom Coles, Finn Sprackling, Patrick Hourigan at bow, along with coxswain Amie Jones were pitched into the Challenge Coxed Four event against eleven others. The crew had determined to start hard and fast and make the most of the better conditions before the wind picked up the waves. Approaching the first major landmark on the course after the start they quickly began to pick off crews from Lea and Quintin rowing clubs and split times showed them the second quickest crew to Barnes crew. Knowing that conditions would make overtaking difficult past Hammersmith, coxswain Amie Jones called on the crew to really push on in the two kilometer stretch between Barnes and Hammersmith. They slalomed past two more crews just before the approach to Hammersmith Bridge and shot the bridge alongside another crew from Lea Rowing Club. They quickly skated past them on the outside of the Hammersmith bend and then tucked in to avoid the worst of the waves around Fulham football ground, and the run in to Putney.

It was a strong, powerful row by a promising Stratford crew. Results came out quickly and showed that not only were Stratford the winners of their event but they had also finished as the twenty fifth quickest coxed four overall out of 137 men’s crews, including the top boats from Oxford, Cambridge and Leander Club.

The Senior Squad now moves on to further head races at Evesham and Wallingford where they will be looking to build on this performance. Oliver Smith, Club Captain, “The performance of both crews shows that clubs like Stratford upon Avon can punch their weight and more at these national level events. We would like to say a big thank-you to all of our club sponsors and supporters who help us to succeed.”

The Junior Squad were represented by the formidable coxed four of Katie Wellstead, Talei Dunn, Molly Gill-Swift and Khloe Curnock piloted down the course with encouragement, commentary and ace steering by Mimi Hill. This was only the second time these 16 year old young ladies have visited and raced on the infamous Tideway course. The crew rowing extremely well together had overtaken crews before reaching Hammersmith; they continued in overtaking mode as they hit the rough water arriving at Putney in a time of twenty three minutes and twenty nine seconds. This put them in fourth place; but after racing 6.5k only one second separated the second, third and fourth placed crews. Said Dr Graham Collier, Junior Coach, “This was another tremendous effort from these young people as they prepare to join the seven hundred crews who will contest Hampton Small Boats Head towards the end of the month.”

Stratford’s Masters’ crew competed in the Sunday Veterans Fours Head, no better for first race for a new quad combination (Richard Nelson, Tim Lunel, Piers Copham and Simon Beard) than the tideway – always a good test!  The result of fourth in a strong field of fourteen crews in the Masters E category certainly bodes well for the future as did the time which put them thirty fourth out of the overall 280 entries. Overtaking four crews over the course made for an enjoyable row and an added extra challenge or two for steersman Simon.  With pretty ideal conditions for the Tideway it’s difficult to ask for more from a day’s racing!

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald http://www.stratford-herald.com/92531-stratford-rowers-get-head-start-shine-winter-opener.html and Stratford Observer online  https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/stratford-boat-club-rowers-battle-it-out-on-the-tideway

Stratford Boat Club Celebrates Drivers’ Success

Time was taken to celebrate four Stratford members’ recent success in achieving their qualifications as launch drivers and their RYA Level Two licence. The RYA course focuses on low speed close quarters handling, man overboard recovery, an introduction to driving and collision regulations.    

“Safety is a matter that we take most seriously here at Stratford upon Avon Boat Club not only for our members, especially the Junior Squad, but also for all river users and the general public,” said Shân Stokes, Stratford Boat Club’s Safety Advisor. “All our safety and training launch drivers are all put through rigorous RYA Level 2 training to ensure that they are up to the highest standards and comply with British Rowing’s recommendations. We are especially pleased to see four more volunteers join the rota.”

For media coverage, please see Stratford Herald page 15 and online http://www.stratford-herald.com/92112-boat-club-quartet-pass-rya-course.html and Stratford Observer back page and online https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/stratford-boat-club-celebrates-drivers-success

Wet Weekend for All Stratford’s Rowers

With Evesham Junior Head cancelled on the Saturday, it was left to the Masters to represent Stratford rowing this weekend. Unlike Evesham, the weather was set to be glorious on Sunday at Bedford Autumn Small Boats Head. Masters rowers Christine Goodwin and Tim Lunel had only raced once before in the Masters D Mixed Double category and they showed they had learned much tactically by choosing to row in the first division at 09.15hrs, so not only an early start but also an early shower in some of the heaviest rain of the day!

A good row over the 2,000m course where the highlight was the first half of the course but Stratford rowers didn’t quite have the run that brought them victory at Wallingford in September but finished in a very creditable second place where they were only beaten by a very good Cantabrigians mixed double by three seconds in actual time and sixteen seconds allowance for their Masters E handicap. Christine and Tim’s time was twenty six seconds ahead of their next nearest competition and this would have put them in second place in the Open Masters D double which puts the time put in by Cantabrigians into perspective.

Said Masters rower Tim Lunel, “An excellent second run out for the mixed double and plenty to build on for the rest of the head season.”

Elsewhere on the water were four Stratford members taking their RYA Level Two Powerboat certificate on Birmingham Edgbaston Reservoir so that they can drive Stratford Boat Club’s three safety and coaching launches. Despite the inclement weekend weather, all water sessions went ahead safely and the Club squads’ training for the head season went ahead as planned. Said Junior Coach Dr Graham Collier, “Our athletes showed real determination going out on the water and training in such wet conditions but they were kept safe by their coaches, safety launch drivers and spotters.”

For media coverage see Stratford Observer page 30 and online https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/wet-weekend-for-all-stratford-rowers and Stratford Herald online http://www.stratford-herald.com/91858-wet-weekend-stratfords-rowers.html

Stratford’s Seniors Excel in Worcester

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s Senior Men’s squad started off the new Head season at a very wet Worcester Small Boats Head on Saturday. Over 200 boats were competing on the 4.5 kilometre stretch of the River Severn aiming to show off their early season pace, run over two divisions.

In the morning division, Stratford’s Senior Men’s coxed four of Amie Jones , Mike Hourigan, Finn Sprackling, Ben Twiney and Patrick Hourigan had a very promising row winning their event and coming home as the quickest boat overall, beating rivals from all over the Midlands.

They were closely followed home by the Stratford coxless quad of Ed Lewry, Oli Smith, Max Marcus and Tom Coles who also won their event with something in hand, despite some slightly erratic steering.

The morning was rounded off by a win for Vice Captain, Tom Marshall, in his singles race, especially pleasing as he was returning from a long term injury.

Stratford only had one entry in the afternoon division – racing a coxless four against a strong Nottingham crew. The Stratford crew of brothers Mike and Pat Hourigan, Tom Coles and Finn Sprackling lost by fourteen seconds to the Nottingham crew after fading in the second half of the race.

Said Bill Sullivan, Senior Coach, “Overall however it was a pleasing first outing for the squad. Next up is Gloucester Head at the end of October before taking on the prestigious Fours Head held on the Tideway on the Thames in early November.”

Whilst their colleagues were battling it out on the River Severn, two Stratford Master rowers braved the worst of the weather on a rough River Thames. Sian Maher and Thomas Doherty braved the stormy conditions to take part in one of the main national head races of the year on Saturday on the famous River Thames in Central London.

An extensive logistical operation saw the two rowers arrive with their boat at a stormy Putney Embankment to join a huge field of 470 entrants from all over the UK. Conditions proved challenging from the start as the crews undertook a long row up to the starting area by Chiswick Bridge for the start of the 4.5km course in windy choppy waters and continual rain.

For Sian experiencing her first small boat event it was a baptism of fire as all crews struggled with the conditions. With the race finally underway, there was no let-up in the weather conditions, Stratford opted for a conservative race plan and settled into a steady rhythm in the swell and wind. A good push at Barnes Bridge saw them up the pace as they found themselves in a side by side race with a Cambridge crew for the whole of the second half of the race. With both crews forgetting about the conditions and focusing on each other, an exciting tussle developed with both crews level for the remainder of the race.

Finishing in a time of 17.54 whilst not fast enough to trouble the winners, it was a respectable time for an inexperienced Tideway crew.

Said Tom Doherty, “I was extremely pleased at how well Sian handled the race which at times was grim and scary and her performance enabled us to put in a solid performance in what was her first small boat Tideway race.”

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald page 15 and online http://www.stratford-herald.com/91727-stratford-boat-clubs-seniors-shine-worcester.html and Stratford Observer page 31

Photographs courtesy of Lawrence Little

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club makes its mark at Wallingford

A crisp autumnal morning greeted Stratford upon Avon Boat Club Junior scullers as they arrived at Wallingford for the first head race of the winter season on Saturday 29 September. Sculled over 4,250 meters upstream on the Thames, the event attracts entries from many of the top clubs and schools who use it as a selection trial for their winter heads programme. The Great Britain coaches taking notes on the bank gave a clue to the quality of the entry.

Stratford got off to a flying start with Fred Tyler powering his way to third place out of twenty two in the Open J16 single sculls event. Fred dug deep to pull off an heroic finish posting the fastest time for the second half of the course.

Stratford entered three scullers in the Women’s Junior 17 single sculls event. Khloe Curnock and Katie Wellstead were only separated by 2.6 seconds in eighth and eleventh places respectively and Talei Dunn finished a highly creditable sixteenth. Katie recorded fifth fastest time for the second half a very encouraging performance for an endurance event.

Molly Gill-Swift and Emily Brown faced girls from the older age group in the Women’s Junior 18 double sculls. Molly and Emily sculled superbly putting in a typically gritty performance to finish in third place, less than five seconds behind Emanuel beating Wallingford on their own water in the process.

Stratford member Joe Hodson represented King Edward VI School in the Open Junior 17 single sculls event. Joe had to contend with an old injury to his arm flaring up in the second half of the race dropping him from twenty third at the half way point to finish in twenty sixth place, so not a result indicative of Joe’s potential.

Despite competing at Wallingford for the first time in a single, Mya Kenny rounded off the day’s racing with a very strong performance in the Women’s Junior 16 single sculls finishing in twelfth place beating Evesham to boot by just over a second.

Coach Sam Hill said, “Wallingford gives us a measure of where we rank against top competition at the start of the winter head season. Our Junior athletes have put down a very impressive marker this weekend. ‘Man of the Match’ definitely goes to Fred Tyler for his amazingly powerful performance!”

The Masters also had a representation at Wallingford with Christine Goodwin and Tim Lunel racing in their first Head competition as a mixed pair. Under ideal sunny and calm conditions, they had a great row really making the boat run and do the work, knowing how important that is when it gets over 4,000m! It felt like an excellent row and the times showed that in beating their two opposition crews by two minutes including a Masters C crew. Not only that their time of 19:15 bettered three of the six men’s Masters doubles!

Said Tim Lunel, Masters’ sculler, “Not a bad first time out as a mixed pair in a head!  We then made the fool-hardy choice to go out and do it all again in singles in the afternoon session: the less said about that the better, except maybe showing that neither of us was holding anything back from getting a good time for the morning session for the afternoon scull!”

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald page 15 and Stratford Observer page 31. For great pictures of Wallingford Long Distance Sculls, see Lawrence’s great pictures at https://adobe.ly/2QjJj17

Novice rowers compete at Stratford

On Saturday, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club hosted its annual Explore Rowing Regatta for rowers who have recently taken up the sport. For many, this was their first experience of racing on the water and, despite the soggy weather later in the day, there was huge enthusiasm and a lot of friendly rivalry between the crews.

Twelve crews from five clubs across the region including Pengwern, Worcester, Upton, Bridgnorth and Stratford itself competed on a course in front of the theatre from the chain ferry to the Club grounds. Soon after lunch four semi-finalists emerged, two from the Pengwern club at Shrewsbury, one from Bridgnorth and one from the Stratford home club. The first semi-final resulted in a dramatic tie as Pengwern B just caught Stratford on the line and the race judge ordered a re-row.  Sadly, the Stratford crew paid the price for a pre-race visit to the burger stand and were not able to maintain their form a second time so Pengwern went through by a length. The second semi saw Bridgnorth comfortably beat Pengwern A and Bridgnorth went on to win the final showing an impressive style to the delight of the cheering crowd.

Said Nils Purser, Explore Regatta Secretary, “This was a very enjoyable day’s racing, well supported by the excellent hospitality of the Stratford club whose industrious volunteers managed a slick regatta and entertained everyone to a delicious range of hospitality served from their iconic clubhouse. Above all, this was a superb advertisement for those thinking of taking up this sport. If this might be you, please look out for the next Learn to Row courses which are run on a regular basis at Stratford.”For media coverage, please see Stratford Observer online https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/novice-rowers-compete-at-stratford and Stratford Herald