Monster Day of Fun!

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s Fun Regatta took place on Saturday amidst good humoured rivalry. While crowds from Birmingham, Coventry, Warwickshire and further afield came in great numbers, the weather was ideal and thus the demand for the barbecue, tea tent and bar was continuous, many celebrating or drowning their sorrows! Cheers from crew supporters and visitors spurred on some twenty four crews to their fleeting place in history – winning, surviving, completing the course or being the best well dressed crew on the river!
Said Chris Belcher, Stratford Boat Club’s Joint Fun Regatta Secretary, “This year’s Fun Regatta, our seventeenth, was another great one in terms of number of local crews from companies and organisations. This year we also had crews from parents of our young rowers: fierce competition and rivalry  – especially from the mums of rowers from King Edward The Sixth School – maxiMUM Mayhem!”
Simon Price, Joint Fun Regatta Secretary added, “The ingenuity and effort put into the fancy dress was amazing – Lightning Vikings, Fun Lovin’ Criminals and The Redbacks –  brought a smile to everybody’s face! Already we’ve seen several competitors sign up for Stratford Boat Club’s adult Learn to Row courses next year for those wanting to try rowing even more seriously or just for recreational exercise.”
“We enjoyed hosting so many visitors and local residents at the Fun Regatta,” said Paul Stanton, the Club’s President. “This year the Fun Regatta came at just the right time to lift our spirits after the disappointment for having to cancel our fine boat regatta in June on safety grounds: we are delighted that most of the sponsors and suppliers to our main regatta have continued to support us and we are on track for running our re-scheduled fine boat regatta on Saturday 21 September. We have had a very exciting year having done so well in local and national regattas. The Fun Regatta helps us to show that rowing isn’t just about serious competition and that there is also the fun and recreational aspect to our sport. We are a community club and the support of local companies and organisations is crucial to us and will help to increase our outreach to local and area schools and will increased our ability to provide sport for all especially those looking for weekday recreation and exercise.”
The winners of the Fun Regatta were The Redbacks with the fastest time and the Lightning Vikings with the most innovative fancy dress!
On Sunday, whilst most of the Club were recovering from a very busy Fun Regatta, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s Junior Girls’ coxless four of Katie Wellstead, Talei Dunn, Emily Brown and Molly Gill-Swift travelled to the Royal Albert Dock in London’s East End to race over a 1.5k course in the trials to represent England in the Home International Regatta. The girls put in a superb performance but having only had one hour’s training together, they were ten seconds from selection.
Two other Stratford athletes rowing for University of Nottingham were also on show. Peter Boyes raced in a coxless four and Imogen North in a double scull and after an exceptional race qualified to represent England.
For media coverage, please see Stratford Herald pages seven and sixteen
For more great pictures of the Fun Regatta, please see DP Photography’s selection at

Gold for Stratford Juniors at Peterborough!

A splendid summer Saturday saw Stratford’s junior squads sweltering under a beating sun at the Peterborough Junior Championships last weekend in the penultimate major event of the season.

The thousand metre four laned course looked splendidly still as the J15 double of Harriet Hodgson and Julia Zampronio Gurden took to the water for their doubles race. Despite a strong row against opposition who ultimately finished first and second in the event, they just missed a placing in the semi-finals.

Advancement through the heats for the J15 squad then fell on the singles events. Elisabeth Edwards was next to take her lane, yet despite finishing in a respectable third missed out on the further heats and meanwhile Conar Aitchison and Will Clarke, in separate heats, couldn’t break through the heat stages despite some hard racing along the course. Hopes then rested with Sophie Elstone, whose race plan saw her establish first position early and able to control the race to win her heat for a place in the final later in the day.

The first races of the afternoon saw Aitchison and Clarke together in the double. With a good start and the first 500 metres looking promising they settled nicely ready for the final push. As the finish approached the race noticeably upped a pace and despite a fight to the finish the boys once more closely missed a finals place. As the Sun continued to beat down, the girls’ quad crewed by Edwards, Elstone, Hodgson and Zampronio Gurden, coxed by Toby Sartain, started well but were again unable to advance to the finals.

Closing the racing for the J15s, Sophie Elstone’s final in the singles event saw her line up under the relentless Sun for her fourth race of the day. Another good start looked promising and pushing strongly through the first half made for some good racing, the last two hundred metres forced each competitor to the limit with Elstone finishing in Bronze medal position at the end of a very demanding day.

The J14 squad began their day’s racing with the boys singles of Tomi Wilcock and Will Beattie, in separate heats, both ‘easily’ gaining places through to the next round. Racing next to each other for the one remaining place in the final, both boys setting off well with Wilcock able to maintain the lead throughout and win the remaining place in the final, to be run later in the day.

The girls’ double of Bella Chappelhow and Honour Keil were next and another hard fought and confident race saw them miss a finals place by only seven seconds against the eventual event winners. The J14 girls’ singles event followed with Freya Watts, and Harriet Holmes comfortably winning places through to the next rounds, however both were just pushed out of places for the final.

Chappelhow, Holmes, Keil and Watts with cox Toby Sartain joined forces in the girls’ quad for the start of their afternoon racing. An exciting opening race with only 1.2 seconds separating them from first place, saw the girls into the semi-final where accurate bladework and synchronicity quickly led them into the final for what turned out to be the most exciting racing of the day.

With not the best of starts, the girls found themselves in fourth position, however they calmly focused on the task ahead maintaining rhythm and control settling nicely. At the halfway point and still in fourth position the girls could be seen to find a second wind; with three hundred metres to go the encouragement from Sartain saw the boat accelerate to push convincingly into third position and then further boosted from the ever increasing cheering from the crowd, into second place finally finishing only four seconds behind the winners, a great race showing fantastic strength.

Following their initial singles races, Beattie and Wilcock then came together in the double and maintained the J14 run by easily qualifying for the final. Yet more close racing from was to follow from the boys and the day’s excitement was far from over as from the start the opposition from Maidstone put up the fight in what was to finish as the closest race of the day.

Another steady start found the Stratford crew slightly behind by the halfway point. Sheer determination mixed with skilled sculling saw the double break away from the bronze position pushing ever closer towards the Gold. A neck to neck final hundred metres had the crowd mesmerised as the finish bell rang twice in such quick succession it was impossible to know, until the announcement, that Beattie and Wilcock had won the Gold medal by 0.4 of a second, a much deserved win.

The day’s racing wasn’t yet over for Wilcock, who shortly after winning Gold in the double had to race the singles final with little rest allowed. After a short recovery period, he once again took to the water, however the effort given to win the double event proved the singles a race too far, with Tomi finishing out of the medals by only a few lengths.

Said Trevor Tiller, J15 coach, “A fantastic day’s racing for the Stratford Juniors with all showing great promise leading into the highlight of the season later in July, the British Rowing Junior Championships at Nottingham!”

On Sunday there was no let up for Stratford Juniors as they raced the preliminary heats of the Club’s internal President’s Sculls. Said the Club’s President Paul Stanton, “The President’s Sculls was introduced to encourage not only the junior squad but all age groups to improve their skills and competitiveness in sculling. We are certain that this emphasis will help our athletes excel in our own rescheduled regatta on Saturday 21 September. We have been heartened by the response of most of our regatta sponsors who have stuck with us over the cancellation of our June regatta and carried their support over to September: it’s going to be a great day!”

For media coverage of J14 and J15 successes at Peterborough Junior Championships, please see Stratford Herald page fifteen and online at and Stratford Observer online at

Good Placings at Henley Women’s Regatta for Stratford’s Juniors

Competing at the splendid Henley Women’s Regatta, the Junior Coxed Four of Katie Wellstead, Talei Dunn, Emily Brown and Khloe Curnock coxed once more by Mimi Hill were one of twenty one crews from the UK and the USA. Only sixteen crews could qualify from the time trial to join the side by side racing. Of the sixteen crews, the fastest eight are seeded: the Stratford girls qualified and were only five seconds from joining the seeded group.

In their heat, the girls were drawn to race against the number one seed, a crew made up of athletes from three Scottish schools. Stratford got off to a tremendous start as the crews began to race over the 1500 metre course. As the crews approached the halfway stage, the Scots had begun to edge in front: the pace was frenetic. At the finish, the exhausted Stratford crew were only three lengths behind the winners who were in fact representing Scotland and reached the final of the event. Commented Dr Graham Collier, J17/18 coach, “This was gutsy performance by the young Stratford crew and tees up the squad nicely for their races at the National Championships in July!”

Also in action were the under 16 coxless quadruple scull of Jasmine Mountney, Alice Baines, Mya Kenny and Mili Wilcock.  Their time trial took place in the evening sun on Friday with nineteen crews entered hailing from around the UK and Australia. The girls delivered their race plan to the letter and produced a first class row over the Henley course to be placed tenth. Sadly only the top eight progressed to the next round but with just two seconds between them and the qualifying crews, they can be justifiably proud of their performance.

Junior Coordinator and J16 coach, Steve Wellstead said, “The Club is extremely proud to be able to field two junior crews at such a prestigious event and we are delighted with their performance against some of the finest rowing schools and clubs in the country.”

For media coverage please see Stratford Herald online and page 15 and Stratford Observer online

For more great pictures of Henley Women’s Regatta, see Stuart Baines’ excellent selection!AiW2DAyn9tg9jaAkATrY2VThi05yB

Stratford Boat Club Regatta: Down But Not Out!

Saturday 15 June was a sad day for Stratford upon Avon Boat Club as they mopped and cleared up after their cancelled regatta. Over the weekend, marquees were jet washed and put out to dry, marquee poles were sorted and bent straight and the whole area was tidied up after the storm of Tuesday night. The river remained challenging and high and the flow was still very fast with only the senior and more experienced crews allowed out: no crews went upstream through Clopton Bridge were the stream ran fast

Said Shân Stokes, Stratford Boat Club’s Safety Advisor, “Cancelling the regatta on Thursday morning with the river conditions running high and fast and the forecast showing rising levels and more rain was the correct decision. Many of the competitors are comparatively young and inexperienced and have to travel to considerable distance to our regatta: safety is paramount and in our culture at Stratford Boat Club and the conditions on the day justified our considered judgement prior to the event which was also borne out by several experienced authorities’ comments”

Paul Hazelwood, Stratford Boat Club’s Treasurer commented, “The Club has taken a considerable financial hit because of the cancellation of the regatta: as well  being a regional and national showpiece event for our athletes’ prowess and capability and Stratford’s reputation, the regatta is also a major fundraising opportunity for the Club. All the income from the bar, tent tea, barbecue and entry fees is ploughed back into the Club to be spent on the ever increasing costs of equipment, utilities, insurance, property and boat maintenance and subsidising membership fees wherever possible. Onwards and upwards to our very full and actioned packed Fun Regatta on Saturday 13 July!”

Commenting, Paul Stanton, the Club’s President said, “We have been very cheered by the understanding and sympathy of our sponsors who have rallied round and supported us: we are most grateful for their help and staying with us during a challenging time. We hope to re-run the regatta in September and we are currently sounding out the authorities and suppliers to see if they are available in September: it also depends on whether British Rowing can squeeze in another regional event in the very crowded regatta programme. The initial support from sister clubs in the area has been very encouraging”

The last time a Stratford upon Avon Boat Club regatta was cancelled was in June 2007

Meanwhile, Stratford’s WJ17/18 crew were still training hard for this Friday’s three day Henley Women’s Regatta and will be out most evenings this week to finalise their training. Said Dr Graham Collier, J17/18 coach, “Henley Women’s Regatta is the pinnacle of achievement for women’s rowing in the United Kingdom: we are so proud of our young athletes who have trained so hard to be at the peak of fitness and technique. This time of year is also very busy time in their lives with exams and other conflicting commitments: their handling of all these pressures shows maturity beyond their years. They are a great credit to Stratford and the Club!”

For media coverage, see Stratford Observer online and Stratford Herald online and hard copy Thursday 20 June

Stratford Battle Storm Miguel at Blenheim and Bridgnorth!

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s J13 squad travelled on Saturday to the Blenheim Palace Junior Regatta which was threatened with severe disruption due to storm Miguel being forecast to bring with it heavy rain and gusting strong winds which is not the best conditions for junior scullers. However, Stratford’s J13 squad rose to the challenge admirably.

First to test the conditions was a double boat of Charles Happel and Louis Beason recording a very competitive time of two minutes thirteen seconds finishing in sixth place. The next race for Stratford saw our first success: the girls’ quad crew of Amalia Richardson, Maddie Hall, Millie

Hodgson, Ciara Wilson and coxed by Imogen Hill winning a bronze medal and only nine seconds behind the winning Marlow crew.

The next success saw the girls’ quad of Grace Beason, Ruby Brooker- Collins, Uche Nwachukwa, Kate Richardson and coxed by Emily Stobart also win a bronze again only eight seconds away from first place. Next up was the mixed quad crew of Charles Happel, Louie Beason, Uche Nwachukwa, Grace Beason with Ciara Wilson finishing in joint second place with Marlow only three seconds behind the winning Radnor House crew who won in one minute fifty six seconds: a stunning row by Stratford.

Conditions were deteriorating and the double crew of Amalia Richardson and Millie Hodgson battled on to finish in fifth place but only two seconds from a medal place. Maddie Hall and Emily Stobart finished in fifth place in their double again in very difficult conditions an admirable effort.

The day concluded with the delayed singles races with Imogen Hill and Ruby Brooker – Collins struggling through the wind to complete their races.

Said Steve Marsden, J13 coach, “Even after really poor weather conditions all the athletes had at least one medal and some two medals creating very smiley faces and a great amount of parental pride having faced up to some of the most successful rowing clubs in England!”

Also out in the foul weather was Heather Hayton taking part in her first singles race at Bridgnorth Regatta. Coping well with a strong stream, Heather put in two good races against opponents from Birmingham University and Bewdley in a round-robin event.  Said Helen Smith, Women’s Vice Captain, “A good start to Heather’s single racing career.”

Last weekend, Mark Sanders from Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s Adaptive Squad took part in racing at Hereford Rowing Club regatta. The squad’s aim was to support Hereford’s first steps into adaptive racing and compete in supported doubles against Brendon, a student from Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford.

The squad undertook two 500 metre sprint races, the second using the club level adaptive time handicap system. Both competitors won a race each and were presented their pots by the Mayor of Hereford.

Mark Dewdney, coach to Stratford Boat Club’s Adaptive squad commented, “Thanks to Hereford Rowing Club for their hospitality and for the Stratford Juniors for cheering us on!”

Also at Hereford last weekend were Heather Hayton and Tom Doherty racing in Mixed Masters’ Double Sculls category where they attempted to emulate the very good junior performances on Saturday. Racing an older but very competent Upton crew, Heather and Tom had to contend with chasing down a sixteen second head start over the 1000m course. A good start saw them make steady progress drawing to within three lengths of Upton by the 500m mark. A big push saw them close on Upton with 250 metres to go with a final push taking the win by two lengths.

Said Tom Doherty, Masters’ Vice Captain, “This was Heather’s first regatta win since taking up rowing eighteen months ago and she was given the traditional ‘first win’ river dunking by the junior crews!”

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald online and page 15 and Stratford Observer online

Stratford Battle It Out At The Olympic Lake and Hereford

Last Saturday a Stratford upon Avon Boat Club coxed four of 16/17 year girls returned to the Olympic lake for the internationally renowned Metropolitan Regatta organised by London Rowing Club to take on university crews from all over the UK and Ireland. Katie Wellstead, Khloe Curnock, Emily Browne and Molly Gill-Swift once more expertly coxed by Mimi Hill rowed well in their heat to finish in second place and qualify for the final. In a most exciting race the Stratford girls got off to a blistering start and at 1200 metres were in a medal contention. Some of the opposition edged away over the final 800 metres leaving the girls just six seconds off the win and in fifth place.

Said coach Dr Graham Collier, “This was a bold performance against quality student opposition. Now it’s onwards to Henley Women’s Regatta later this month!”

Stratford Boat Club’s Elite Senior Men’s coxless four had some hard racing on the last day of Metropolitan Regatta, held at Dorney Eton. The crew are aiming to qualify for the Wyfold Cup at Henley Royal Regatta, held in early July each year and Metropolitan Regatta is a pathway to automatic qualification.

After coming fifth and being knocked out in the semi-final of the Championship Four in the morning, they raced again in the afternoon. This time they successfully navigated the semi-final and reached the final of the Horton Cup.

The final was very blustery with a cross wind pushing all the crews out of their lanes. However, being on the far side of the course, the Stratford men were significantly affected. Eventually after a number of warnings from the umpire regarding their steering and consistently needing to reset the boat after being blown onto the buoys, they finished fifth being in contention right until the last few hundred metres.

Bill Sullivan, the Elite Senior Men’s’ coach commented, “In the circumstances, the crew of Michael Hourigan, Patrick Hourigan, Finn Sprackling and Tom Coles performed well and showed the benefit of the last few weeks of hard training. Whilst we haven’t done enough to qualify for Henley just yet, the crew can move forward with confidence to the British Championships and Marlow Regatta later this month.”

This weekend the Junior 14 and 15 squads, along with the mixed Masters’ double scull, travelled to Hereford for their annual two day regatta. Saturday saw the athletes compete over the 1km straight course.

First up was the WJ14 doubles where Honour Keil and Bella Chappelhow competed together alongside Fleur Griffiths and Harriet Holmes. Both crews faced tough opposition from City of Bristol and the races came right down to the line. Unfortunately both crews were just edged out and it was the Bristol crews that went on to the semifinals.

In the afternoon Lucy Browne and Tomi Wilcock took to the water in the own respective J14 singles events. Lucy was again drawn against a strong sculler from City of Bristol and despite some brilliant sculling just missed out on her place in the semifinals. Tomi faced two scullers from Hereford in the first round and in the semifinal, he beat both convincingly to take his place in the final. Here Tomi faced a sculler from Stourport who despite his best efforts was not strong enough to get close to Tomi as he cruised to his first win in the single scull.

The WJ14 quad was the last boat of the day for the J14’s, comprising of Harriet Holmes, Bella Chappelhow, Ruby Howells, Honour Keil and cox Toby Sartain. They were drawn to have a bye to the final and there they faced the crew from Bristol who last week finished fourth at the National Schools Regatta. The Stratford crew tried their best but it wasn’t enough to overhaul the strong Bristol crew.

Sunday saw the shorter 500m course where again the day started with the WJ14 double sculls. This time Harriet Holmes teamed up with Honour Keil and Fleur Griffiths with Lucy Browne. Both doubles again found themselves against two very strong Bristol crews and despite the Stratford girls putting in some very good performances, they were not strong enough to beat the Bristol crews. Tomi Wilcock and Bella Chappelhow also teamed up in the J14 doubles to race again against Bristol and despite having held the lead the all-male Bristol crew pushed through in the last few meters to take the win.

In the afternoon, the J14 coxed quad of Bella Chappelhow, Ruby Howells, Anne Mynors and Toby Sartain, coxed by Honour Keil raced against an all-boys crew from Hereford Cathedral School where, despite a big push towards the line, they were pipped into second place.

Lucy Browne, Harriet Holmes, Fleur Griffiths and Tomi Wilcock took to the water in their singles. Lucy put in a fantastic performance and was just edged out as she approached the line by a strong Bristol sculler. Harriet raced against another sculler from Bristol but this time it was the Stratford sculler who won her heat. In the semifinal she was met by Fleur who had faced a girl from Hereford Cathedral School who unfortunately capsized, with Fleur sculling down to take the win. Fleur and Harriet both sculled brilliantly in a tight race with Fleur just taking the lead and her place in the final. Here she met the sculler that Lucy had raced earlier in the afternoon and she knew this would be tough. Fleur held her nerve and had belief in her sculling to push ahead over the line by just two feet to take the event win.

Tomi, for the second day running, made his way to the final, beating scullers from Bristol and Hereford to take his final spot where he faced another sculler from Bristol. This was close to the bridge where the Bristol sculler had to stop because he had moved too close to the bridge to be able to pass through, meaning that Tomi could relax over the last part of the course on his way to victory.

Said Abi Terry, J14 coach, “A brilliant weekend’s racing in a very relaxed environment with some fantastic sculling: the squad are looking promising and forward to our next event, the Lodders Stratford upon Avon Boat Club home regatta on Saturday15th June.

For the J15 squad, the weekend began with Amelie Sartain in the single sculls event. In an exciting thousand metre bow ball to bow ball race, Sartain pushed ahead in the closing stages to win by one and a half lengths.

The afternoon saw Sartain on the water again this time in the double with Fleur Griffiths (J14). Winning their semifinal easily, the girls met strong fresh competition for the final. After a fast start, both boats were level at the halfway point as they approached the bridge. Keeping their line and settling into their rhythm, Griffiths and Sartain appeared in control when suddenly the opposition drifted out of their lane resulting in a blade clash. The girls recovered well but were now a length behind with only 250m to go. Passing under the bridge the cheers could now be heard along the final straight. Inspired by the support and with true determination from within, the boat accelerated past the opposition to take the win by three quarters of a length, a truly remarkable finish.

Sunday was the shortened 500m course for the sprint events with Martha Usselmann beginning the morning’s racing for the squad. With a fast start and maintaining her strong technique throughout, Usselmann was in good position as they passed the bridge however the more experienced opposition slowly drew clear to win.

Following on, confident heat racing found Sartain again in the singles final however despite a good start and powerful sprint, she was pipped in the closing strokes to finish second.

The final event for the J15s had Sartain and Usselmann competing in the doubles event. Through their heat after a close race against strong local competition, the girls faced familiar adversaries in the final. Another strong performance led to an exciting finish as the boats passed under the bridge keeping pace with each other however the finishing line came too soon as they crossed in a close second place after a well fought race throughout. Commenting, Trevor Tiller J15 coach, said, “The high level of competition over the weekend has been of great benefit especially as the British Rowing Junior Championships in July is just over the horizon!”

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald page 15 and

Interested in your son or daughter learning to row? See Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s Summer Camps at

National Schools Regatta: Testing Ground for Stratford Juniors!

The J14 squad, competing in their first National Schools Regatta, also took part on Friday. First up was the crew of Will Beattie, Tomi Wilcock, Bella Chappelhow, Harriet Holmes and cox Owen Perkins. As the only mixed crew in an open event, racing against all boys’ crews, the Stratford combination put in a fantastic performance. They overtook a crew from the Windsor Boys School on their way to a very respectable twenty fifth place out of the forty one crews taking part.

The J14 girls’ crew of Freya Watts, Lucy Browne, Fleur Griffiths and Honour Keil, expertly coxed by Toby Sartain, performed well in the time trial to place sixteenth, just thirty seconds off first place and gain themselves a place in the C Final.

In their side by side final, they raced against some strong crews. They put in a quick start and found themselves leading the race away from the stake boats. As they settled into their mid race pace, they found themselves in a tussle with a crew from the Grange School, Hartford. The two crews battled their way down the course neck and neck until the Stratford crew pushed away, as they hit the last 250m to take fifth place.

Said J14 coach Abi Terry, “It was a very encouraging day’s racing from the J14 squad, showing that there is plenty more to come. We’re all looking forward to the British Junior Championships in July.”

For the J15 squad, Friday was the first day of a thrilling weekend’s racing at Dorney Lake for the National Schools Regatta.

The J15 girls’ quad of Abbey Meggeson, Amelie Sartain, Emma Harrison and Sophie Elstone, coxed by Mary Walton were the first crew from Stratford to time trial the 1900m for places in the finals later in the day.

Said Trevor Tiller , J15 coach, “Despite a good strong row in the field of sixty eight crews, only eleven seconds saw them miss out on a finals placing, however the experience of the event bodes well for the remaining regatta season.”

The Stratford J16 squad fielded two crews as the regatta continued into its third day.  First down the course was the combination of Jasmine Mountney, Maiya James, Mya Kenny and Alice Baines in the women’s coxless quadruple sculls event.  Always a highly competitive event in junior sculling, the girls finished the day with sixteenth place overall leaving some quality competition in their wake.

Next up was Fred Tyler who raced in the Championship single sculls event.  Commenting, Steve Wellstead, J16 coach and Junior Co-ordinator, “Competing against boys two years his senior, his twenty seventh place overall belies the quality of his performance and over the middle 1000m of the race, he was safely in the top ten fastest scullers. A superb performance from a promising young talent.”

Stratford’s J17 girls coxed four  – Katie Wellstead, Khloe Curnock, Emily Browne coxed by Mimi Hill – stunned many of the crews from the big schools and clubs with their solid performance. Nineteen crews from England, Wales and Scotland entered the time trial event with only the quickest twelve progressing to semi-finals raced over 2000 metres. The girls were sixth fastest in the time trial followed by a fifth place in their semi final. This put them into the non-medal final against five other crews.

Said Dr Graham Collier, J17/18 coach, “This was one of the most exciting races in which Stratford raced neck and neck with their closest opponent who train on the Thames at Marlow. After 1850 metres only six seconds separated all the crews but Stratford put in an incredibly powerful spurt to overtake the Sir William Borlases Grammar School crew and win by the race by half a length.”

For media coverage, please see Stratford Herald page 14 and online at and Stratford Observer

No ‘Holiday’ Weekend for Stratford Rowers!

This was the first racing regatta for the J13 squad which was represented by two doubles and two coxed quad boats at Evesham Regatta. The very early morning start was a shock to our first two crews!

First to race was the doubles boat crewed by Kate Richardson and Ruby Brooker-Collins who overcame steering difficulties to finish strongly behind a crew from City of Bristol. Next up was the doubles boat of Louie Beason and Charles Happel who provided another fine example of sculling but failed to match a very strong crew from Upton Rowing Club.

After a long break, the afternoon racing saw the first of our coxed quads compete comprising Amalia Richardson, Maddie Hall, Uche Nwachukwa, Emily Stobart and coxed by Louie Beason scull smoothly and at high rate only to suffer a dreaded crab towards the end of the course and so miss out to a City of Oxford Crew.

The final race of the day for the J13s saw a coxed quad of Millie Hodgson, Ruby Brooker – Collins, Grace Beason, Imogen Hill and coxed by Charles Happel demonstrate a very good example of large boat sculling but miss out to a strong crew from City Of Bristol.

Said Steve Marsden, J13 coach, “Whilst no pots this time, all agreed it had been a great experience and provided great preparation for the next event at Blenheim Palace!”

On Saturday, the J14 squad also travelled to Evesham for the annual regatta: the event was held over 1000m upstream on the River Avon.

The J14 squad were out in force and the morning division saw the WJ14 coxed quad of Freya Watts, Lucy Browne, Fleur Griffiths and Honour Keil, fantastically coxed by Toby Sartain, reach the final having beaten crews from Haberdashers Monmouth School and Abingdon Rowing Club. In the final they raced against a strong crew from City of Bristol. Despite having an issue with a buoy just a few strokes off the start, the Stratford crew pushed through their opposition to form a convincing lead heading towards the finish. Toby steered the crew perfectly around the course and on crossing the finish line won their first pots of the season by two and a half lengths.

In the afternoon division, the J14’s had three boats in action. This time, the doubles, with the pairings of Honour Keil and Fleur Griffiths, Lucy Browne and Freya Watts and third double of Bella Chappelhow and Tomi Wilcock.

In the girls’ event, both crews came up against very strong crews again from City of Bristol. Keil and Griffiths put up a good fight all the way to the line but were beaten by three lengths. Watts and Browne again raced hard all the way to the line, having had a mishap in the first part of the course with the opposition veering towards them. They too were beaten by their opponents and the verdict this time was just two lengths. With all of the girls racing hard in the quad in the morning, they found the doubles too much of a struggle in the afternoon to come back victorious again.

With Bella and Tomi racing in the open event, all three crews that they raced against were all boys. First up was the Evesham duo and the Stratford pairing did all that was necessary to come around the corner with a convincing lead. Racing to the finish they recorded a verdict of easily. In the semi-final racing a crew from City of Bristol, it was more tightly fought to the line with the Stratford crew victorious again, this time winning by one and a half lengths. In the final they came up against another crew from City of Bristol. As they raced neck and neck down the course, the win could easily gone either way. With the Stratford crowd erupting from the bank cheering and willing their crew across the line, Wilcock and Chappelhow emerged victorious winning this time by just two feet.

On the Sunday the course runs in the opposite direction and is just 500m long. Up for the J14’s were the singles. Freya Watts took to the water, closely followed by Lucy Browne to take on their first round opposition. Both girls faced crews from City of Bristol. The races were close and both were won by the Stratford girls. In the semi-final, Lucy took on Fleur Griffiths in an all Stratford race. This was extremely close from start to finish and with just two feet separating the two crews at the end, it was Fleur who gained her place in the final. In the other semi-final, Freya took on the West Midlands Champion from Ross and despite her best efforts, it was the Ross sculler who would face Fleur in the final. The race for the pot was another strong fight from Fleur but the Ross sculler stamped her authority on it and beat the Stratford sculler to take the win.

Tomi Wilcock also raced in a single and beat a sculler easily from Llandaff to take his place in the final. Tomi then came up against a very good sculler from Warwick who he had faced at Stratford Regatta last year where Tomi was beaten easily. This time it was to be a much closer affair as the Stratford sculler has improved immensely over the past twelve months and made it a much closer race. Unfortunately, the Warwick sculler was still too much for Tomi and he was beaten by just one and a half lengths.

The J14 quad of Honour Keil, Bella Chappelhow, Ruby Howells and Toby Sartain expertly coxed by Sienna Rawlings (J15) raced in a very close semi-final against Llandaff boys. Again just two feet separated the two crews with the Stratford crew making their way to the final. The final was against a City of Swansea crew which also had a girl in the boat. The Stratford combination was dominant from start to finish winning their event easily.

In Division Two, Ruby and Toby teamed up in a J14 double racing against two very strong boys from City of Bristol. This time it was not to be for the Strafford duo and it was the Bristol crew into the next round. Honour and Tomi also teamed up and raced against another Bristol crew, again the morning efforts had taken it out of them and they lost by just one and a half lengths.

Bella and Lucy teamed up in the WJ14 double sculls where they faced Abingdon in the first round. The Stratford girls won by two lengths and were into the semi-final. Here they were met by a Bristol crew who were too fast for the Stratford duo and this time were beaten by two lengths.

Freya and Fleur also teamed up in the doubles but were unfortunate to meet AB Severn in the first round who were in the end the event winners. Conar Aitchison raced in the J15 singles event and was unlucky to be drawn against a strong sculler from Ross who again went on to be the event winner.

In the WJ15 singles Band One event, Stratford’s Amelie Sartain and Harriet Hodgson competed. Harriet’s semi-final opposition scratched, awarding her with a place in the final. Amelie raced against a strong sculler from City of Oxford in another tight race all down the course where Amelie was victorious by three quarters of a length. The two girls then faced each other in another all Stratford final where again it was tight all the way down the course. Amelie was awarded the win despite Harriet’s best efforts.

In the Band Three event, Elisabeth Edwards was again drawn against the events final winner from Gloucester. She put in a good performance but it wasn’t enough to win her place in the final. Emma Harrison and Sophie Elstone teamed up to race in the WJ16 doubles and even thought the Stratford combo were racing up an age group, put up a strong fight, but were beaten by a duo from Monmouth Comprehensive School by just two lengths.

In Division Three, it was time for more doubles with two J15 crews in action. Sophie Elstone, who stepped in as a late substitute, paired up with Amelie Sartain to race in the boys’ category. They put in a great performance and the boys crew form City of Oxford proved too much for the Stratford crew. Harriet Hodgson and Elisabeth Edwards teamed up to also race against City of Oxford, this time in the girls’ event. Unfortunately again it was the Oxford crew who were victorious.

Said Abi Terry, J14 coach, “Two very good days of racing from all of the Stratford athletes, many of whom are beginning to erupt onto the racing scene. Hopefully this is a sign of plenty more wins to come across the season!”

Saturday’s outing to Evesham regatta for the J15 squad began with Will Clarke teaming up with Tomi Wilcock (J14) in the doubles event. A confident win in the heats had them lined up in the semi final against a strong City of Bristol boat. A neck to neck race along the 1000m course finished with a crowd rousing sprint to the finish with Will and Tomi missing the place in the final by just one length.

The doubles events continued with Julia Zampronio Gurden and Martha Usselmann taking to the water alongside Amelie Sartain with Sophie Elstone for their respective races. Zampronio Gurden and Usselmann, up against a strong City of Oxford crew, maintained their strong starting pace, keeping with the opposition to the final straight where, despite rowing strongly, were eventually out sprinted at the final push.

After heats against boats from Oxford and Evesham, Sartain and Elstone won through to the final against another Oxford boat. An excitingly close race from the start saw Stratford gain distance in the closing hundred metres in front of the growing crowd to win the event by half a length.

The afternoon division had the quad of Anne Mynors (J14) Elisabeth Edwards, Julia Zampronio Gurden and Martha Usselmann, coxed by Toby Sartain fight hard against the Ross on Wye opposition, only to miss a place in the final by four lengths.

The single sculls were the last events of the day for the J15 squad. This saw Conar Aitchison and Will Clarke take to the water first for the squad. Aitchison, despite determined effort, was unable to close upon the AB Severn boat, missing out on further heats. Clarke meanwhile winning his heat met the AB Severn boat in the final. With some impressive sculling during an amazing race, the final result, when eventually released, had Clarke missing out on the winning spot by the smallest possible ‘umpires eye’ amount of just one foot.

Harriet Hodgson, Amelie Sartain and Sophie Elstone then followed in their single sculls. While Sartain faced an adversary from Abingdon, Hodgson and Elstone raced well against each other. The results saw Elstone through to the final against Sartain, winning through her heat by a close three quarters of a length.

Having won their doubles event together earlier in the day, the girls now lined up against each other. With gladiatorial yet sporting spirit, both girls sculled strongly along the 1000m course, both seeking their second pot of the day. Ultimately Elstone won through for the win, ending a fine day’s racing for the squad and continuing this promising start to the season.

The weekend saw King Edward Sixth School boys’ 4+ of Adam, Felix, George and Joe produced a quick race against Clifton College Bristol, winning their heat easily in their first ever regatta event together at Evesham. In the final they met a very tidy crew from Pangbourne College which included a crew member who has previously won at Henley Royal Regatta. The Pangbourne crew was very tidy in their technique giving the KES boys worthy opposition and KES managed to keep the distance down to three lengths gaining good experience against a very good crew.

Also for King Edward Sixth School, Joe in a single scull, met an Abingdon school boy in the semis and managed to stay just half a length behind him at the final. The Abingdon boy having been sixteenth fastest overall just recently at the National Sculling Championships.

Kjersti Rogneflaten Woolley, a Stratford upon Avon Boat Club master rower, raced in the morning in composite women’s coxed four with Derwent Rowing Club. They first had a comfortable win over Northampton in the semi-final, and then achieved a good win in the final against home crew from Evesham. Said Kjersti, “A typical master event: Derwent borrowed a boat from Evesham and had Mel coming from Bewdley Rowing Club to cox!”

Kjersti then competed again in the afternoon in a single scull against a capable Evesham sculler. Thanks to cheering from the riverbank, Kjersti put in a good sprint at the finish and won the semi-final. Her opponent in the final was an experienced national and international sculler from Exeter Rowing Club. “It was a great honour to meet such a nice lady in a local event and learn from her,” said Kjersti.

As a warm up to this month’s National Schools’ Regatta, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s J16 and J17/J18 squads travelled to Eton Dorney’s purpose built rowing lake for Wallingford Regatta. Held over 2km, the event delivered exciting side by side racing against crews from around the United Kingdom and beyond with South Africa also represented.

The WJ16 coxless quadruple sculls entry of Mya Kenny, Nixie Brunt, Mili Wilcock and Alice Baines set down a solid marker for the regatta season ahead securing tenth fastest in the heats.  Building on recent successes, Fred Tyler from the J16 squad lined up in the J18 single sculls event and provided a thrilling race for all present. Dueling with Fulham Reach Boat Club in the last 500m, Fred secured third place and just a boat length off second with an example of fine sculling.

The J17 squad was represented by its young ladies: in the final Schools Single Sculls event, Talei Dunn came home in fourth place – a tremendous performance in her first ever single race. Katie Wellstead, Khloe Curnock, Emily Browne and Molly Gill-Swift coxed by Mimi Hill raced in the Schools Coxed Fours event against top opposition from well known rowing schools and the big clubs from the Thames region. An outstanding performance in their heat produced the fourth fastest time from the fifteen competing crews. This took them into another gruelling final in which they came home in fifth place in front of Kings School Worcester.

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s Elite Men’s coxless four were at their first regatta of the season at also at Wallingford Regatta: the Stratford Men were starting on the road to seeking qualification for Henley Royal Regatta 2019.

Twenty four crews from around the country were entered into the Club Fours, split into four races. The Stratford crew of Michael Hourigan, Patrick Hourigan, Finn Sprackling and Tom Coles were up early for their journey down from Stratford for their first race of the day starting at 07:35hrs.

Only the winners of the four heats qualified direct for the final and in their heat, the Stratford boys finished third but the time was quick enough to give them another chance of making the final via the repêchage. Needing to finish in the first two in the repêchage to make the final, they ended up having their best row of the day to ease clear of the field alongside Reading Boat Club to book their spot in the main event. Unfortunately with limited time to recover before the final itself, the crew struggled to make an impact in the main event and finished sixth.

Elite Men’s Coach Bill Sullivan said “Its early days but making the final against some solid competition represents a good start to the regatta season. We know we will need to keep improving from here, but I’m sure we will!”

Stratford’s Adaptive Squad went to Marlow Spring Regatta also at Dorney Lake on Bank Holiday Monday. Said Adaptive Coach Mark Dewdney, “No wins but the athletes were up against strong opposition. Hattie Throssell continues to impress and narrowly missed out on her debut win. Dan Godefroy, in his first regatta, came second in his final. Ian Ward and Mark Sanders also performed well.”

For media coverage, please see Stratford Herald online and page 15

For more great pictures of Wallingford Regatta, see Stuart Baines’ excellent selection on

Busy Weekend for Stratford’s Rowers!

On a perfect but cold and windy weekend, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s squads went to various locations to test their skills.

The Senior Men’s elite squad spent the weekend at Nottingham training on the multi-lane course honing their technique in preparation for Henley Royal Regatta in July.

Said Bill Sullivan, Senior Men’s Elite Coach, “It was windy and cold in Nottingham but the boys got in some good training putting them in a good position for the preparation for some hard racing at Henley.”

Heading to the other end of the country on Saturday were two senior crews from Stratford upon Avon Boat Club who travelled to Totnes in Devon to compete in the annual Head of the Dart River Race. This year the processional time trial was planned to run from Totnes to Dartmouth over a distance of fifteen kilometres.

Due to weather and river conditions on the day, organisers deemed the conditions at the lower reaches of the river toward Dartmouth too dangerous to run the event over the planned full course. The decision was made to run the race over a shortened five kilometre course, which involved crews rowing down to the revised start and then rowing back up to finish adjacent to the Dart Totnes Amateur Rowing Club.

The re-scheduled shortened race still attracted over one hundred crews from all over the United Kingdom taking part in a very varied range of coastal and river boats (including pilot gigs, canoes and fine boats). Stratford crews rowed in fine boats, more suited to calm inland river conditions.

After launching boats from the Dart Totnes Amateur Rowing Club clubhouse in Totnes, crews rowed down to what became a very congested marshalling area. Once underway, the race itself required a high level of skill in negotiating the tight and winding course, navigation buoys, mud flats, river traffic as well as other competing crews. Due to the delay in the start time, rowing against an outgoing tide and south-easterly winds made conditions severe with a high risk of the boats taking on water.

Top Stratford Boat Club performers on the day were the Women’s Masters crew (coxed quad) of Rosie Stone, Andrea Duxbury, Clare Nash, Rona Fitzpatrick and Alfie Nash (cox), winning their category in an adjusted race time of 00:26:21.

The Stratford Men’s Masters crew (coxed four) of Simon Skillings, Graham Cann, Dave Edwards, Richard Anderson and Jessica Cann (cox) finishing in an adjusted race time of 00:26:43.

Said Alfie Nash, Women’s Masters crew coach, “Although the event was a logistical challenge with the transportation of boats to and from the start and finish locations, it proved to be a very interesting and enjoyable challenge to all crews taking part. Those crews stopping over in Dartmouth and Totnes were able to fully appreciate the hospitality of the host club as well as fellow competitors!”

Meanwhile, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club J13 squad entered three crews in Abingdon Rowing Club’s Spring Head of the River Race on Sunday held on the River Thames over 1850m

The first to boat in Division One at 8.00hrs from an icy pontoon was Imogen Hill and Maddie Hall in their double scull. Undaunted by their first experience of a major event raced over two kilometres, they sculled superbly to finish third in a time that would have beaten two WJ14 crews.

Next to race in Division Two was the WJ13 4x+ of Emily Stobart, Grace Beason, Uchenna Nwachukwu, Ruby Brooker-Collins and cox Kate Richardson: they soon showed they have what it takes to mix it with the big clubs by finishing second splitting the two Henley crews.

In Division Four, the Open J13 4x+ of Ciara Wilson, Louie Beason, Amalia Richardson and Millie Hodgson coxed by Imogen Hill mixed it with boys crews to come third in an identical time to the girls’ quad of 10minutes and 38 seconds. Said Sam Hill, J13 coach, “The results were really encouraging and the whole squad displayed good technique all the way to the finish.”

Matilda Watts and Geoffrey Flambert also both put in strong performances in the J17 1x events finishing fourth and sixth respectively.

The J14 squad was also in Abingdon. In Division One, the squad was represented by the J14 2x of Tomi Wilcock and Will Beattie. Rowing in the higher band, they put down a very strong performance to take the Band One win by seven seconds, despite coming up against very good opposition.

The WJ14 4x+ of Freya Watts, Fleur Griffiths, Bella Chappelhow, Harriet Holmes and cox Toby Sartain were also placed in Band One and despite putting in a good time were just pipped by a crew from Wallingford and were beaten by just four seconds to take second place.

Division Two saw the first of the Stratford J15’s take to the water. The WJ15 singles of Sophie Elstone and Harriet Hodgson both raced well with Elstone battling at the top of the field to take a brilliant win, a second over her closest rival from City of Oxford. Hodgson also put in a good performance finishing eighth.

Will Clarke raced in the J15 single against some strong opposition and managed a sixth place finish. The J15 double of Conar Aitchison and Emma Harrison raced against some all boys crews to finish eighth.

In Division Three, more of the J14’s took to the water with the J14 4x+ of Tomi Wilcock, Will Beattie, Ruby Howells, Bella Chappelhow and cox Toby Sartain in action. Again they faced some strong opposition from Wallingford and were unfortunately unable to overhaul the all-boys crew to finish second by just four seconds.

Next up were the WJ14 double sculls with two Stratford boats in action. The first was Fleur Griffiths and Harriet Holmes, again facing a crew from Wallingford. This time the girls were able to overhaul the opposition and take the event win. The other Stratford crew of Freya Watts and Anne Mynors also put in a very good performance to finish in a highly credible fourth place.

Division Four saw the final Stratford crews of the day racing again with more J15’s on the water. The WJ15 4x+ of Emma Harrison, Abbey Meggeson, Harriet Hodgson, Julia Zanpronio Gurden and cox Sienna Rawlings raced strongly to finish in sixth place. Also racing in this division was the J15 double of Will Clarke and Sophie Elstone who again raced against a lot of all-boys crews to finish in sixth place beating several crews in the process.

The final J15 crew was Conar Aitchison in the single who, despite being rather nervous about competing in the single, had a good race to finish in fifth place over a minute ahead of the sculler behind him.

This week also sees the J17/18 squad on a training camp in Henley and next week is the turn for the existing J13/J14/J15 squads to train at Stratford.

For media coverage, please see Stratford Observer online and Stratford Herald page 15.

Stratford’s Adaptive Squad Makes Racing Debut!

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s adaptive squad went to its first event of the season last Sunday.

Stratford is one of the “Big 5” adaptive clubs that dominate the scene in the South of England. All but one of these clubs attended the Time Trial that was rowed over part of the Henley Royal Regatta course. The five squad rowers from Stratford were Jake Blatcher, Dan Godefroy, Hattie Throssell, Ian Ward and Mark Sanders. A couple of athletes, due to their disability, require experienced club volunteers to row with them. For Dan and Jake it was their first competitive event.

Jake won the prize for best junior men’s performance of the day. Mark missed out on the men’s adult prize by 0.1 of a second to a Marlow sculler. The other athletes all produced times that bode well for this summer’s regatta season.

The adaptive squad was revived at the Stratford Boat Club in 2015: since that date, the squad has grown steadily. “We have athletes with a variety of disabilities: some just require a little extra support. Safety is always paramount: we can deal with most issues but not all. The emphasis is on participation and enjoyment but it always great to get a win at these events” says Mark Dewdney, the Club’s Adaptive Coach.

The squad’s next competition will be at Marlow on the May Bank Holiday Monday.

For media coverage, please see Stratford Observer online and Stratford Herald page 16 and

For those interested in learning more about adaptive rowing at Stratford Boat Club, please contact the Club via the Club’s website