Stratford upon Avon Boat Club Masters rowers completed their final training competition with a high quality event in the North of England on Saturday before they compete next Sunday in the International Masters’ Head Race held on the Thames.
Competing in the North of England Head race held on the picturesque river Dee in the heart of Chester, the event forms the final training opportunity for competitors heading to London and, as such, attracted a very high quality field from all over the North of England with current national Masters champions evident amongst the competition. Raced over a five kilometre course from Eccleston ferry and culminating in a finish at the meadows in front of Royal Chester Boathouse, the course on a wide river offered plenty of opportunities for exciting racing in good conditions.
Stratford rowers Richard Nelson, Simon Beard, Tim Lunel, Tom Doherty and cox Becky Stokes were joined by Bridgnorth colleagues Paul Wallis, Rob Graham, Al Champion and Stuart Round in Masters D age division eights for an early morning campaign. Racing against highly fancied crews from York and Agecroft amongst others and local favourites Grosvenor who beat the Stratford boys into second place last year by seventeen seconds, led to a highly charged encounter the whole way down the course with no crew giving any quarter.
The Stratford/Bridgnorth composite crew determined to take the race to the opposition from the start set off at high thirty four strokes per minute for the first two kilometres only settling to thirty strokes per minute for the remaining three kilometres of the race to keep the pressure on all their opponents for the whole race. In a lung bursting finale, the Stratford/Bridgnorth crew pulled away over the last five hundred metres from a determined York crew bearing down on them for the whole race.
The exhausted crew were forced to wait for the official race time results between the main competitors with finishing places being too close to call. With the results finally announced over two hours later, Stratford/Bridgnorth crew’s hard efforts were fully justified with a wafer thin win over Grosvenor by a margin of only two seconds! In a time of seventeen minutes and fifty five seconds to record the second fastest time of the morning division of events and victory over close competitors York and Agecroft to add to their collection of scalps.
Said Tom Doherty Stratford Boat Club Masters Vice Captain, “This was a hugely pleasing result to have made up almost twenty seconds on a high quality Grosvenor crew since last year, as well as beating arch competitors Agecroft and York. This means we can go into the London event next Sunday with the confidence of knowing another good performance will enable us to be very competitive.”
See Stratford Herald p15