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

Weekend of Sport for Stratford Juniors!

Despite holidays and Covid, a very busy weekend for Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s Junior Squad. The day Stratford Boat Club’s J15 scullers had been working so hard for finally arrived. The British Rowing Junior Championships one of the most prestigious events in our racing calendar attracting boat clubs from across the country. The event was run over three days and saw Stratford’s crews arrive bright and early on the Friday.

First up for Stratford upon Avon Boat Club was Charles Happel rowing a single scull in his time trial. Over a distance of 1500m, Charles sculled energetically demonstrating great technique to qualify for the D final in a time of 6:20. In his final, over 2000m, he had learned from his earlier race to deliver a performance of greater energy and race tactics to finish second behind a crew from Rob Roy in a time of 8:17, less than four seconds from first place!

Stratford’s J15 ladies double of Grace Beason and Ruby Brooker Collins raced their time trial providing excellent technique to qualify for their E final in time of 6:35. Their final delivered one of the most exciting side by side racing of the day battling a crew from Queen Elizabeth High. They were chasing second place which changed hands several times but Stratford dug deep to win through in the last stroke beating QEH by 5 hundredths of a second in a time of 9:05.82.

Stratford’s J15 coxed quad of Kate Richardson, Maddie Hall, Harriet Noyes, Amalia Richardson and expertly coxed by Imo Hill didn’t fail to provide an equally exciting performance. They provided an excellent time trial finishing in eighth place in a time of 5:59 to qualify for their AB Semi final, yet another 2k race! This side by side race saw them dig deep to finish fourth in a time of 7:58 to qualify for the B final a really great effort.

The heat of the day wasn’t relenting but the ladies racing in the B final blew the competition away! They sculled at an extremely high rate over the 2k course demonstrating great power and precise catches to win their final in a time of 8:00.9 beating Cantabrigian by eight seconds a truly tremendous performance. Said Sam Hill, J15 coach, “Overall a very pleasing performance on the day by all our crews making parents and coaches extremely proud!”

On Saturday at the Junior British Championships it was the turn of the J16 squad to take to the water. First up was the time trial for the open singles and taking part for Stratford was Tomi Wilcock and Toby Sartain. Both boys put in a good row to see them place seventeenth and twenty fifth  respectively, putting them into the C and E Finals later in the day.

Next up was the women’s pair of Freya Watts and Fleur Griffiths. The time trial was the first time these girls had raced in a pair or even in sweep. They had a fantastic race to place them in sixth and gaining their spot in the A Final.

The last time trial saw Griffiths step straight into the women’s four as one of the girls was ill, alongside Lucy Browne, Honour Keil, Bella Chappelhow and J14 cox Lucy Sartain. The girls put in another good performance, where they were catching the crew in front of them to also place sixth and book another A Final spot.

The finals were now taking place and first up were the boys singles. Unfortunately Sartain’s opposition pulled out and so he didn’t get to take to the water for a side by side race. Wilcock had a good race but struggled with the heat and hands slipping off the blades, taking the sixth place in the C Final.

Watts and Griffiths were up next in the A Final of the pairs and had a solid row staying in contention all the way down the 2km course to finish in sixth place.

On completion of the pairs race Griffiths just had enough time to refill her water bottle before taking to the water again in the four with Browne, Keil, Chappelhow and Lucy Sartain. They all rowed really well, expertly coxed by Sartain, in her first race as a cox, to take the sixth place on the finish.

Commenting, Abi Terry, J16 coach said, “It was great to see the crews able to race again and making A Finals was a fantastic way to end what has been a really challenging year for them all. Now to have fun in the summer events!”

The third day of Junior National Championships meant it was the turn of the J18 squad to take on the best crews in the country over the 2km course at Holme Pierrepont.  First to the water was the women’s double scull of Jasmine Moutney and Isabelle Watts. Building on the Watts’ family rowing heritage Isabelle did not disappoint in her first national regatta and teamed with the sculling prowess of Jasmine they scored a creditable twenty eighth. Next on the sun-drenched Nottinghamshire course was the WJ18 coxless quadruple sculls of Alice Baines, Amelie Sartain, Maiya James and Mili Wilcock.  The girls put in a steely row in the time trial to secure fourteenth place and a spot in the C Final, just 1.4 sec away from Semi Final contention. Nothing could have prepared the Nottingham spectators for the drama that played out in the C Final as the Stratford girls battled a quality Trafford Rowing Club crew for the length of the course, never more than a length between them for the full 2000m.  It was to be Stratford’s day in the end by the tightest of margins and a photo finish, just 0.18 seconds. Said Steve Wellstead, J17/18 Performance Squad Coach and Junior Co-ordinator, “A true testament to the grit of these young athletes!”

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald online https://www.stratford-herald.com/sport/busy-weekend-of-sport-for-rowers-9210210 and page fifty one and also Stratford Observer online https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/junior-squad-makes-their-mark-in-national-championships and back sports page https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/editions/view/?/Stratford/2021/08/06&pages=024

Stratford Create Storm Indoors!

On Sunday, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club junior squad and their parents braved Storm Ciara to attend the annual South of England Indoor Rowing Championships in Abingdon run by Hinksey Sculling School.

The championship started with the individual events with the J15 girls five minutes category first. Ruby Howells went out hard and led her group closely followed by Fleur Griffiths and Freya Watts. At the other end of the sports hall, Bella Chappelhow also started out well and led her group by a considerable margin. The battle between Howells and Griffiths continued and they finished with exactly the same distance gaining themselves the silver medals. Chappelhow finished just one metre behind them to take the bronze, with Watts finishing in a very respectable seventh place.

Next up was the J15 boys’ five minutes race. Tomi Wilcock, Will Beattie and Toby Sartain all competed in this with another close battle for the top with Wilcock and an athlete from Hinksey Sculling School. Wilcock took the silver nine metres behind gold with Beattie in sixth and Sartain in twelfth place.

Will Clarke was the only J16 taking part and he raced over the full 2000m. He went out hard but having been suffering with a bad virus found he couldn’t sustain the fast pace he had set. Despite this, Clarke finished in a very good eighth place.

The day culminated with the relays. Both the open and girls’ J15 relays took place at the same time competing over 3000m. The open team of Wilcock, Beattie, Sartain and Lucy Browne put in a good performance in a battle with The Langley Academy and Falcon Boat Club. The Stratford Boat Club quartet finished in a brilliant third place to secure the bronze medal.

The girls’ team of Howells, Chappelhow, Griffiths and Watts faced another closely fought race with Hinksey Sculling School. The Stratford Boat Club girls did what was needed and despite the race coming down to the final 250m, they won the title for the second consecutive year picking up the gold medals.

Said J15 coach Abi Terry, “A brilliant result for the J15 squad all coming back to Stratford with at least one medal each!”

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald page fifteen and online https://www.stratford-herald.com/105985-stratford-storm-medal-success-south-england-champs.html and Stratford Observer online https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/stratford-rowers-create-a-storm-indoors

Stratford Cleans Up Indoors!

On Saturday a number of the Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s J14, J15 and J16 junior squad travelled to King’s School Worcester for the annual Indoor Rowing Championships.

First up was J14 Harriet Noyes in the four minute race. Harriet raced hard and took an early lead. This continued to build and she finished with a comfortable win over her nearest rivals.

Next up were the J15 five minute races. Here Freya Watts, Fleur Griffiths and Lucy Browne took part in the closely fought girls’ event where they came up against the recently crowned British Champion from King’s Worcester. She was too tough to beat but Freya and Fleur took the silver and bronze medals respectively. Tomi Wilcock took part in the equivalent boys’ event where after comfortably winning his heat, he was pipped by just four metres from the second heat. Tomi picked up the silver medal a long way ahead of the bronze.

Bella Chappelhow and Ruby Howells were next up in the J15 500m girls’ event. Both girls started fast and it quickly became a race between the two of them. On this occasion, it was Bella that was victorious with Ruby closely behind taking the silver.

Then it was time for the relays. As a club, Stratford fielded two J15 girls’ teams into another close race. King’s Worcester and the first team for Stratford developed a race between them and it quickly became apparent these two were going to get the gold and silver. The Stratford first team of Freya Watts, Fleur Griffiths, Ruby Howells and Bella Chappelhow, managed to push ahead to win by just 0.6 of a second. These girls then turned to cheer for the second team who had also developed a race between them and RGS Worcester for the bronze and fourth places. The Stratford second team of Lucy Browne, Harriet Holmes and Harriet Noyes (racing up a year), with only three rowers put in a big push and managed to finish 1.9 seconds ahead of RGS.

Said Abi Terry, J15 coach, “A fantastic day’s racing with Stratford picking up five golds, three silvers and two bronze medals with all athletes coming home with at least one medal!”

Emma Harrison and Martha Usselmann took part in the Yr11 girls’ 500 metre individual races. They achieved good middle of the pack scores with Martha close behind bronze position.

The J16s also fielded a strong Yr 11 boys’ 500m competitor in Will Clarke who showed his skill in easily beating his nearest rival over the three heats to comfortably win gold.

At the end of the competition Martha, Emma and Will, along with Tomi Wilcox (Tomi racing up an age group) joined forces in the Yr11 3000m mixed relay, comfortably winning gold for Stratford.

Stratford’s sister club, King Edward The Sixth School also had four rowers competing at the event. First up were Joe Hodson and Sam Thornton in the 6th form 2km race. They both started strong and quickly pulled away from the rest of the field. Joe took the gold and Sam finished only a few seconds behind for the silver, 10 seconds ahead of third place.

Up next were Adam Baylis and Felix Crabtree in the 6th form 500m race. After having seen the times to beat in a previous heat, the boys started strong and held their own. Felix came home in third place and Adam got fourth place just 1.7 seconds off the medal position.

To finish the event, the boys had the 6th form relay, a 2km race split between four people. They started strong and displayed great composure, sadly losing out to Kings Worcester by four seconds. This gave them the silver medal, meaning that KES came away with a very impressive tally of medals – one gold, five silver and a bronze. Said Bill Sullivan, a KES rowing coach, “A great haul of medals: they should be very proud of themselves!”

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald page fifteen and online https://www.stratford-herald.com/105131-medals-galore-stratford-juniors-indoor-championships.html and Stratford Observer online https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/stratford-squad-cleans-up-indoors

National Schools Regatta: Testing Ground for Stratford Juniors!

The J14 squad, competing in their first National Schools Regatta, also took part on Friday. First up was the crew of Will Beattie, Tomi Wilcock, Bella Chappelhow, Harriet Holmes and cox Owen Perkins. As the only mixed crew in an open event, racing against all boys’ crews, the Stratford combination put in a fantastic performance. They overtook a crew from the Windsor Boys School on their way to a very respectable twenty fifth place out of the forty one crews taking part.

The J14 girls’ crew of Freya Watts, Lucy Browne, Fleur Griffiths and Honour Keil, expertly coxed by Toby Sartain, performed well in the time trial to place sixteenth, just thirty seconds off first place and gain themselves a place in the C Final.

In their side by side final, they raced against some strong crews. They put in a quick start and found themselves leading the race away from the stake boats. As they settled into their mid race pace, they found themselves in a tussle with a crew from the Grange School, Hartford. The two crews battled their way down the course neck and neck until the Stratford crew pushed away, as they hit the last 250m to take fifth place.

Said J14 coach Abi Terry, “It was a very encouraging day’s racing from the J14 squad, showing that there is plenty more to come. We’re all looking forward to the British Junior Championships in July.”

For the J15 squad, Friday was the first day of a thrilling weekend’s racing at Dorney Lake for the National Schools Regatta.

The J15 girls’ quad of Abbey Meggeson, Amelie Sartain, Emma Harrison and Sophie Elstone, coxed by Mary Walton were the first crew from Stratford to time trial the 1900m for places in the finals later in the day.

Said Trevor Tiller , J15 coach, “Despite a good strong row in the field of sixty eight crews, only eleven seconds saw them miss out on a finals placing, however the experience of the event bodes well for the remaining regatta season.”

The Stratford J16 squad fielded two crews as the regatta continued into its third day.  First down the course was the combination of Jasmine Mountney, Maiya James, Mya Kenny and Alice Baines in the women’s coxless quadruple sculls event.  Always a highly competitive event in junior sculling, the girls finished the day with sixteenth place overall leaving some quality competition in their wake.

Next up was Fred Tyler who raced in the Championship single sculls event.  Commenting, Steve Wellstead, J16 coach and Junior Co-ordinator, “Competing against boys two years his senior, his twenty seventh place overall belies the quality of his performance and over the middle 1000m of the race, he was safely in the top ten fastest scullers. A superb performance from a promising young talent.”

Stratford’s J17 girls coxed four  – Katie Wellstead, Khloe Curnock, Emily Browne coxed by Mimi Hill – stunned many of the crews from the big schools and clubs with their solid performance. Nineteen crews from England, Wales and Scotland entered the time trial event with only the quickest twelve progressing to semi-finals raced over 2000 metres. The girls were sixth fastest in the time trial followed by a fifth place in their semi final. This put them into the non-medal final against five other crews.

Said Dr Graham Collier, J17/18 coach, “This was one of the most exciting races in which Stratford raced neck and neck with their closest opponent who train on the Thames at Marlow. After 1850 metres only six seconds separated all the crews but Stratford put in an incredibly powerful spurt to overtake the Sir William Borlases Grammar School crew and win by the race by half a length.”

For media coverage, please see Stratford Herald page 14 and online at http://www.stratford-herald.com/99178-regatta-provides-tough-testing-ground-stratford-juniors.html and Stratford Observer https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/national-schools-regatta-provides-stern-opposition