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

Choppy Thames Conditions for Vesta International Eights Head!

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club were represented at this year’s Vesta International Eights Head of The River race on Sunday. The race, which is the premier veterans’ rowing event of the year, is held over the championship course which is better known as the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race course in central London on the Thames. On a clear but blustery day, over 245 crews set off from Mortlake for the 6.8km timed race down to Putney at ten second intervals making for some exciting racing over the whole length of the course.

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club provided the majority share of a composite crew with fellow Midland clubs from Warwick Boat Club and Bridgnorth Rowing Club. The crew, stroked by Paul Wallis from Bridgnorth, comprised Tom Doherty (Stratford) at 7, Richard Nelson (Stratford) at 6, Rob Graham (Bridgnorth) at 5, Tim Grimsdale (Bridgnorth) at 4, Gary Clay (Stratford) at 3, Jon Martin (Warwick) at 2 and Simon Beard (Stratford) at bow with Sarah Graham (Bridgnorth) at cox.

The crew racing in the Masters’ E age category section (55 to 60 years) were up against formidable competition with no less than 34 competitors in their age group. The crew, on the back of a much improved showing at the North of England Head at Chester the week before, got off to a fast start taking the rating up to 34 strokes per minute under Chiswick Bridge as they crossed the start with Bewdley and an international Danish crew starting close behind.

A solid rating push off the start saw the crew opening a significant gap on the two immediate crews behind as they approached Barnes Bridge. Tricky winds saw the Tideway live up to its reputation as a tough place to row with some large waves leaving most of the crew and the cox soaked. However, not to be deterred, the crew settled in to a good rhythm maintaining 32 strokes per minute for the whole of the remainder of the 6.8km course. This paid dividends as they proceeded to catch a Broxbourne eight by Chiswick Eyot which lead to some lively advice on the merits of considerate steering being exchanged between the crews!

With over half the race completed and the crew going well, a big push saw the crew clear Hammersmith Bridge and its legendary rough water and they proceeded to catch a number of crews as the final few kilometers beaconed. This lead to some exciting racing as the Stratford composite crew closed past Fulham football ground on no less than four crews all line abreast across the river. Holding their own and with some excellent coxing from Sarah Graham, the crew pushed between Putney Town, Ardingley, Grosvenor and Bradford on Avon clubs to inch over the finish line in front providing good excitement for the crowds of spectators.

Hard racing over the whole course in blustery conditions saw the crew record a time of 22 minutes and 7 seconds finishing thirteenth out of 35 crews in their Masters E event and  107 seconds behind Moseley, the fastest crew of the day and overall 63rd out of 245 crews that finished the event.

Said Tom Doherty Stratford’s Masters Vice Captain, “This was a crew put together in mid-January that has been limited to one training session a week: the crew has shown consistent improvement over the weeks from a poor race at Nottingham to record a very good result with our best row to date in tricky conditions on the Thames, something of which we can be all proud!”

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

Busy Week for Juniors at Dorney and Kingston

It has been a busy week for Stratford upon Avon Boat Club with last Monday seeing the J14 and J15 squads travelling down to a windy and choppy Dorney Lake for the Oarsport Junior Sculling Head. Two individually timed runs of 1800m with only a short turn round in between, tested everyone’s mettle with all performing at their best on this Olympic course.

First to race for Stratford was the WJ15 quad of Abbey Meggeson, Amelie Sartain, Harriet Hodgson and Sophie Elstone coxed by Sienna Rawlings lining up into the strong headwind for their first leg. Rowing firm through the start line they set their pace settling nicely into rhythm for a first run time of eight minutes and twenty seven seconds. Almost immediately, with just enough time allowed to have a drink, the second leg began. Rowing with the wind made for a quicker second time, however the effort required remained. Finishing almost a minute quicker the combined finish time of sixteen minutes and 0.1 seconds placed them twenty second out of a field of sixty six with all the big named schools and clubs featuring.

Following closely was the quad of Elisabeth Edwards, Emma Harrison, Julia Zampronio Gurden and Martha Usselmann, coxed by Toby Sartain. The headwind seemed to increase as they waited for their start, yet undeterred the crew set off strongly and quickly settled into their racing pace. First leg over, the run home towards the cheering crowds was a leg and lung bursting quicker time of seventeen minutes and fifty five seconds.

The nominally classed ‘15′ boys quad consisted of J14’s Tomi Wilcock and Will Beattie and J15’s Conar Aitchison and Will Clarke, coxed by Mary Walton. Apprehension was in the air for their first race together and for Tomi and Will B their first outing on a racing lake. Starting well, all worries were quickly forgotten with the rhythm and pace established early in the race. This strong synchronisation carried them to the end of the first run in exactly eight minutes. After the short recovery, Mary captained the crew to a firm second run, keeping the boys focused and working at their best together. Crossing the finish line in forty six place from a strong field of seventy, a promising first outing from a crew of mixed age groups.

The J14 girls were us next with two Stratford crews in action. First up was the crew consisting of Freya Watts, Lucy Browne, Honour Keil, Fleur Griffiths and cox Toby Sartain. On the first 1800m leg up the length of the lake, the Stratford girls put in a very strong performance to overtake two crews in a time of eight minutes and seventeen seconds. In the second leg, they were just as strong pushing away from the crews behind them and catching the crews in front. Their overall time was sixteen minutes and three seconds putting them into joint eleventh place out of the forty seven crews in their event.

The final crew to race was the second J14 girls’ crew of Harriet Holmes, Bella Chappelhow, Ruby Howells, Anne Mynors and cox Owen Perkins. Again, another strong performance put in holding off the fast crew behind them. Their first leg was completed in nine minutes and five seconds. After a quick turn at the top of the lake, the girls set off back down the lake on their second run. A good pace was held and the crew finished in a time of seventeen minutes and thirty two seconds giving them a place of thirtieth in the whole event and fourth out of the B division crews.

Said Abi Terry J14 coach, “For the J14’s first national event these were great results and the squad will look to build on these now before the Junior Inter-Regionals in April where they have been selected to represent the West Midlands and we also look forward to the National Schools Regatta in May.”

On Saturday, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club junior squad went to Kingston upon Thames head with their WJ17/18 coxed four of Katie Wellstead, Emily Browne, Khloe Curnock and Molly Gill-Swift expertly coxed by Mimi Hill taking on the year group above in a race over 5,200 metres. Despite being excluded from the fleet of their competition through no fault of their own, they race magnificently over the first half of the course gaining on the nearest crew every stroke. As they hit the head wind over the second half of the race, they maintained a great pace to finish in fourth place and thirty four seconds behind the winner. Said Dr Graham Collier, “This was a magnificent effort from all the crew which required great mental as well as physical exertion. Their hard work training six days each week over the winter is beginning to pay off. The squad is looking forward to an exciting regatta season.”

The coxless WJ16 quadruple scull of Jasmine Mountney, Maiya James, Mili Wilcock and Alice Baines sculled superbly at the head of their division.  As the race progressed they pulled clear of the Kingston crew behind and moved through the crews ahead of them to record an excellent third place and just thirty four seconds off the leader in the twenty minute race.

King Edward The Sixth School also competed with a boys’ coxed four of Joe, Adam, Felix, Sam and Matilda and had a tough race, competing up two age categories and saw themselves up against university crews.  Not to be phased by this, they stayed strong finishing second, just seventeen seconds behind the winners and beating another university crew in the process by a good margin.

For media comments, see Stratford Herald page fifteen and online and Stratford Observer online

For more great photographs of Kingston Head, see Stuart Baines’ selection at!AiW2DAyn9tg9jYd618chQeTbTazd7g

Inspiration for Juniors from GB Hopeful

As part of the series of sessions which complement the Junior Performance land and water sessions, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club Junior 16 and 17 year squads played host to a special guest Flo Pickles. Flo started rowing as a junior at Evesham Rowing Club and her talk took the juniors on her journey to date. A move to Gloucester Hartpury attending the British Rowing World Class Start Programme gave Flo the opportunity to push herself in order to develop into the high performance athlete she is today.

Flo was a member of a crew who made history by becoming the first to win at rowing’s premier event Henley Royal Regatta taking gold in the Diamond Jubilee Challenge Cup in 2014 and subsequently retaining their title in 2015. Following on from this success, Flo represented Team GB U23’s through 2016 and 2017. During 2017 she competed in The Boat Race for Oxford. Flo is currently training as a lightweight at Reading Rowing Club taking part in the GB Rowing selection programme and setting her goals on achieving selection for the 2019 World Rowing Championship to be held in Ottensheim Austria, cumulating in the ultimate honour of representing Great Britain at the Tokyo Games in 2020.

Listening intently to Flo, the Junior Squad began to realise that Flo was no different to them and that setting their sights on rowing on the world stage resulting in a medal is within everyone’s grasp and it takes dedication to training and time management through exam years in order to keep all on track through thick and thin in the quest for success.

Said coach Colin Bell, “Serious respect: I’m certain that Flo has been an inspiration to our Juniors and will motivate them all in their aspiration to reach their own goals in the forthcoming season!”

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

Stratford Romp Home at West Midlands Junior Championships

The sun came up and the heavens opened on the West Midlands Junior Championships held in Stourport-on-Severn at the weekend. Conditions where challenging for all as competitors arrived to a quagmire more usually associated with the festival season, the headline act this time being the Stratford upon Avon Boat Club junior squad! The Championships are held over 1800m of the River Severn which, although wide, presents a navigation challenge for coxswains and steersman to stay in the stream and maximise the speed of their crew. At stake was selection to represent the region at the Junior Inter-Regional Regatta held in April.

The J16 squad fielded two crews in the competition. First up in the morning sun was Fred Tyler who romped home in his single scull to take gold and pick up the first West Midlands squad place for the Club. Next to go was the coxless quadruple scull of Alice Baines, Mili Wilcock, Nixie Brunt and Maiya James who whilst pushing on were unable to repeat the form seen in the Stourport Winter Head and collected a Silver medal. Commented Steve Wellstead, Junior Co-ordinator and J16 coach, “This was enough for them to secure selection to represent the West Midlands in a composite eight with Evesham Rowing Club.”

The first division saw the J15 squad competing in the doubles’ event with Amelie Sartain and Sophie Elstone winning silver just four seconds shy of regional qualification after a long fought race. The crews of Elisabeth Edwards and Martha Usselmann and Abbey Meggeson and Emma Harrison finishing closely down the field in seventh and twelfth positions respectively. In the midday division Harriet Hodgson in her first outing in the single event, rowed finely to a confident finish in fifth place against the region’s finest. She is now looking forward to building on this experience during the forthcoming season. The final division saw the two quads compete well with the boat of Julia Zampronio Gurden (cox), Amelie Sartain, Sophie Elstone, Martha Usselmann and Sienna Rawlings finish slightly ahead that of Mary Walton (cox), Abbey Meggeson, Harriet Hodgson, Emma Harrison and Elisabeth Edwards. Said Trevor Tiller, J15 squad coach, ”Weather aside, a fine day’s outing and good spirits all round!”

First up for the J14 squad were the coxed quads. The girls’ crew of Harriet Holmes, Lucy Browne, Honour Keil, Fleur Griffiths and cox Owen Perkins put in a strong performance to see them take their place in the West Midlands squad. The mixed crew that raced in the open event had opposition from the Royal Grammar School Worcester and consisted of Will Beattie, Tomi Wilcock, Ruby Howells, Bella Chappelhow and cox Toby Sartain put in a very strong race and despite an equipment issue near the end of the race still managed to beat Royal Grammar School Worcester by twenty three seconds. This meant that this crew was also selected for the West Midlands squad.

Next up were the doubles’ crews with three combinations competing. Tomi Wilcock and Will Beattie teamed up together and with Beattie steering a fantastic racing line down the course: the boys managed to win their second gold medal of the day beating the nearest rivals from Worcester Rowing Club by eighteen seconds. Toby Sartain and Owen Perkins also teamed up together to race in the open doubles: they put in a fine effort to finish in fifth place. The girls’ double with a late substitute of Harriet Holmes to complete with Fleur Griffiths came away with the bronze medals following another very good row despite the girls not having trained in the double together before. The day finished with the singles and there were two girls competing here: Lucy Browne unfortunately sustained an injury at the beginning of the race and subsequently she was unable to finish. Freya Watts also competed very strongly and finished in a very respectable fourth place just eight seconds off the bronze medal. Said Abi Terry, J14 coach, “A brilliant effort by the J14 squad competing at this event for the first time and managing to secure ten seats in the West Midlands’ squad!”

Although not competing to represent the West Midlands, the J17/18 squad entered two events. Khloe Curnock, determined to win her first event in a single scull, put in a superb performance to take the win from Pengwern Boat Club by six seconds. Autumn Keil dug deep and sculled well to finish fourth. Matilda Watts, normally known for her coxing, was competing in her first event sitting backwards in a boat and demonstrated just how effective light weight and good technique can be by finishing a highly creditable fifth!

Joe Hodson and Fred Tyler, who had both won their respective single events, joined forces in the J18 double scull event in division three. Facing the worst of the rain and headwind, they were dead level on time with Royal Grammar School Worcester at the 800m mark only to be beaten into second place by 1.1 seconds. Dom Furey and Howard Gould-Yates also enjoyed the drenching conditions finishing tenth.

The King Edward The Sixth School J18 4+ crew of George, Felix, Adam, Sam and Emerald made a strong start and a great pace for their first race together but the opposition closed on them to win by eleven seconds. The school’s second crew to race was the J16 2x of Fred and Cameron who were attempting to qualify for a place at the Junior Inter regional regatta: this meant that the competition they faced was very high. The boys put in a very good performance making great improvements from their last race to come in fourth, nearly ten seconds ahead of the crews behind them.

Up next were the King Edward The Sixth School’s WJ18 4+ crew of Lara, Ellie, Maddie, Gina and Leah who put in a very good performance showing good pace and technique but sadly lost out to a very strong crew from Kings Worcester. Finally Joe in a J17 1x showed a very strong pace in tough condition pulling away from his competitors to win by 3.5 seconds.

Said King Edward The Sixth School coach Helen Smith. “Overall, a good day for King Edward The Sixth School with some excellent results and crews showing a lot of promise for the future.”

Finally but certainly not the last, this was Stratford’s J13 squad’s introduction to rowing competitions and all finished the day smiling despite the weather. The two Stratford quads were racing each other with the winning crew of Maddie Hall, Louie Beason, Imogen Hill, Charles Happel and Ciara Wilson (cox) winning out against Kate Richardson, Grace Beason, Ruby Brooker-Collins, Emily Stobart and Elisabeth Edwards who stepped in to cox at very short notice.

The J13 double of Amalia and Millie Hodgson rowed a very strong race to win and excellent silver medal losing out to Ross Rowing Club. Said J13 coach Steve Marsden, “All agreed that it was a very enjoyable, successful but wet and muddy day!”

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

For more great photographs, see Stuart Baines’ great selection!AgY7EiDB2lCOgtwUuBzTzXeAcQexrg and excellent photos from Hugo Happel

Stratford Master’s Woman Wins at Trafford Head of Bridgewater

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s Kjersti Rogneflaten Woolley went to race at the Trafford Bridgewater Canal on Saturday 23rd February. Trafford Rowing Club is a very friendly and welcoming club at the outskirts of Manchester.

The race is over 3200m. Kjersti raced in her single in Division One against a lady athlete from Hollingworth Lake Rowing Club. Having great respect for her opposition, knowing that she had won bronze at a recent indoor rowing competition, Kjersti set out hard, wanting to put distance between them.

This year, Kjersti was prepared for the windy conditions through the famous Budenburg Flats which occur about 500m from start and so carried on regardless. The last 1000m is a straight course and Kjersti was worried that the opposition would push hard, Kjersti put the throttle down.

Kjersti won the race by forty five seconds which was an improvement on her time from last year by two minutes and thirty seconds, although 2018 was on a blustery winter day with ice on the canal in the morning!

Kjersti said, “I was so pleased that I was able to work hard throughout the race and I am so grateful to my coach and mentor Chris Straw who has helped me to get more power into my strokes”

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald page 19 and online see also Stratford Observer online

Another Regional Indoor Success!

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s J14 and J15 squads travelled to Abingdon to compete at the South of England Indoor Rowing Championships.

The club’s first event was the WJ14 individual four minute race. Anne Mynors, Ruby Howells, Lucy Browne, Freya Watts and Harriet Holmes all put in fantastic performances with personal bests and high place finishes, just outside the medals. Bella Chappelhow, despite carrying a slight injury, managed to secure the Silver medal with Fleur Griffiths winning bronze with a new personal best.

The J14 boys’ crew of Toby Sartain, Will Beattie and Tomi Wilcock also individually competed in the four minute category. All of them gained significant personal bests with Wilcock finishing highest in fifth place.

The individual events continued with J15’s Amelie Sartain, Sophie Elstone and Will Clarke taking the arena for their respective five minute races. More personal bests saw Sartain finishing strongly in fifth place with Elstone winning a remarkable Gold medal in a new event record distance of 1353 metres. In the boys’ event, Clarke raced hard and won a well deserved Bronze medal.

The afternoon saw the relays with everyone in action again. The J14 boys’ crew of Wilcock, Sartain and Beattie showed huge amounts determination against considerably bigger crews finishing in sixth place.

The J14 girls split into two squads with Browne, Holmes and Mynors teaming up to finish within touching distance of the medals but unfortunately they were overhauled by a number of teams with four athletes in each squad. Meanwhile, the other crew of Chappelhow, Griffiths, Watts and late substitute Howells took the Gold medal by just 0.4 seconds during the last three strokes.

The J15 boys’ 3km relay saw J14s Wilcock and Beattie teamed up with J15s Clarke and Conar Aitchison. Facing larger competition, they finished in third place to claim their bronze medals.

Freya Watts showed great sportsmanship to team up with three girls from local rivals, Evesham Rowing Club, in their WJ15 relay. Watts’ fine performance saw them placed just outside the medals.

In the final race of the day, J14s Chappelhow and Griffiths teamed with J15s Sartain and Elstone in the WJ15 3km relay. Another thrilling race coming down to the final few strokes saw the girls dig deep to finish in first place.

J14 coach Abi Terry said, “A brilliant day’s racing was had by all. Stratford finished the day with three gold, one silver and three bronze medals.”

J15 coach Trevor Tiller added, “It was great to see all the Stratford athletes really pushing themselves to the limit, not only for themselves but also their team-mates.”

While the J14 and J15 squads were in Abingdon, the elite men’s senior, J16 and J17/18 squads went to the National Water Sports Centre in Nottingham for an arduous training day on their multi-lane course.

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald online and page 14

Head of the Severn: Composite Success!

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club commenced their winter eights competition season with a first competitive race outing at Worcester on Sunday with the Head of the Severn.

The event raced, over the long six kilometre course, was held in perfect conditions with only a head wind to disrupt proceedings. The event which is organised by Worcester University and predominantly aimed at Senior and university crews nonetheless attracted a good quality Masters entry eager to try out new combinations for the upcoming season with an eye on the 2019 Vesta Veterans’ International Eights Head of the River Race event in London in March.

Stratford rowers Gary Clay, Richard Nelson, Simon Beard and Tom Doherty competing in a combined crew with representatives from Midland clubs with Jon Martin from Warwick and Paul Wallis, Rob Graham and Tim Grimsdale from Bridgnorth were up against good opposition from Pengwern with two fancied crews, including last year’s winners, and local club Worcester who were aiming to put down a season marker with a big experienced crew.

Setting off second in their event behind Worcester the Stratford composite crew stroked by Paul Wallis made a powerful start rating 34 strokes per minute to close down Worcester over the first kilometre and put the local club under pressure. However Stratford’s real race turned out to be against last year’s winners Pengwern following behind them.

The Stratford composite crew, settling into a rating of 32 strokes per minute, managed to gain a small advantage at the nine minute timing point of just three seconds over Pengwern. The next section proved the best of the race for Stratford who managed to increase their lead at the fifteen minute timing point to eight seconds. However the last quarter of the race proved extremely tough with Pengwern increasing their effort and Stratford working hard to maintain their rhythm and pushes right up to the finish line.

The necessity of maintaining their rhythm and final push was borne out by an extremely close finish with the Stratford/Bridgnorth/Warwick crew winning in a time of twenty minutes and thirty two seconds, just four seconds ahead of Pengwern who finished in a time of twenty minute and thirty six seconds, an extremely close finish for a six kilometre race.

Said Tom Doherty, Masters’ Vice Captain, “This was a very satisfying race for a crew that has only had three outings this year together. The race was against very good opposition and a perfect springboard to push on with training for the tougher races to come.”

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