Stratford’s Juniors and Masters Clean Up at Stourport

This weekend saw Stratford upon Avon Boat Club attend one of their local regattas in Stourport upon Severn: this regatta takes place every year in August and has done since the late 1800’s! It is the premier sporting event in Stourport and the surrounding area and attracts around six hundred crews from across the UK with an age range from thirteen years right up to veteran rowers in their seventies and eighties!

First off representing the Women’s Junior 17/18 Performance squad was Amelie Sartain. Having not competed in a single scull for two years, it was time to brush of the cobwebs and in her first heat took a commanding lead from the onset, maintaining her lead saw her crossing the finish line two boat lengths against opposition from Nottingham. After a brief rest, Sartain was pitched against a crew from our nearest neighbour Evesham: Sartain took advantage of a quick start and dominated the race winning comfortably by three lengths. Before too long her final against a sculler from Ross on Wye was upon her: the Ross sculler had a bye to her final and having been more rested, the Ross sculler maintained a short lead until the final 200 meters. Undeterred, Sartain steered a perfect racing line, dug deep and crossed the line first winning by three quarters of a length.

Next up for the Junior 18’s were Milena Wilcox and the less experienced Isabelle Watts competing in the Women’s Junior 18 doubles: given this was only the third time Watts had competed but being in the safe hands of Wilcox saw a win against Pengwern by one and a half lengths. After a short interlude next they were pitched against their fellow squad members of Maiya James and Alice Baines, the more experienced crew went on to win by one and a half lengths, James and Baines went on to win the final of the Women’s Junior 18 doubles by half a length saving their energy for the looming quad event.

Finally hot footing from their doubles event Maiya James and Alice Baines were joined by Milena Wilcox and Amelie Sartain in the Women’s School Junior quad winning by one length. With only ten minutes rest, it was time to boat for the last race of the day, their opposition from Ross had been given a bye to the final and took advantage of this rest period to take an early lead. Commenting, Colin Bell, J17/18 Performance Squad Coach said, “Not fazed by the early lead, Wilcox, James, Sartain and Baines put all of their training post their return to rowing from the outage caused by the current pandemic into practice and eventually won by one a half lengths!”

For the J16 squad, first up were the J16 singles where Toby Sartain sailed through his first two rounds and found himself in the final against a sculler from Warwick. The Warwick sculler had beaten Stratford sculler Owen Perkins in a close heat to get his place in the final. Sartain put in a good effort but sadly it wasn’t to be and he had to settle for second place, still a fantastic result.

Next was the turn of the WJ16 doubles, where Stratford again had two crews entered. Honour Keil and Fleur Griffiths were up first and took on a duo from Worcester first beating them by two lengths. Next they took on a strong double from Nottingham where they were just beaten to the line putting Nottingham into the final. The other Stratford double of Lucy Browne and Harriet Holmes took on a Ross crew in their first round where they had a comfortable win. That win booked their place in the final where despite a good battle down the course, the Nottingham boat was just too quick for the Stratford duo.

Griffiths, Browne and Holmes then teamed up with Ruby Howells and cox Lucy Sartain in the open women’s fours event. Here the J16 Stratford crew faced a ladies crew from Stourport in the final and the girls put up a good fight with fantastic steering from J14 Lucy Sartain, losing by just two boat lengths, a great result given the ladies racing them were at least four years their senior!

Tomi Wilcock and Will Beattie took to the water next in the J18 doubles event. Racing up two years, they took on a local derby, facing Evesham in the heat. In one of the closest races of the day, they lost by just a canvas. Another brilliant result, showing how strong this duo are.

Wilcock then teamed up with Toby Sartain in the J16 event. First up for them was Nottingham where the Stratford crew put on a show in front of the crowd to take the win. In the semi-final they took on Warwick who proved to be too strong for the Stratford double.

In the same J16 double event Beattie joined Perkins in the semi-final to take on a crew from Becket. This proved to be another good race which went right down to the wire with the Becket crew just edging out the Stratford crew on the line.

The WJ16 quad raced next in a straight final against Worcester. The Stratford crew of Freya Watts, Howells, Keil and Griffiths started well giving them the early lead. This continued all the way down the course where they took a fabulous win. Freya Watts also raced in the WJ16 singles event, facing a sculler from Derwent in the first round taking a comfortable win. She then went through to the final facing a sculler from Nottingham. Watts again lead from the start and pushed on in the last 200m to take her second event win of the day.

Said Abi Terry, J16 Coach, “It was great to be back racing at a local event where supporters were allowed and with some brilliant racing. We’re all now looking forward to Ross over the Bank Holiday weekend!”

Next were the J15 crews who competed admirably over a 650m sprint course at Stourport Regatta. A very early start for Uche Nwachukwa racing her single scull saw her row strongly but losing out to Evesham, the eventual final winner, by three lengths. Charles Happel was next up racing in gusty conditions against Evesham. Unfortunately the conditions didn’t help but a spirited sprint finish saw him closing rapidly but finishing one length behind Evesham.

The first of the J15 ladies’ doubles of Ruby Brooker Collins and Imogen Hill battled strongly against A B Severn showing great technique but losing eventually by three lengths. Next up was the doubles boat of Kate Richardson and Harriet Noyes who having benefited from a bye came up against Trent Rowing in the next round and demonstrated a really strong expert scull to win by four lengths. In their final, they were up against AB Severn crossing the line ahead of them but suffering the anguish of a disqualification having been judged to have steered across their opposition – a tough call but it had been a truly strong scull perhaps deserving a better result. Said Steve Marsden, J15 Coach, “Overall perhaps not the results to reward lots of effort by the crews but great experience ready for our next test at Ross in two weeks time.”

Joining the rest of the Junior Squad were the J13’s spreading their wings in the first regatta of their lives! Displaying tremendous grit and maturity, they handled the river circulation and the bends with apparent ease and gave Stourport crews a good run for their money. Ollie, who only a few weeks ago was climbing into a single scull for the first time, steered brilliantly for the whole course.

The 2x of Alex and Poppy kept the pressure on their counterparts, catching up to within two lengths at the finish. The coxed, mixed quad of Poppy, Alice, Alex, Seth and Meg contested Stourport’s home advantage neck and neck for the length of the course and with a surge at the end looked the stronger crew. To the roar of the crowd and the passionate shouting of their cox, Stratford’s J13’s finished within three feet of the winning crew. Said Richard Nelson. J13 Coach, “The fledgling J13 athletes thoroughly enjoyed the event and left with a smile and great motivation for their next contest at Ross Regatta.”

Stratford Masters’ Squad was represented at Stourport Regatta by Heather Hayton and Tom Doherty. The Masters’ double of Hayton and Doherty won their race by three lengths over Warwick Boat Club and Hayton lost her single’s race by half a length, her first race in a ‘new’ boat!

For media coverage, please see Stratford Herald page fifty one

Stratford Battle It Out at Peterborough and Wycliffe!

Saturday saw Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s Mixed Masters double scull of Heather Hayton and Thomas Doherty make the long trek across country to Peterborough for some racing on the River Nene. Racing in two of the three divisions saw them taking on the men in the Men’s Masters and Open events for some much needed race practice due to a lack of mixed doubles.

A sunny but extremely windy day saw the first division Men’s Masters double sculls race hotly competed with seven entries lead off by Stratford. Conditions on the way to the start began to get challenging as a combination of exposed location, high winds and a strong stream made it difficult for all the small boats (singles and doubles) to steer.

Once racing finally got under way Stratford managed, despite the blustery conditions, to settle into a good rhythm and pull away from the pursuing men’s crews. As the race developed, it soon became apparent that Stratford was in a battle with a very good quality men’s double crew as they made their way through the field to close on Stratford. This developed into a good close race as Stratford worked hard to hold them off over the remainder of the course but eventually were overtaken in the last 300m of the race. Strong head winds and rowing against a significant stream lead to overall times being longer than would normally be expected but Stratford were pleased to finish as the third fastest crew of seven in the event.

In Division Two, Stratford was competing in the Men’s Open double sculls event. However, the conditions had considerably worsened with winds reaching up to 60mph causing the river conditions to become almost unrowable. Chaotic scenes developed as crews struggled to control their boats and manage the conditions with the result that there was a delayed start to the division. Rowing conditions were so bad that even the fours struggled to steer and maintain any race speed turning the division into a survival test!. Conditions saw the remaining Division Three suspended for all but eights racing with the course reduced to half its planned length.

Said Heather Hayton, “We were pleased to take on the men again and come up with some scalps and have a good race in Division One, making the long trip worthwhile. Division Two proved to be a  real test of character and nerve rather than racing!”

Meanwhile, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s Junior Squad made their way to Wycliffe Big Head where changeable weather and gusting winds greeted the WJ17/18 squad but even this was a welcome change to the recent weeks of fog bound and flooded conditions of the Avon.

The Wycliffe Big Head is raced over a distance of 4500M  from Slimbridge to Frampton in Gloucestershire: 178 crews took part in the annual event. The initial challenge was getting onto the course under a very low bridge and high water! This was the first opportunity for a newly formed eight to test themselves against established crews from Marlow, Monmouth and Chester to name a few. The crew of Katie Wellstead, Mili Wilcock Emily Browne, Khloe Curnock, Molly Gill-Swift, Alice Baines, Amelie Sartain, Maiya James coxed by Hermione Hill were not fazed by their competition: leading from the front, they dominated the race in a time of 16:58 bringing home a gold medal.

After a brief rest, the girls took to the water again in the afternoon division splitting into two crews. First down the course in a time of 18:45 was Emily Browne, Mili Wilcock, Alice Baines and Katie Wellstead in a four coxed by Hermione Hill. Being spurred on by their success in the morning division, the girls once again achieved gold medal status, the fastest time of the combined women’s and junior 18 coxed four events.

Finally it was the turn of Molly Gill – Swift, Khloe Curnock, Amelie Sartain and Maiya James. This crew formed only two weeks prior to the event and came home in sixth place out of a field of eleven coxless quads, a good result given the stiff competition of more established crews.

Said J17/J18 coach Colin Bell, “Given the lack of training time on the water, the results are a good lead up to their next competitive event at Worcester in two weeks time.”

Stratford’s sister club, King Edward The Sixth School took two coxed fours to Wycliffe Big Head. They competed in Men’s Open Fours and Novice Fours winning gold in both races against some of the top rowing school opposition in the country.

Racing first in very blustery conditions was the top boat of Joe Hodson, Felix Crabtree, Adam Bayliss and Cameron Dalrymple-Baker, very ably coxed by Jamie Mitchell who beat highly ranked crews from Shrewsbury School, Kings Worcester and Shiplake College to take home the winning pennant, in just over seventeen minutes.

In the second division, the Novice crew of Cameron Dalrymple-Baker, Fred Allanson, Tobias Bretschneider, Sam Thornton, again very ably coxed by Jamie Mitchell, won by nearly a minute from Monmouth School.

Said coach Bill Sullivan, “Rowing at King Edward The Sixth continues to thrive and the squad will now aim to maintain their progress heading into the West of England Championships in early March and the prestigious Schools Head, run on the Tideway on 18th March.”

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald page fifteen and online https://www.stratford-herald.com/105808-juniors-enjoy-golden-success-gloucestershire.html and Stratford Observer online https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/stratford-rowers-shine-at-peterborough-and-wycliffe

For more great pictures of Wycliffe Big Head, see Kathy Baines’ great selection https://1drv.ms/f/s!AgY7EiDB2lCOg6xz7r8fpil-WrbuNA