Stratford upon Avon Boat Club went in force to Stourport Boat Club’s Small Boats Winter Head on Sunday. The J18 Club squad was racing in the afternoon, with Martha Usselmann, Isabella Sandland, Hannah Broome, and Elisabeth Edwards competing in the WJ18 coxless quads. This was the first race for half of the crew and it started off well with Stratford putting a good distance between them and the next crew. Passing the Stourport clubhouse, Stratford overtook an eight and in the last few metres of the race were overtaken by another quad in a dramatic race to the finish. Although finishing fourth, the girls greatly enjoyed the race and hope to be back again soon at the same venue.
For the J16 squad, it was the first event of 2022 which saw a very bright and sunny mid winter’s day for the J16 girls’ crew of Amalia Richardson, Maddie Hall, Harriet Noyes, Kate Richardson and coxed by Imogen Hill. Competing for the first time in a coxed sweep boat, they literally swept away their completion from Trentham Boat Club, winning their event by fifty nine seconds in a fantastic time of 14:08 minutes. Commenting, Steve Marsden, J16 Coach, said, “The girls provided a great demonstration of sweep rowing at pace, guided expertly by the cox to accelerate across the finish line in front of a large group of spectators. Unfortunately, the girls’ coxless quad were unable to compete and this slightly dampened the day.”
Both Stratford Boat Club WJ15 4x+ crews performed extremely well on the 3.8km Stourport course downstream, narrowly missing out on Gold against Trentham Boat Club, who finished in a winning time of 14.07. The WJ15x+ squad did beat crews from Evesham, AB Severn and Stourport. After a long wait in the marshaling area, they sustained their technique for the complete distance, rating at up to 35spm. The girls were very pleased with their performance, surprised not to have won, but that is the nature of the great sport of rowing: sometimes an unexpected entrant comes along and takes the spoils! J15 Coach Hugo Happel said, “The girls did Stratford proud with some very fine technique sustained over 3.8km: they should reflect on their achievement and celebrate until Tuesday at least, when some more character-building land training awaits once more!”
For some of Stratford’s J14 athletes, this was their first ever head race, and at a lengthy 3.8km, it was a baptism of fire! Due to logistical challenges, the J14’s had one crew race up an age category in Open J15 coxed quad facing challenging competition. Despite this, the crew of James Albrighton (cox), Alexandra Francis, Seth Vondrak, Xavier Sissins and Poppy Baines got off to a flying start, holding their own against the older boys’ crews the whole way down the course, not making it easy for their competition right the way to the final stroke. They were shortly followed by the WJ14 coxed quad of Sophie Evans (cox), Alice Jones, Meg Nuttall, Lily Warren and Lucy Yang for which it was their first outing in the combination. It was a gutsy row, going hard off the start and showing off their technical skill even at the tail end of the course when their competition were faltering. In the second division with the cold creeping in, the open J14 coxed quad of Alexandra Francis (cox), James Albrighton, Ollie Rowlands, Theo Richter and Sophie Evans proved they were made of tough stuff, holding off a strong crew for over half the course and powering through to the finish with their heads held high.
Stourport Winter Head marked the first race also for King Edward The Sixth School Boat Club for twenty three months. Not only this but the crew were now with an entirely new squad and it was the first race for the boys in the coxed four (J. Mitchell, T. Wheeler, E. Craig, R. Macdonald, E. Rose), three of whom only started learning to row last September. With some excitement and a bit of nerves, the crew took everything in their stride: they were the third crew off in their category so had two targets ahead of them. Half way down the course, they successfully picked off the first of their opposition putting in a push to power past the crew from Hereford which left them with our friends from Stratford Boat Club to chase down! They didn’t have enough water to catch Stratford but the squad finished in an impressive time winning their category by just over one minute.
Not to be outdone, Stratford’s Masters were also at Stourport competing in a coxed four. Commenting, Dave Edwards, Masters’ Vice Captain said. “In fairness, we beat the other masters in that group by over a minute, so not too bad a row even though we were beaten by a very much younger crew!”
For media coverage, please see Stratford Herald page sixty one and also Stratford Observer online https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-stratford-upon-avon-boat-club-impress-at-stourport-boat-clubs-small-boats-winter-head.
For more great pictures of Stourport Head, see Kathy Baines’ selection https://1drv.ms/u/s!AgY7EiDB2lCOhPwCJoS_zRzcEKRK3g?e=6t7Ryt