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 https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/busy-weekend-for-stratfords-rowers and Stratford Herald page 15.

Hampton, Evesham and Chester in One Weekend!

Last Saturday, several young athletes travelled to Hampton Court to compete in the Hampton Small Boats Head, a processional time trial over three thousand metres. This race is recognised as the highest quality winter event for small boats: it attracts over seven hundred crews from famous and highly successful rowing schools and clubs. 

In this extremely competitive cauldron of racing, the J17 athletes competed in two events. Joe Hodson representing Stratford in the J17 singles and King Edward Sixth School in the schools event finished ninth and sixteenthwith Molly Gill-Swift competing magnificently in the comparable but very challenging girls’ races. Emily Browne, Katie Wellstead and Talei Dunn all sculling with great skill and determination finished their singles’ race in thirteenth, twenty seventh and twenty eightieth place respectively. Then followed the partnerships of Talei Dunn with Katie Wellstead and Khloe Curnock with Emily Browne tackling the girls’ J17 double sculling race. They finished within three seconds of each other and only forty five seconds behind the winners to take thirteenth and fourteenth place. These are all tremendous performances by a small club in this most demanding sculling theatre.

The morning division saw the J15 doubles partnership of Amelie Sartain and Sophie Elstone finishing an outstanding fifth from a strong field of thirty three and within only five seconds from a medal winning position. The second double crewed by Harriet Hodgson and Sienna Rawlings followed closely with an equally respectable fourteenth, against very tough competition from the country’s top clubs.

The afternoon saw the OJ15.2x of Conar Aitchison & Will Clarke placed twenty seventh in a close division of forty, sculling confidently against fierce competition.

Spread over the morning and afternoon divisions the WJ15.4x+ event saw the crews of Sienna Rawlings, Amelie Sartain, Sophie Elstone and Martha Usselmann coxed by Elisabeth Edwards: along with the boat crewed by Abbey Meggeson, Elisabeth Edwards, Emma Harrison and Julia Zampronio Gurden, coxed by Conar Aitchison, placed twenty seventh and thirty ninth respectively from a strong and large tightfield of forty three.

Stratford Masters were in attendance at Evesham on Saturday supporting the Senior crews with a number of development crews and scullers looking to commence their winter racing season.

After their success at the prestigious Fours Head, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s Senior Men’s squad was at Evesham for the annual Masters of the Avon head races. Racing against the stream over four thousand and five hundred meters, the top boat a coxed four of Mike Hourigan, Patrick Hourigan, Finn Sprackling and Max Marcus, with local coxswain Amie Jones steering, set off first against competition from Evesham, Trafford and Worcester. 
A powerful steady row allied to Jones’s local knowledge of the stream quickly enabled them to pull clear of the pack – ending up with a  comprehensive forty five second win.

The morning division also featured the first outing in a Head race for the youngest member of the squad, Harvey Mole. Harvey was up against ten other singles – all from Stowe School and got out of the blocks quickly, catching two of the Stowe scullers just after halfway and had nearly caught two more by the end of the course. He ended up finishing a very promising third.

 The afternoon division featured the Hourigan brothers racing a pair for the first time, where they finished a very respectable second behind an experienced pair from Worcester Rowing Club.

Seniors’ Coach Bill Sullivan said, “The squad have trained hard since September and been rewarded with some good wins at Worcester, London and now Evesham. It’s a promising start to the season and bodes well for 2019”

Racing in the morning division first off were the Men’s’ Masters F age group quad in their first race outing of the season. The crew, Gary Clay, Neville Hand, Wallace Brown and Tom Doherty in a borrowed boat took on local crews from Worcester, Warwick and event hosts Evesham.

On a demanding four kilometre course with a number of tight bends requiring significant steering input, the crew settled into a solid row rating thirty one strokes per minute for the whole course to finish in a time of seventeen minutes and nine seconds to finish seconds behind a much fancied and very experienced Evesham crew who finished in a time of sixteen minutes and forty four seconds but ahead of crews from Worcester and Warwick finishing overall tenth fastest crew of the day.

Masters rowers were further represented by Gina Fusco taking part in her first single sculling event. Gina, up against a very experienced sculler from Exmouth Rowing Club, produced a very creditable racing and steering performance to finish in a time of twenty three minutes and twenty nine seconds, behind the Exmouth sculler winning in twenty one minutes and three seconds.

Stratford’s Masters Women’s daytime rowing squad of Rona Fitzpatrick, Jackie Joesbury, Rosie Stone and Clare Nash, coxed by husband Alfie Nash, not to be out done, also competed in the Women’s open coxed quad event and finished in a good time of 21.33 twenty one minutes and thirty three seconds, behind a significantly younger Evesham winning crew in twenty minutes and sixteen seconds

In the afternoon division, Stratford Masters rowers Gary Clay and Tom Doherty teamed up with their old friends from Bridgnorth to continue their success in a composite Men’s Masters E coxed four to record their third straight win following previous success at Grosvenor and Stourport against crews from Worcester, Warwick, and Evesham in a time of seventeen minutes and fifteen seconds. Said coach Helen Smith, “It was great to see so many development crews getting some good quality race experience.”

On Sunday, the Masters’ men continued to build up their season race experience with a trip up to Chester to take part in Chester Long Distance Sculls. Held on the picturesque River Dee in glorious winter sunshine over a five kilometre course, the day produced some good quality racing against strong opposition which saw Stratford’s Masters’ Men’s quad of Simon Beard, Richard Shepherd, Richard Nelson and Tom Doherty taking on crews from Grosvenor, Runcorn and Kings Chester in the Masters D event.

After a steady start and hitting some debris in the middle of the river which caused a few steering issues, Stratford were unable to hang on to a good quality Grosvenor crew racing on their own water, rowing at three/four strokes per minute above the Stratford crews rating of thirty two strokes per minute, and found themselves instead in a side by side battle for two and a half kilometres with a very experienced Runcorn crew who despite closing on Stratford could not overtake and towards the finish Stratford’s better fitness meant they were able to pull away from them until the end of the race to finish third in a time of twenty minutes and twenty three seconds.

For media coverage, pleasesee Stratford Herald page fifteen and online http://www.stratford-herald.com/93380-youngsters-take-best-hampton-head.htmland Stratford Observer page twenty three and online https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/excellent-performances-against-top-opposition. For more pictures of Hampton Small Boats Head,please see David Phillips’ great selection https://1drv.ms/f/s!AgY7EiDB2lCOgsx7iw3lkzfVJQfNlA

Stratford’s Seniors Excel in Worcester

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s Senior Men’s squad started off the new Head season at a very wet Worcester Small Boats Head on Saturday. Over 200 boats were competing on the 4.5 kilometre stretch of the River Severn aiming to show off their early season pace, run over two divisions.

In the morning division, Stratford’s Senior Men’s coxed four of Amie Jones , Mike Hourigan, Finn Sprackling, Ben Twiney and Patrick Hourigan had a very promising row winning their event and coming home as the quickest boat overall, beating rivals from all over the Midlands.

They were closely followed home by the Stratford coxless quad of Ed Lewry, Oli Smith, Max Marcus and Tom Coles who also won their event with something in hand, despite some slightly erratic steering.

The morning was rounded off by a win for Vice Captain, Tom Marshall, in his singles race, especially pleasing as he was returning from a long term injury.

Stratford only had one entry in the afternoon division – racing a coxless four against a strong Nottingham crew. The Stratford crew of brothers Mike and Pat Hourigan, Tom Coles and Finn Sprackling lost by fourteen seconds to the Nottingham crew after fading in the second half of the race.

Said Bill Sullivan, Senior Coach, “Overall however it was a pleasing first outing for the squad. Next up is Gloucester Head at the end of October before taking on the prestigious Fours Head held on the Tideway on the Thames in early November.”

Whilst their colleagues were battling it out on the River Severn, two Stratford Master rowers braved the worst of the weather on a rough River Thames. Sian Maher and Thomas Doherty braved the stormy conditions to take part in one of the main national head races of the year on Saturday on the famous River Thames in Central London.

An extensive logistical operation saw the two rowers arrive with their boat at a stormy Putney Embankment to join a huge field of 470 entrants from all over the UK. Conditions proved challenging from the start as the crews undertook a long row up to the starting area by Chiswick Bridge for the start of the 4.5km course in windy choppy waters and continual rain.

For Sian experiencing her first small boat event it was a baptism of fire as all crews struggled with the conditions. With the race finally underway, there was no let-up in the weather conditions, Stratford opted for a conservative race plan and settled into a steady rhythm in the swell and wind. A good push at Barnes Bridge saw them up the pace as they found themselves in a side by side race with a Cambridge crew for the whole of the second half of the race. With both crews forgetting about the conditions and focusing on each other, an exciting tussle developed with both crews level for the remainder of the race.

Finishing in a time of 17.54 whilst not fast enough to trouble the winners, it was a respectable time for an inexperienced Tideway crew.

Said Tom Doherty, “I was extremely pleased at how well Sian handled the race which at times was grim and scary and her performance enabled us to put in a solid performance in what was her first small boat Tideway race.”

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald page 15 and online http://www.stratford-herald.com/91727-stratford-boat-clubs-seniors-shine-worcester.html and Stratford Observer page 31

Photographs courtesy of Lawrence Little