Stratford Conquer at Worcester and Nottingham

This Saturday, the athletes of Stratford upon Avon Boat Club travelled across the county into Worcestershire to compete at the Worcester Spring Regatta. Stratford was represented by two squads, Senior Men and J13 juniors. Senior sculler Jake Blatcher made short work of a sculler from Birmingham University in the first round. Sadly his run of form was not sustained into the final where a strong row was bettered by a Worcester Rowing Club sculler making full use of the home advantage.

With the regatta being held over 850m on the River Severn, the event presented the youngest Stratford athletes with the opportunity to experience big river racing for the first time. Perfect conditions greeted the J13 squad as they arrived in Worcester to prepare. First to go was Cara Berisford-Murray in the WJ13 single scull. A tricky draw saw Cara put in a big push in the closing 100m of the race but couldn’t quite catch the Exeter sculler. Exeter then continued to take the win in the final against Stratford’s Becca Smith who made her opposition work hard for the win.

The morning excitement continued with a Stratford versus Stratford final in the WJ13.4x+. The crew of Tessa Parkin, Josephine Cooper, Martha Cooke, Martha Baines and Maeve Dunn (coxswain) started well and pushed hard throughout the race but undeterred by their bumpy start the crew of Bryony Francis, Isla Dunn, Sophie Franklin, Poppy Warren and Millie Smith (coxswain) rowed through their fellow Stratford athletes to take the win in style. More coxed quadruple scull racing continued in the afternoon when, due to a lack of competition, the Stratford J13 crew of Martha Baines, Maeve Dunn, Martha Cooke, Josephine Cooper and Poppy Warren (coxswain) competed in the Open J14 category mixing it with schoolboy crews one year their senior. In the first round, a boys’ crew from St Edwards School (Oxford) boated with some trepidation having seen the Stratford girls racing earlier in the day. Their fears were well founded as Stratford thundered down the course leaving the Teddies boys in their wake. Unfortunately, the semi-final saw a quality boys crew from Winchester School overhaul the Stratford girls with fresh legs in their first race of the day.

The final competition of the day for Stratford was the WJ13 double sculls with three crews entered. The scene was set in the semi-finals with the Stratford crew of Millie Smith and Becca Smith motoring home to better a quality pairing from Exeter Rowing Club. On the other side of the draw, it was Stratford versus Stratford again with Bryony Francis and Sophie Franklin lining up against Tessa Parkin and Isla Dunn, each crew vying for a place in the final. The Francis/Franklin combination proved the quicker which set the scene for the third race to be contested between Stratford crews. What a race it was! The people of Worcester were treated to a fine display of junior sculling and sportsmanship in the final. It was a nip and tuck affair for the duration of the race as each sought to nose ahead of the other. As the two crews rounded the bend, coming within sight of the finish it was still too close to call and the crowd rose to their feet to catch sight of the duel crossing the line. The final verdict was a win for Bryony Francis and Sophie Franklin by just a quarter of a boat length – the slimmest of margin and testament to the quality of rowing seen throughout the day!

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club Masters Women and Senior Men took to the water on Sunday for Nottingham Rowing Club’s Masters & Club Regatta at Holme Pierrepoint Nottingham, home of the National Watersport Centre. Rowing in a crew formed literally that morning due to illness, Stratford’s Ed Lewry mounted an impressive display in his double with George Crouchly from Nottingham, coming in first place by three lengths.

As they passed the 250mark, the official race commentary team announced how ‘Stratford‘s double are showing everyone how to scull today‘. Underlining their class, the double also took the fastest double of the day title: an amazing achievement for a sea tech crew! Sadly, due to the rules of composites for the Open category, Lewry was not awarded a medal but showed true winning style and just how two quality rowers can win, even if they have never been in a boat together before!

Stratford‘s relatively new Masters’ Women double of Gina Fusco and Christine Goodwin achieved their three planned goals for today; a racing start off a stake boat for the first time, staying straight and in their lane and finishing the race! Facing tough opposition, their coach Danni Fusco encouraged them home and gave plenty of good feedback and building blocks for their next battle in three weeks’ time, Christine and Gina commented, “The standard was high and it is great to come and compete at a higher level. We have many learning points and will get back on the Avon and are determined to keep improving!”

For media coverage, please see Stratford Herald page sixty two and also Stratford Observer online https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-stratford-upon-avon-boat-clubs-juniors-conquer-at-worcester

For more great pictures of Worcester Spring Regatta, see The Baines’ great selection https://1drv.ms/u/s!AiW2DAyn9tg9j5ExDZVrMsPIma1_6g?e=hKuCOT

Stratford Triumph at Northampton and at Home

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club Masters ladies Gina Fusco and Christine Goodwin continued their racing journey this weekend with a trip to Northampton Rowing Club to compete in the Northampton Head of the Nene.

The race saw the double swap seats in their new combination for the first time with Gina setting the rate and rhythm at stroke and Christine steering at bow.

A great fast start saw them settle into their race plan quickly and row the course fluently and with new precision, resulting in a medal win in their category by eleven seconds over their Northampton rivals.

The athletes commented, “We felt we rowed a good race and our legs gave us the power we needed. Special thanks to our coaches Colin and Dani for their continued guidance and encouragement and also to Robert for being our patient support vehicle. There is still lots to work to be put in going forward but it has been great to have the training pay off.”

Gina and Christine are affectionately known as ‘Rhubarb and Custard’ by their Stratford Boat Club colleagues, a reference to their matching kit and general mischief in the boat!

Meanwhile, athletes back in Stratford took part in their own mini head race on Saturday on the upstream stretch of the Avon. This was the Club’s second mini head with five crews taking part. Run 1 starting just past Fisherman’s car park to upstream to the top where the boats turned ready for Run 2 returning downstream to the car park. Two crews then returned to the Club with the other three competing in Run 3 and Run 4. The focus was on the results for Runs 1 and 2 only where the times are averaged out to provide a ranking.

Coxless and coxed fours, quads, doubles and a single all took part: the overall ranking for Run 1 and 2 was calculated with the results adjusted for age and boat type. Commenting, Chris Belcher, Midweek Rowers’ Vice Captain and organiser of the mini head said, “A big ‘thank you’ to the two launch drivers, timekeepers, result recorders and helpers who made the event possible. We will do it all again in the spring, hopefully with more single scullers to make the event more challenging!”

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald page fifty five and https://www.stratford-herald.com/sport/masters-duo-clinch-gold-medal-9237228 and Stratford Observer on the back sports page https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/editions/view/?/Stratford/2022/01/28&pages=032 and online https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-stratford-upon-avon-boat-club-win-gold-in-masters-ladies-race-in-northampton-head-of-the-nene

Stratford Clean Up Indoors and at Wycliffe!

The weekend saw a welcome return to racing on the Gloucester and Berkeley Canal for the annual Wycliffe Small Boats Head.  Held over 2500m, the Wycliffe event always attracts quality crews from around the region and for the 42nd edition the competition did not disappoint.  As the wildfowl of the nearby Wetland Trust stirred from their slumber, the Stratford upon Avon Boat Club athletes pushed off to get racing underway in Division 1. The WJ14 coxed quadruple scull of Lucy Yang (cox), Poppy Baines, Alexandra Francis, Meg Nuttall and Lily Warren were first down the course. Surging past a quality outfit from Hereford Cathedral School, the girls went on to take the bronze medal.  Later in Division 3, the open J14 coxed quadruple scull of James Albrighton (cox), Seth Vondrak, Ollie Rowlands, Sophie Evans and Alice Jones delivered more hardware with a commanding row to take the silver medal.

Stratford’s J15 athletes continued their initiation to head racing and came back with an impressive medal haul. Lucy Sartain won Silver in the WJ15 1x category, beating the girls from Wallingford Rowing Club. Will Dalrymple-Baker won Bronze in the OJ15 1x in 11:58.9, beating strong opposition from Queens Park High, Dart Totnes and Wallingford Rowing Club. Will and Jamie Wilcock collected Bronze in the OJ15 2x, in 10:37.9, beating crews from QPH, Dart Totnes, Kings Worcester, Hereford and Monmouth.

Charles Happel was the only J16 competing in the OJ16 1x event, and set a Silver medal winning time of 11:11.6, beating strong opposition from Queens Park High and Hereford Cathedral.

The day started early for Stratford’s J17/18 Performance squad in Division 1, with Toby Sartain and Will Beattie finishing third in the open doubles event. Freya Watts (WJ17) and Amelie Sartain (WJ18) also competed in their respective singles races, both placing second overall. Later in Division 2, they raced alongside Fleur Griffiths and Lucy Browne in the WJ18 quad event, competing against fellow teammates Ruby Howells, Harriet Holmes, Martha Usselmann and Elisabeth Edwards. In a field of stiff competition, the girls finished eleventh and twelfth respectively. Tomi Wilcock and Will Beattie also raced in Division 2, placing fifth in the open J18 doubles event. With the wind picking up in Division 3, Martha Usselmann stepped into the WJ18 doubles event to replace an injured teammate to row with Harriet Holmes, the pair achieving a strong fourth place, just ahead of Fleur Griffiths and Ruby Howells who finished fifth. The open J17 singles event rounded off the day for the squad, with Tomi Wilcock coming in second, and Toby Sartain just after in third.

Christine Goodwin and Gina Fusco, Stratford Masters also competed in the doubles event.

This weekend was also the annual British Rowing Indoor Championships which this year took place in a fully virtual format.  Athletes competed for glory from living rooms, conservatories, garden sheds and garages across the globe. In her first year of rowing, Cara Berisford-Murray represented Stratford upon Avon Boat Club in both 500m and 3min races for Year Eight girls’ category. In a thrilling three minute event, Cara walked through the field to secure the Silver medal just 1.5 lengths behind the winner.  Not satisfied with one medal, Cara went on to dominate the 500m sprint event taking Gold.  Commenting, Steve Wellstead, Junior Co-ordinator and J13 coach said, “A truly magnificent start to her rowing career and results of which she can be proud!”

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald page fifty three and online https://www.stratford-herald.com/sport/rowers-claim-medals-galore-9229376 and also Stratford Observer online https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-stratford-upon-avon-boat-club-enjoy-success-at-british-rowing-indoor-championships-and-wycliffe-small-boats-head and back sports page https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/editions/view/?/Stratford/2021/12/10&pages=024

For more great pictures of Wycliffe Small Boats Head, see Stuart Baines’ selection https://1drv.ms/u/s!AiW2DAyn9tg9j4MIWDlZpSwGKK7L_w?e=rYDQUC

Lessons Learnt By Masters on the Soar!

It is said that competing is more about what you learn than where you finish: Stratford uponAvon Boat Club Masters Squad Christine Goodwin, Tim Lunel and Chris Strawlearnt a lot whilst they competed at the Soar Head in Loughborough on Saturday!

Loughborough have a saying, “You race the straights and you steer the bends”.  Stratford’s Masters learnt there is good reason for this as the green weed at the side of the bends may look friendly but however many times the steersman says, “let’s go”, it doesn’t let go of your blade until you hack your way back out into clear water!

The hare and the tortoise also applies to rowing – when you overtake two other scullers and then if you then row so far into the reeds that you have to back out of the reeds then the tortoises just effortlessly pass by!

The final lesson that Stratford’s Masters learnt was to have a steersman that knows the course and then you can stay rowing on the water rather than examining the wildlife!

 Said Tim Lunel,Masters competitor, “All said, it was a really enjoyable day made by better by the fact that this is a head race run by rowers for rowers, none of the endless waiting about at the start. Marshalls with a sense of humour who don’t feel any need to shout and free tea and coffee for everyone there – we’ll be back next year now that we know the course.”

Later on in the day, Chris Straw and Tim Lunel put in a very creditable performance in the double coming second out of three crews in the Masters E category and third out of seven crews in the overall combined D/E categories. On the straights, Christine Goodwin and Tim Lunel did a great job of matching the boat speed of the very competitive Derwent mixed double that Stratford competitors know all too well.  They did find that bouncing from bank to bank round the tight bends seemed to reduce the boat speed, a lesson learnt earlier, and so came second best on this occasion. But being only twenty seconds behind having watched the Derwent crew steer a perfect course behind them means they are looking forward to their next encounter on a straighter course! Christine had an excellent first two thirds of her race overtaking to other scullers and is looking forward to returning to the Soar Head next year to complete unfinishedbusiness.

For media coverage, pleases see Stratford Observer online https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/lessons-learned-by-masters-on-the-soar and page 31 and Stratford Herald page 17

Wet Weekend for All Stratford’s Rowers

With Evesham Junior Head cancelled on the Saturday, it was left to the Masters to represent Stratford rowing this weekend. Unlike Evesham, the weather was set to be glorious on Sunday at Bedford Autumn Small Boats Head. Masters rowers Christine Goodwin and Tim Lunel had only raced once before in the Masters D Mixed Double category and they showed they had learned much tactically by choosing to row in the first division at 09.15hrs, so not only an early start but also an early shower in some of the heaviest rain of the day!

A good row over the 2,000m course where the highlight was the first half of the course but Stratford rowers didn’t quite have the run that brought them victory at Wallingford in September but finished in a very creditable second place where they were only beaten by a very good Cantabrigians mixed double by three seconds in actual time and sixteen seconds allowance for their Masters E handicap. Christine and Tim’s time was twenty six seconds ahead of their next nearest competition and this would have put them in second place in the Open Masters D double which puts the time put in by Cantabrigians into perspective.

Said Masters rower Tim Lunel, “An excellent second run out for the mixed double and plenty to build on for the rest of the head season.”

Elsewhere on the water were four Stratford members taking their RYA Level Two Powerboat certificate on Birmingham Edgbaston Reservoir so that they can drive Stratford Boat Club’s three safety and coaching launches. Despite the inclement weekend weather, all water sessions went ahead safely and the Club squads’ training for the head season went ahead as planned. Said Junior Coach Dr Graham Collier, “Our athletes showed real determination going out on the water and training in such wet conditions but they were kept safe by their coaches, safety launch drivers and spotters.”

For media coverage see Stratford Observer page 30 and online https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/wet-weekend-for-all-stratford-rowers and Stratford Herald online http://www.stratford-herald.com/91858-wet-weekend-stratfords-rowers.html