Stratford at Gloucester in Showers and Rain!

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club Masters squad braved inclement weather conditions to gain some much needed race practice at Gloucester Head on Sunday. Competing on a canal system avoided the current flooding river problems being suffered by some clubs and enabled a full day’s racing albeit in very windy and choppy conditions.

First up for Stratford Boat Club Masters  in the morning division was Richard Nelson competing in his long course first singles scull race for over a year in Masters E/F age group .With a race spent coping with very choppy conditions blowing the boat about on the course as well as pressures from other competitors, Richard found himself in a tight battle with another sculler but managed to hold him off to finish in a deserved second place losing only to highly regarded Siderway from Warwick Boat Club.

The morning division also saw the first ever race for Arne Flood in open Men’s short course sculls. Arne who has only taken up the sport in the last year displayed exceptionally calm nerves given the tough conditions and was able to deliver a highly competent performance in choppy waters which promises much more to come in future races.

The afternoon division saw a strong wind become even stronger as the mixed Masters double sculls of Heather Hayton and Tom Doherty took on the long course. With no age group completion, Stratford found themselves in a battle with a mixed Masters B crew from Southampton half their age and some very good quality men’s doubles. A hard race saw Stratford hold off the men’s crews for some distance but eventually had to give way to the heavier men’s crews who were able to cope with the choppy conditions more favourably but still finished in a very creditable time. Said Tom Doherty, Masters Vice Captain, “It was great to see Arne in his first ever race cope so well in very tough conditions and also to see Richard back racing.”

Joining the Masters at the event, Stratford juniors were represented by J17 Jake Blatcher in his single scull. With his opposition withdrawn Jake was racing against the clock for a ‘time only’ run.

The 4km ‘warm up’ row down to the start of the 1750m (short course) race gave Jake plenty of opportunity to get used to being back on the water after a long break due to the recent local river conditions.

The sun continued to shine, however the steady wind driving down the canal caused some choppy waters which can easily cause all sorts of problems especially in smaller boats. Unfazed by the difficult water conditions and the odd passing shower, Jake achieved a time of 8:27, faster than some of the older more experienced scullers, and larger crewed boats over the same distance.

For media coverage, please see Stratford Observer online https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/vital-practice-for-crews and Stratford Herald page fourteen and https://www.stratford-herald.com/106775-stratford-masters-brave-inclement-conditions-gloucester-head.html

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

Stratford Returns to Racing!

NRS HORR 2020

A cold but beautiful sunny day saw the resumption of competitive head season racing after several months of flooded rivers and cancellations with Stratford upon Avon Boat Club heading to Northampton for some much needed competition.

The event split into four divisions throughout the day enabled a number of races for each crew. For the early birds in division one 09.15hrs race start saw Stratford take on much fancied Derwent in Mixed Masters D (50-55 average age category) double sculls. Derwent current National Championship silver medalists were always going to be a tough challenge but a good solid race by Stratford saw them hold Derwent for the majority of the course until poor steering towards the finish by a Leicester quad crew being overtaken led to an entanglement of blades forcing both crews to stop. Once Stratford got going again they pulled away on a closing Derwent crew but the stoppage proved too much to pull back and they finished ten seconds behind Derwent in 8.19 minutes.

Straight off in division two saw Heather Hayton from Stratford in her first ever single scull head race. With her competitors racing over three divisions it was left to Heather to focus on her own performance which saw her pull away from the scullers behind her to finish strongly in a time of 9.19 minutes. Overall in her event racing category C, minimum age 43, she was just pipped by the younger age group sculler from Oundle (age category B, minimum age 36), who finished in a time of 9.16 minutes, but the medal went to the youngest competitor from Milton Keynes (age category A, minimum age 27 years) in a time of 8.48 seconds.

With the third division reserved for recovery and cake, division four saw the Stratford’s Masters’ mixed double of Heather Hayton and Tom Doherty racing in the younger age category event of A,B,C, taking on younger age category competitors from Peterborough (age category A), and Sudbury (age category B).

A good start saw some overtaking of slower doubles resulting in a solid finish time of 8.02 minutes, with Sudbury  finishing in 7.56 minutes, but Peterborough were clearly the strongest in a very fast time of 7.24 minutes.

The Junior squad was also represented in division four with Jake Blatcher racing in the J17 single sculls event. This was Jake’s first head race having only been rowing for a year. Head racing is different to the rowing events normally seen, as rowers set off in procession and race purely against the clock with the other competitors around you not necessary in the same event.

After a good start, negotiating the corner well, Jake set off strongly, settled well and soon caught the double ahead of him. Despite having to crisscross the river in order to overtake, he soon regained his rhythm keeping distance from a senior boat chasing him and finishing fifth in a time of 9:29 minutes. Said coach Trevor Tiller, “This is a great start to the season for Jake, especially now that water training can continue after months of local flooding.”

For media coverage, see Stratford Observer online https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowers-thrilled-to-make-return and Stratford Herald page fifteen and online https://www.stratford-herald.com/105399-welcome-return-racing-stratford-rowers.html

President’s Sculls Trophy Awarded

The frustration of not being able to get onto the river for water sessions continued this weekend but Stratford upon Avon Boat Club took time out from their arduous indoor training schedule to award trophies for some of the best scullers in the Club

The original trophy was initially presented by Ian Cartwright, the then Captain, to Derek Eardley in 2004 during his tenure as President of Stratford Boat Club to mark his many years of service to the Club and was to be raced for annually in coxed fours

Over the years, the competition faded from the annual calendar and this year was reinstated as an annual sculling competition in three categories – women, men and juniors. Paul Stanton, Club President took time out during the presentation of the trophies to thank Paul Hadland who had refurbished the much damaged trophy and also Dawson Curnock, Chairman and Colin Upchurch, Senior Vice President, who had made and fitted the trophy mounting

Paul Stanton further commented, “We hope that the President’s Sculls award will continue to inspire all members to continue with sculling at a high level and further contribute to all sections of the Club mixing and communicating with each other.” The President also thanked Steve Wellstead, Junior Co-ordinator, for his part in running and organising the competition

For media coverage, please see Stratford Observer online https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/sculls-awards-are-a-fitting-accolade and Stratford Herald page fourteen

Stratford Masters’ Double Impresses at Pairs’ Head

Sunday saw the annual running of the national Pairs Head of the River Race in London.

The event, organised by Barnes Bridge Ladies’ Rowing Club, brings together the best two person double sculls (two blades each) and pairs (single blade each) crews from all over the country for a spectacular time trial event on the River Thames with over four hundred and sixty entries racing over the majority of the Boat Race Course, a distance of 4.5km.

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club was represented in the Mixed Masters D Double Sculls category (average crew group age 50 to 55) by Heather Hayton and Tom Doherty.

On a day that forecast heavy rain and bad weather, the competitors were pleasantly surprised to be greeted by sunshine and a moderate wind to provide unusually reasonable calm conditions, most unlike a normal Tideway events.

Starting in the one hundred and ninety fifth position gave Stratford a chance to watch the race spectacle unfold with some of the country’s top national rowers competing for honours and leading off the field.

Stratford Boat Club, up against a good Ardingly crew and surrounded by other boats containing ex- internationals, were in for a tough race but made a good start and, although in a heavy boat, held off some quality crews from Bewel Bridge and Upton for the majority of the course.

Stratford were able to close on Bristol, their direct competitors, and a close battle ensured for the majority of the course with less than a length separating both crews for the last two kilometres. With Hammersmith Bridge fast approaching and the finish in sight, a final push saw Stratford just pip Bristol over the finish line to complete the event in fifteen minutes and fifty one seconds to beating Bristol overall by nineteen seconds. Unfortunately this was not enough to win their category with Ardingly finishing twenty three seconds ahead which saw Stratford settle for second place.

As with most major Thames races, a degree of steering was required to avoid both slower crews and charging faster boats leading to some very close encounters. With conditions being reasonably favourable, all crews were set on fast times and aiming to take advantage of the stream, leading to close side by side racing for much of the course.

Said Tom Doherty, Masters’ Vice Captain, “This was Heather’s first visit to a major Tideway event and only her third ever head race: it was great to see her put in a big performance against some very good opposition!”

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald online http://www.stratford-herald.com/102714-stratford-masters-double-impress-pairs-head-race.html and page fifteen and also Stratford Observer https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/stratford-masters-double-impresses-at-pairs-head