Stratford’s Juniors Take Home The Pots From Ross!

The August Bank Holiday weekend is synonymous with the Ross on Wye Regatta for the athletes of Stratford upon Avon Boat Club. The event marks the close of the 2020/2021 racing season and made a much welcome return this year following a two year hiatus.  Always a superb event – this year was as expected with crews from across the club competing for victory on the Wye over 500m and 750m courses across two days.

For the Sunday sprints, conditions were perfect.  The Herefordshire sunshine split the mist over the Wye heralding the commencement of racing. Representing the Masters squad the dream team of Tom Doherty and Heather Hayton met their double sculls nemesis from Dart-Totnes and whilst closer were unable to avenge prior defeats.

Ross was only the J13’s second regatta. They demonstrated excellent steering skills by negotiating the long bend and its current without a hitch. Sophie in her 1x was pitted against girls a year older in the J14 category, finishing second, but with a very credible and solid performance. The 4x+ of Meg, Poppy, Alex, Sophie and Lily kept up well with their City of Bristol competitors, finishing a couple of lengths behind. Ollie Seth sailed through their semi-final, kept a very good line around the centre buoys on each race and galloped to victory against QPH in the final. Last but not least, both the W2x of Meg and Alex and W2x of Poppy and Alice won their semi-finals and raced in all Stratford final, which Meg and Alex carried to victory – a credit to both crews. Said Richard Nelson, J13 Coach, “The J13s have come a long way in a short time and their form at Ross Regatta is a tribute to their athletic dedication and strong team spirit throughout this turbulent year.”

Sunday 29 August was a great day for the Stratford Boat Club J14 scullers. For some, it was their first ever competition. The J14 boys did brilliantly against tough competition from Queens Park High, Upton and Evesham, in the 1x and 2x categories. The J14 girls did equally well against their opposition from Bristol, Evesham, QPH and Staines. In the WJ14 2x Final, SuABC (Appleton/Rowan) had a strong last 200m and were beaten by a canvas. In the WJ14 1x Final, Stratford’s (Vondrak) was ahead of her Evesham opposition after 300m but clipped a buoy and capsized. She stood up and gave a thespian bow which gained her the biggest round of applause from the bank. The J14 athletes ended an adrenaline fuelled day by splashing each other in the river Wye!

For the Monday 750m event, the sunshine stayed away but still conditions continued for another day of racing. Undeterred by the prior day, Stratford Boat Club’s Masters squad stalwart Heather Hayton was again disappointed as her opposition from Bedford rowing club withdrew from the event to avoid certain defeat. Representing the Adaptive squad, Jake Blatcher in the single scull performed well but narrowly missed out on a place in the final. In their final regatta as Juniors (for some), the J17/J18 athletes of Mili Wilcock, Amélie Sartain, Maiya James and Alice Baines represented the club in coxless quadruple sculls, double sculls and single sculls throughout the day. Commenting, Steve Welstead, J17/18 Performance Squad Coach and Junior Co-ordinator said, “The J17/18 squad swept the board in what can only be described in a “pot-tastic” set of races with all crews winning their events!”

Stratford’s J15 athletes attended the last regatta of the season before the new rowing season as J16. A very full day of racing but proving to be very successful as yet again our junior athletes performed over and above expectations.

First up for Stratford was Uche Nwachuckwa who sculled very powerfully to overcome competition from Evesham and Ross rowing club setting up a semi final race with her colleague, Grace Beason before meeting Saunders of Evesham in the final. Again demonstrating great power and style, she eventually lost by three lengths. Grace Beason had earlier powerfully steered a great course to win against Ross rowing club easily before losing out to Uche.

Next up was a double boat of Charles Happel and Elliot Baird, competing for the first time, against a crew from Queens Park School Rowing Club but despite a strong performance, they missed out by a distance of “very close”. The girls quad of Kate Richardson, Maddie Hall, Harriet Noyes, Ruby Brooker Collins and coxed by Imogen Hill came up against  a crew from Queens Park High School firstly winning by one length before having to dig deeper in their final to beat City of Bristol in a very exciting race by three quarters of a length showing great determination and sculling precision to get over that winning line to win their very well deserved pots.

Charles Happel won his first singles race against Queens park High School by one and a half lengths and then against another competitor from Queens Park school by one foot and in so doing provided the comic moment. The race had been so close and tough he celebrated very enthusiastically raising one hand and in so doing struck a tree stump with one blade and very gently capsized  – comical for spectators but he had still won the race. He then raced an opponent from previous regattas, Woodfin of Evesham in the final but try as he might, missed out by one length, in his words, -“until the next time”!

The WJ15 double’s crew of Maddie Hall and Harriet Noyes sculled extremely powerfully to beat a crew from Queens Park School by four lengths to set up a final with Grace Beason and Ruby Brooker Collins who had earlier beaten another Queens Park school by only a canvas after another exciting demonstration of sculling technique. The final was again competitive but was won by Maddie and Harriet having just that little more power on the day to win by four lengths. Said Steve Marsden, J15 Coach, “A great day, great performances by all to bring home those treasured “pots” – real china Ross Rowing Club mugs- for those winners.”

The J16 squad were lucky enough to row both days at Ross Regatta. Starting on the Sunday in the Junior and Masters Sprint over 550m, Stratford had the J16 doubles of Tomi Wilcock and Owen Perkins. They started the day against Evesham with a convincing lead to put them into the final. There they met fellow Stratford duo Will Beattie and Toby Sartain who had also had a comfortable win in the semi final, this time against Liverpool Victoria. It was the Wilcock and Perkins duo who were victorious in the closely contested final against their team mates.

Next up was the turn of the girls where Freya Watts, Ruby Howells and Harriet Holmes were joined by colleague Amelie Sartain, racing up in the WJ18 coxless quads. They also raced against Liverpool Victoria in the semi final beating them by an impressive margin of five lengths. In the final they faced a strong crew from Exeter, but managed to come away victorious with a fantastic performance.

The afternoon saw Beattie and Wilcock in the J16 singles. Wilcock was up first against a strong sculler from Royal Chester who proved to be just too quick for Wilcock beating him over the line. Beattie faced a home club Ross sculler. Despite the Ross sculler knowing the course, Beattie pushed ahead to take a verdict of three lengths. He then met the Royal Chester lad in the final and despite his best efforts lost by just 1 length in a fantastic race.

The WJ18 4+ was up next of Amelie Sartain, Watts, Howells and Holmes, this time joined by expert cox Toby Sartain. In one of the closest races of the day their straight final was a spectacle for the spectators. Toby Sartain steered an amazing course and this put them over the line just in front of their opposition with the verdict a canvas.

Monday’s longer 750m course saw the J16 squad in action again. Tomi Wilcock joined up again with Owen Perkins in the J16 doubles event and faced two of the same crews from the day before. They raced Evesham first with an easy win and then faced Liverpool Victoria in the final. The Stratford duo won with a comfortable verdict of three lengths.

The afternoon saw the J16 singles of Owen Perkins and Toby Sartain. Both Stratford scullers were up against athletes from Evesham in the semi finals and both won booking their places in the final to face each other. On this occasion Perkins was victorious taking his third win of the weekend. The girls double of Freya Watts and Harriet Holmes had a good battle against Exeter, however this time it was Exeter who took the win by just 1 and half lengths.

Said Abi Terry, J16 Coach, “It was great to see all of the juniors racing and enjoying their rowing. The J16 squad are looking forward to starting their J17 year with a bang at our own regatta in a couple of week’s time!”

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald online https://www.stratford-herald.com/sport/juniors-make-a-splash-at-regatta-9214157

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