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 and Stratford Observer online

For more great pictures of Wycliffe Big Head, see Kathy Baines’ great selection!AgY7EiDB2lCOg6xz7r8fpil-WrbuNA

Hampton, Evesham and Chester in One Weekend!

Last Saturday, several young athletes travelled to Hampton Court to compete in the Hampton Small Boats Head, a processional time trial over three thousand metres. This race is recognised as the highest quality winter event for small boats: it attracts over seven hundred crews from famous and highly successful rowing schools and clubs. 

In this extremely competitive cauldron of racing, the J17 athletes competed in two events. Joe Hodson representing Stratford in the J17 singles and King Edward Sixth School in the schools event finished ninth and sixteenthwith Molly Gill-Swift competing magnificently in the comparable but very challenging girls’ races. Emily Browne, Katie Wellstead and Talei Dunn all sculling with great skill and determination finished their singles’ race in thirteenth, twenty seventh and twenty eightieth place respectively. Then followed the partnerships of Talei Dunn with Katie Wellstead and Khloe Curnock with Emily Browne tackling the girls’ J17 double sculling race. They finished within three seconds of each other and only forty five seconds behind the winners to take thirteenth and fourteenth place. These are all tremendous performances by a small club in this most demanding sculling theatre.

The morning division saw the J15 doubles partnership of Amelie Sartain and Sophie Elstone finishing an outstanding fifth from a strong field of thirty three and within only five seconds from a medal winning position. The second double crewed by Harriet Hodgson and Sienna Rawlings followed closely with an equally respectable fourteenth, against very tough competition from the country’s top clubs.

The afternoon saw the OJ15.2x of Conar Aitchison & Will Clarke placed twenty seventh in a close division of forty, sculling confidently against fierce competition.

Spread over the morning and afternoon divisions the WJ15.4x+ event saw the crews of Sienna Rawlings, Amelie Sartain, Sophie Elstone and Martha Usselmann coxed by Elisabeth Edwards: along with the boat crewed by Abbey Meggeson, Elisabeth Edwards, Emma Harrison and Julia Zampronio Gurden, coxed by Conar Aitchison, placed twenty seventh and thirty ninth respectively from a strong and large tightfield of forty three.

Stratford Masters were in attendance at Evesham on Saturday supporting the Senior crews with a number of development crews and scullers looking to commence their winter racing season.

After their success at the prestigious Fours Head, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s Senior Men’s squad was at Evesham for the annual Masters of the Avon head races. Racing against the stream over four thousand and five hundred meters, the top boat a coxed four of Mike Hourigan, Patrick Hourigan, Finn Sprackling and Max Marcus, with local coxswain Amie Jones steering, set off first against competition from Evesham, Trafford and Worcester. 
A powerful steady row allied to Jones’s local knowledge of the stream quickly enabled them to pull clear of the pack – ending up with a  comprehensive forty five second win.

The morning division also featured the first outing in a Head race for the youngest member of the squad, Harvey Mole. Harvey was up against ten other singles – all from Stowe School and got out of the blocks quickly, catching two of the Stowe scullers just after halfway and had nearly caught two more by the end of the course. He ended up finishing a very promising third.

 The afternoon division featured the Hourigan brothers racing a pair for the first time, where they finished a very respectable second behind an experienced pair from Worcester Rowing Club.

Seniors’ Coach Bill Sullivan said, “The squad have trained hard since September and been rewarded with some good wins at Worcester, London and now Evesham. It’s a promising start to the season and bodes well for 2019”

Racing in the morning division first off were the Men’s’ Masters F age group quad in their first race outing of the season. The crew, Gary Clay, Neville Hand, Wallace Brown and Tom Doherty in a borrowed boat took on local crews from Worcester, Warwick and event hosts Evesham.

On a demanding four kilometre course with a number of tight bends requiring significant steering input, the crew settled into a solid row rating thirty one strokes per minute for the whole course to finish in a time of seventeen minutes and nine seconds to finish seconds behind a much fancied and very experienced Evesham crew who finished in a time of sixteen minutes and forty four seconds but ahead of crews from Worcester and Warwick finishing overall tenth fastest crew of the day.

Masters rowers were further represented by Gina Fusco taking part in her first single sculling event. Gina, up against a very experienced sculler from Exmouth Rowing Club, produced a very creditable racing and steering performance to finish in a time of twenty three minutes and twenty nine seconds, behind the Exmouth sculler winning in twenty one minutes and three seconds.

Stratford’s Masters Women’s daytime rowing squad of Rona Fitzpatrick, Jackie Joesbury, Rosie Stone and Clare Nash, coxed by husband Alfie Nash, not to be out done, also competed in the Women’s open coxed quad event and finished in a good time of 21.33 twenty one minutes and thirty three seconds, behind a significantly younger Evesham winning crew in twenty minutes and sixteen seconds

In the afternoon division, Stratford Masters rowers Gary Clay and Tom Doherty teamed up with their old friends from Bridgnorth to continue their success in a composite Men’s Masters E coxed four to record their third straight win following previous success at Grosvenor and Stourport against crews from Worcester, Warwick, and Evesham in a time of seventeen minutes and fifteen seconds. Said coach Helen Smith, “It was great to see so many development crews getting some good quality race experience.”

On Sunday, the Masters’ men continued to build up their season race experience with a trip up to Chester to take part in Chester Long Distance Sculls. Held on the picturesque River Dee in glorious winter sunshine over a five kilometre course, the day produced some good quality racing against strong opposition which saw Stratford’s Masters’ Men’s quad of Simon Beard, Richard Shepherd, Richard Nelson and Tom Doherty taking on crews from Grosvenor, Runcorn and Kings Chester in the Masters D event.

After a steady start and hitting some debris in the middle of the river which caused a few steering issues, Stratford were unable to hang on to a good quality Grosvenor crew racing on their own water, rowing at three/four strokes per minute above the Stratford crews rating of thirty two strokes per minute, and found themselves instead in a side by side battle for two and a half kilometres with a very experienced Runcorn crew who despite closing on Stratford could not overtake and towards the finish Stratford’s better fitness meant they were able to pull away from them until the end of the race to finish third in a time of twenty minutes and twenty three seconds.

For media coverage, pleasesee Stratford Herald page fifteen and online Stratford Observer page twenty three and online For more pictures of Hampton Small Boats Head,please see David Phillips’ great selection!AgY7EiDB2lCOgsx7iw3lkzfVJQfNlA