Stratford’s Adaptive Squad Show Promise at Oxford and Juniors Finish 2020 Competition!

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s adaptive (disabled) squad raced at Oxford on the weekend. Building on recent success, they won five events and came extremely close to winning a couple more.

The Oxford City Rowing Club regatta was solely for disabled rowers with the usual two day regatta being cancelled for Covid reasons.

Pride of place goes to Kelly Donald in the wheelchair user women’s single sculls event. Competing in her first event, she beat a plucky and experienced City of Oxford sculler in the final by a little over a length.

James Bastin’s win in beating his Stratford colleague Gillian Middleton in the final of a doubles event was also a first win in his first event. A great performance from the visually and physically impaired athlete. Gillian competed in two events and a win for her must surely be just around the corner.

Xander van der Poll, a Stratford Great Britain Paralympic hopeful, won a very close final against another Oxford opponent. Further wins were completed by Ian Ward supported by his sister Sofia and Hattie Throssell with Paola Ward.

The unluckiest pair of the day were Jake Blatcher and Dan Godefroy. Competing in two events, they lost the finals by just a foot in each case. Steve Binns, in his fifties, had a tough draw against a much younger Guildford opponent.

The squad’s next outing is at Stratford Boat Club’s own regatta on Saturday 18th September.

Not to be out done, Stratford Boat Club’s Junior Squad was in action over the weekend finalising the concluding junior heats of the 2020 President’s Sculls. Yes, 2020 President’s Sculls, just over a year after the first races and very much in the style of Tokyo Olympics affected by Covid restrictions and disruptions!

Some close racing was delivered by Freya Watts as this year’s junior champion who won by one length in the final.

Said Steve Wellstead, Junior Co-ordinator and J17/18 Performance Squad Coach, “Well done to all entrants: we’ll be having the trophy presentation soon!”

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 was reinstated comparatively recently as an annual sculling competition in three categories – women, men and juniors.

Paul Stanton, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club President 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. Our congratulations go to Freya Watts who has won the Junior Award. Our thanks go to all those who supervised this final by marshalling and safety spotting on the bank and from the launch.”

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald page fifty five

Stratford’s Masters’, Adaptive & Junior Squads Competing at High Level!

The Junior and Masters squads of Stratford upon Avon Boat Club were in action again over the weekend on the hallowed waters of Henley-on-Thames.  As the trailer rolled into the historic town, the conditions could not have been better and gave no indication of what lay ahead.

Henley Town and Visitors Regatta provided high quality side by side racing over 800m on the Henley Royal Regatta course. Warm up complete, the Masters’ double scull of Henley Town and Visitors Regatta took to the water and made short work of their Guildford Rowing Cub competition in the first round. Steeling themselves for the final, the Hayton/Doherty combo turned swiftly and lined up against a quality crew from Poole & Warwick clubs. Sadly, victory was denied by a tight margin with the Poole/Warwick composite taking the win.

Then, it rained: with a biblical downpour in full effect the WJ18 quadruple scull of Jasmine Mountney, Isabelle Watts, Alice Baines and Mili Wilcock fully expected Noah and his Ark to be competing! Rowing up in the Senior Women’s event, the Stratford Boat Club athletes were drawn against what can only be described as a rowing super group consisting of Irish and Estonian national team members.

Unfazed, the J18 Stratford crew took their place on the start. The flag dropped and the girls went off well and held the Twickenham Rowing Club/ Thames Rowing Club/ Neptune Rowing Club composite to no more than half a length for the first half of the race. Experience won out in the end however and the composite took the win and went on to win the event overall. Commenting, Steve Wellstead, Junior Co-ordinator and J18 Performance Squad Coach commented, “That’s racing and indeed, the luck of the draw: onwards and upwards to Stourport Boat Club Regatta next Saturday!”

The Stratford Boat Club’s every increasing adaptive (disabled) squad competed at Maidenhead Rowing Club Regatta on Saturday. Xander Van Der Poll won his debut event in his single: in the final, he defeated a sculler from Northern Ireland by a considerable margin. Xander, a former King Edward The Sixth School pupil, is in the Great Britain Paralympic pathway system and hopes to represent Great Britain in the Paris Paralympics in 2024. He is one of two such athletes being developed by the Club’s adaptive section and can be seen on the Avon early most mornings training when not at Bristol University studying for his medical degree.

Gillian Middleton also made her first competitive appearance after only a few months rowing and an impressive one it was: she and her crewmate Joe Moore were only overhauled by a strong Marlow crew in the last few strokes of the final.

Paola and Ian Ward, in their final, were similarly overtaken close to the finish line by an all male Guildford crew. Dan Godefroy and Jake Blatcher were beaten by a technically excellent City of Oxford crew.

Said Mark Dewdney, Stratford Boat Club’s Head Adaptive Coach said, “Due to many last minute changes, some Stratford rowers were put in races against much faster opposition: on this occasion, this reduced our chances of multiple wins that we have had in most regattas in the last few years. Nonetheless, well done to all the rowers and helpers! We were very pleased with the general level of performance. Xander will face tougher opposition in the future so his training and steps along the GB Paralympic pathway will continue in earnest: Gillian’s performance was the star of the day! Stratford’s adaptive section is interested in everyone rowing as well as they can and we are happy as long as everyone rows well. The squad’s next outing is at Oxford on the 21st August in an event just for adaptive/disabled rowers.”

For media coverage see Stratford Herald online https://www.stratford-herald.com/sport/squads-show-they-can-compete-with-the-best-9211185 and page fifty.

For more great pictures of Henley Town & Visitors Regatta, see Kathy Baines’ selection at https://1drv.ms/f/s!AgY7EiDB2lCOhMdRfeSXA-kVvsp4wA

Stratford Adaptive Sculler Wins Again!

Peter Humberstone, Immediate Past President, Shakespeare Lions (l); Jake Blatcher (c) with the John Whitfield Shield for Youth Community Service and additional award; Mark Dewdney, Stratford Boat Club’s Head Adaptive Coach (r)

Whilst 2020 hasn’t been the best of years for anyone let alone Stratford upon Avon Boat Club, the year ended better than expected not only with the adaptive section winning Parasport Club of the Year but also with Jake Blatcher, an adaptive athlete, being awarded the Shakespeare Lions’ John Whitfield Shield for Youth Community Service for 2020

Jake Blatcher with the Shakespeare Lions’ John Whitfield Shield for Youth Community Service watched over by pictures of Stratford Boat Club’s supporters such as Marie Corelli donating the King’s Trophy Challenge Vase to mark the accession to the throne of King Edward V11 in 1901 and the Club’s first President Sir Arthur Hodson 1874 – 1902

The award was presented to Jake Blatcher, who sculls regularly and volunteers and helps out with the adaptive section at Stratford Boat Club, by Peter Humberstone, Immediate Past President of Shakespeare Lions. Jake was also awarded an addition prize by Peter for his consistent contribution to volunteering and achievement at Stratford Boat Club: Jake has donated this award directly to the adaptive section’s funds

The Shakespeare Lions’ John Whitfield Shield for Youth Community Service

Mark Dewdney, Head Adaptive Coach at Stratford Boat Club, commented: “Jake’s selfless assistance and input with the Club’s adaptive section has been an example and beacon to us all in these challenging times and exemplifies the qualities of all who coach and volunteer at Stratford Boat Club. We are immensely proud of Jake’s achievements not only on the water but also in his own life. As well as being an excellent and improving sculler, Jake works with a local company promoting their and other clients’ products and services. The encouragement, mentoring and help that Shakespeare Lions and their outreach for over fifty years into the local community gives, massively impacts the confidence and progress of young adults”

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald page thirty one and teaser headline page thirty two and Stratford Observer online https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/…/stratford-adaptive… and also https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/editions/view/?/Stratford/2021/01/08&pages=024 page four

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 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

Stratford’s Adaptive Squad Makes Racing Debut!

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s adaptive squad went to its first event of the season last Sunday.

Stratford is one of the “Big 5” adaptive clubs that dominate the scene in the South of England. All but one of these clubs attended the Time Trial that was rowed over part of the Henley Royal Regatta course. The five squad rowers from Stratford were Jake Blatcher, Dan Godefroy, Hattie Throssell, Ian Ward and Mark Sanders. A couple of athletes, due to their disability, require experienced club volunteers to row with them. For Dan and Jake it was their first competitive event.

Jake won the prize for best junior men’s performance of the day. Mark missed out on the men’s adult prize by 0.1 of a second to a Marlow sculler. The other athletes all produced times that bode well for this summer’s regatta season.

The adaptive squad was revived at the Stratford Boat Club in 2015: since that date, the squad has grown steadily. “We have athletes with a variety of disabilities: some just require a little extra support. Safety is always paramount: we can deal with most issues but not all. The emphasis is on participation and enjoyment but it always great to get a win at these events” says Mark Dewdney, the Club’s Adaptive Coach.

The squad’s next competition will be at Marlow on the May Bank Holiday Monday.

For media coverage, please see Stratford Observer online https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/adaptive-rowers-impress-at-henley and Stratford Herald page 16 and http://www.stratford-herald.com/97512-stratford-boat-clubs-adaptive-squad-makes-racing-debut.html

For those interested in learning more about adaptive rowing at Stratford Boat Club, please contact the Club via the Club’s website http://www.stratford-rowing.co.uk/contact