Last weekend saw the 2017 Hampton Small Boats Head which attracts the finest young athletes from rowing schools and clubs throughout the South East and further afield. This year was no exception with over 770 crews competing.
A frosty Saturday morning greeted Stratford upon Avon Boat Club athletes as they arrived at the Thames in Hampton: the white heat of Stratford junior sculling however soon thawed the ice as racing got underway!
The women’s junior 15 double sculls event saw an excellent performance earning ninth place from Nixie Brunt and Mili Wilcock with Mya Kenny and Maiya James also in the mix recording 19th of the 33 crews entered. In the women’s junior 16 double sculls, Molly Gill-Swift and Emily Browne were 12th fastest and an equally impressive combination of Mimi Hill and Talei Dunn arriving 16th across the line. The latter performance being notable with Talei still in her early years of rowing and Mimi more usually seen in the coxswain’s seat.
The single sculls is often seen as the gladiatorial event at any sculling competition with athletes pitching their technical skill and physical fitness against one another. In the autumnal sun of East Molesey the battle raged. In the women’s junior 15 single sculls Alice Baines registered a superb 11th position biting at the heels of a good number of junior 16 scullers. In the junior 16 single sculls Khloe Curnock, Katie Wellstead and Jess Weisheu showed their class with 18th, 21st and 24th places respectively in a high quality 50 strong entry list. Said Steve Wellstead, Stratford Boat Club’s Junior Co-ordinator, “The result of the day however went to Emily Browne who once more opened the taps and unleashed her formidable power to take second place in the junior 16 single sculls. An extremely good result indeed!”
Meanwhile at nearby Avon Masters & Evesham Senior Head, Stratford’s Women’s Novice 4x+ had a pleasing win on a sunny, cold morning but otherwise perfect conditions for four kilometre course. Stratford’s opponents were Ross and Evesham. Stratford finished two minutes ahead of the Ross ladies and a satisfying four minutes ahead of Evesham on their own home water. Stratford’s crew were Alfie Nash cox, Clare Nash, Helen Helliwell, Rona Fitzpatrick and Rosie Stone.
Crew captain Rosie Stone commented, “A solid performance maintained over the distance and excellently coxed throughout by Alfie Nash!”
Stratford Men’s coxless four also bought home some silverware from Avon Masters & Evesham Senior Head after winning the race for IM1 crews. The crew contained three new rowers to the Club plus Stratford’s Captain of Boats Oli Smith who stroked the winning boat. Max Marcus, Mark Tarrant, Patrick Hourigan and Oli won their race by over a minute from a crew from Bewdley and ended up as the third quickest crew of the day.
Said Bill Sullivan, Stratford’s Senior Men’s Squad coach, “Stratford men’s squad has grown rapidly this autumn with the addition of eight new rowers and the squad will spend the next few months getting in some hard training before next summer’s regatta season and hoped for entries for Henley Royal Regatta.”
Saturday also saw Stratford upon Avon Boat Club Masters’ squad make the short trip to local neighbours Evesham Rowing Club also for the Avon Masters and Evesham Autumn Head. The event held on the picturesque River Avon over four kilometers made for some challenging steering on a meandering and in places narrow course. A beautiful sunny but very cold day saw a number of crews braving the weather in coxed and coxless fours, and quad, double and single sculls.
Stratford’s Masters were lead off in division one by the Masters’ D coxed four crew of Richard Field, Richard Anderson, Graham Cann, Dave Edwards and cox Jane Connolly. The crew competing in their first ever long distance head race were looking for a steady performance and although unsuccessful in winning their event, recorded a very respectable time of twenty minutes and thirty three seconds.
Closely following on their heels were the Masters’ E crew of Richard Shepherd, Richard Nelson, Simon Beard, Tom Doherty and cox Lucy Breakwell. Maintaining a steady rate of thirty two strokes per minute, they were able to make up ground on the preceding event crews from Worcester, Warwick and Stratford. Despite being held up on a very narrow section of the course by a slower crew, they were still able to record a very good time of seventeen minutes and forty seconds to win their event by almost two minutes over Warwick Boat Club, a time which would also have won the Masters’ D younger age group event!
Division one racing now moved to the small boats and Stratford were represented by the Mixed Masters E double of Gina Fusco and Phil Marshall. The crew were up against a very good National Championship medal winning crew from Derwent but nonetheless put in a very good performance to finish second in their event in a time of twenty minutes and forty two seconds.
Bringing up the division were the single sculling races .The competitors who had been waiting in the very cold conditions for some considerable time were eager to race and thaw out. First off for Stratford was Stephen Haighton competing in Masters F/G single sculls. Haighton in his first ever single sculling event produced a very creditable performance to win his event in a time of twenty minutes and forty three seconds over competitors from Ross, Pengwern and Bristol clubs.
Last but not least was the Women’s Masters’ E single scull of Kjersti Woolley. Starting at the rear of the field after a long wait on the start, Kjersti soon made time up on the field in front of her to finish in a very respectable time of twenty four minutes and ten seconds to finish in second place in her event.
With most competitors deciding to thaw out in the afternoon, the second division contained only one Stratford crew. Sian Maher and Tom Doherty in a last minute partnership competed in IM3 mixed double scull. Despite never having been in a boat together before the race, they recorder a very respectable time of nineteen minutes and nineteen seconds to finish just over a minute behind the winners from Warwick Boat Club.
Said Tom Doherty, Masters’ Vice Captain, “It was great to see a range of masters, senior and junior crews braving the winter chill to compete and record some very impressive results.”
For media coverage, see Stratford Herald p15 and online at http://www.stratford-herald.com/79258-stratford-crews-enjoy-success-evesham.html and Stratford Observer online https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowers-claim-success-on-multiple-fronts
For more great pictures of Hampton Small Boats Head, see Stuart Baines’ selection https://1drv.ms/f/s!AuJoEG1Fov50hNBqDdT3z9IYSK91ZQ