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 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