With the rain starting to fall and a cold wind blowing, crews marshalled at the start in conditions representative of typical winter head racing! The event was held on a fast flowing, slightly high, and in places choppy River Seven in the town of Stourport on Seven. The event was split into two divisions, morning and afternoon, with the early risers on the water at 09.00hrs for a 4km row to the start for Division One.
In the Masters’ event, first off for Stratford Boat Club was Richard Nelson and Simon Cowley in their men’s double sculls racing in the open men’s event. This was Simon’s and this crew’s first head race and he acquitted himself very well to see the crew come home in a time of 14.53 minutes. However it was not enough to beat an experienced Trenthan crew who finished in 13.22 minutes.
Following them down the course was Heather Hayton and Thomas Doherty in the men’s masters double sculls event. The crew was out for a warm up race in an inexperienced event before facing tough opposition in the afternoon and had a solid row to finish in a time of 14.43 minutes to win the event.
A return to the club for a complete change of soaking wet rowing kit saw Heather Hayton and Thomas Doherty again taking to the water in Division Two to race the much fancied Birmingham mixed double. A change to dry kit proved unnecessary as the heavens opened to drench all competitors on the way to the start and for much of the race! The Birmingham double, starting just behind Stratford, who had multiple medalists at national championships in their crew were out for a win and a fast start saw then close on Stratford, however Stratford responded and over the 3.8km course began to slowly pull away from them to finish in a time of 13.57 minutes, and Birmingham finishing in 14.29 minutes, with Stratford sealing the win!
The best result of the day for the Masters’ entries was Gina Fusco in her single scull when she raced in the afternoon division which saw a torrential downpour just before the start. But, despite this being only her second singles race, Gina kept her nerve and achieved a comfortable win over a Birmingham sculler, overtaking right in front of the boat house! On a river she had not previously raced on, Gina put in a very good performance in difficult conditions to win her event in a time of 16.28 minutes and secure her first ever rowing win. Said Tom Doherty, Masters’ Vice Captain, “It was great to see Simon Crowley having a good race and Gina having a great event win which hopefully will lead to more success for them both in the future!”
Stratford Junior Squad entered a scratch crew in the WJ18 Coxless Quad event drawn from the J16, J17 and J18 squads. Katie Phillips, Martha Usselmann, Isabelle and Matilda Watts with only three previous outings together gelled on the day to put in a fine performance beating Evesham by half a second to finish second to Wycliffe.
Building experience from last weekend’s racing, J17 Jake Blatcher in his single scull took on his longest event so far. The 3.8km of the River Stour was taken in his stride, finishing the winding course in seventh place in a time of 15:49 minutes.
The Stourport Winter Head was the first opportunity for Stratford Boat Club’s J14 athletes to test themselves over the long 3.7km distance and they duly proved themselves to be exceptionally capable. First crew to challenge the course was the OP J14 4X+ crew of Louie Beason, Uche Nwachukwa, Grace Beason and Charles Happel with great coxing from Emily Stobart. They were racing against an all boys’ J15 4X+ crew from Hereford Cathedral School and although the Stratford crew finished strongly in a time of 14:50:06 minutes, the experience of the older crew told.
Next on the water the WJ14 4X+ crew of Maddie Hall, Harriet Noyes, Millie Hodgson and Amalia Richardson and expertly coxed by Imogen Hill, Sculling very powerfully they powered their way down the course in a very impressive time of 14:26:9 minutes beating the home Stourport crew into a very distant second place.
Stratford’s last J14 crew was the J14 WJ 2x of Kate Richardson and Ruby Brooker Collin: they had the very worst of the weather with heavy driving rain and wind but this didn’t deter them. They demonstrated excellent sculling over the course to finish a respectable distance behind a more experienced crew from Evesham in a time of 15:34 minutes. Said Steve Marsden, J14 coach, “A very brave effort in extremely poor weather conditions, well done girls! In fact well done to all our J14 athletes, they never fail to impress!”
For media coverage, Stratford Herald online https://www.stratford-herald.com/105537-stratford-rowers-make-waves-stourport.html and page fifteen and Stratford Observer https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/gina-produces-a-masterful-row