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

Bumper Weekend for Stratford’s Junior Squad!

After many long months training in isolation and a precious few weeks back on the water, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s Junior Squad were at last back racing at the weekend.  It was to be a baptism of fire for our older athletes with the first event back being the National Schools’ Regatta held over 2000m on the Olympic course at Eton Dorney.  Running as a “Behind Closed Doors” event, the venue was eerily quiet without the usual marquees, trade stands and spectators.  The competition on the water however remained fierce as the top rowing schools and clubs from across the country turned out in force eager to show the fruits of the lockdown labour.  Just two crews from Stratford Boat Club’s J17/18 squad competed under the limited entries permitted. Alice Baines and Amelie Sartain flew the flag in the Championship Double Sculls and recorded a creditable twenty second place ahead of some of the premier rowing outfits nationally.

On Sunday Stratford Boat Club’s J16 Junior Squad also travelled to Dorney Lake for the National Schools Regatta where they took a WJ16 coxless quad. The squad rowed really well in the time trial and fought hard, but came up against some strong schools that had been able to train throughout lockdown and ended up finishing in a very respectable twenty sixth place.

On Monday the rest of the J16 squad also travelled down to Dorney Lake, to race at the Junior Sculling Regatta. First up, very early, was the J16 double of Tomi Wilcock and Will Beattie. They raced hard in their time trial to place eight and gain their place in the B Final. The next time trial was Toby Sartain in the J16 single sculls. He sculled with finesse to put him into fifteenth place and safely into the C Final. The last time trial for the J16’s was for the WJ16 double scull of Honour Keil and Harriet Holmes. They put in a great effort to take seventeenth place and again a place in the C Final.

Later in the day the finals happened in the same order as the time trials. Wilcock and Beattie were first in their B Final of the doubles where they raced hard, coming off the start in first, by halfway they had dropped to third. During the second half they pulled their way back through into second place and were catching up first, but ran out of lake, finishing in second place. Next up was Toby Sartain’s C final in the singles. He raced really well, quickly slotting himself into fourth place, which is also where he finished. He was catching third towards the end but had just too much to do. The last J16 final was the C Final of Keil and Holmes in the double. They went off the start fast but quickly slotted into sixth place. They fought all the way down the 2km track to catch fifth and were catching up quickly on fourth, but didn’t quite have enough left to take them so finished in fifth place. Said Abi Terry, J16 coach, “It was great to see the J16’s racing again after a year and half without any recent racing, we can’t wait for the next event!”

For Stratford’s J15 squad it was also back to sculling regattas at long last and what a way to start the season! Whilst some fifteen year olds might have chosen to spend their half term holiday weekend relaxing at the pool or beach, Stratford’s J15’s chose to test themselves over the 2012 Olympic course at Dorney Lake not once but sometimes twice on the hottest day of the year so far!

Time trials to select crews to proceed to A, B or C finals were the first challenges over 1900m. Up first was Grace Beason and Ruby Brooker Collins double sculls returning a time of 9:29 which was an excellent effort placing them in the C final. They raced just as enthusiastically in their final finishing sixth in a time of 10:42 over the full 2000m.

Next up was Charles Happel rowing a single scull. He demonstrated great technique and great effort recording a time of 8:37 which placed him in the B final. Similar enthusiasm, grit and determination saw him finish an admirable fourth in the final in a time of 9:32, only five seconds behind third place.

Our lady single sculler was Uche Nwachukwa who sculled with great determination, against very strong competition, to finish seventh in her time trial missing a place in the final by just six seconds. A truly great effort.

Finally Stratford’s WJ15 quad of Maddie Hall, Harriet Noyes, Kate Richardson, Amalia Richardson and expertly coxed by Imogen Hill sculled with great precision and energy to record a time of 8:02 in their time trial, just missing a place in the A final by 1.8 seconds. Determined to make amends, they set off at a blistering pace to lead the B final by a length at the 500m mark. Guilford tried to hang on, but broke at half distance leaving Latymer to take up the chase. Stratford saw them coming and opened the taps leaving them for dead in the last 500m to win by three lengths. It was a perfectly executed race in a winning time of 8:47, quicker than both Hinksey and Maidenhead in the A final!

Commenting, Steve Marsden, J15 coach said, “A great performance from all our crews who, as always, performed above and beyond all expectations against the “top” boat clubs. Well done all – they now know the pain and pleasure of competition over a grueling 2km regatta course!”

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald page fifty three and https://www.stratford-herald.com/sport/bumper-weekend-for-junior-squad-9202430 and also Stratford Observer back sports page, https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/editions/view/?/Stratford/2021/06/11&pages=024 and https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/stratfords-young-rowers-buoyant-after-regatta-events

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.