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 Score at Bewl Bridge Ergatta

As the last of the winter frost thawed over the Warwickshire countryside, the athletes of Stratford upon Avon Boat Club prepared to race (virtually) in the more temperate Kentish climes of Bewl Bridge Rowing Club. The spinning fans of rowing machines (ergos) in garages and sheds transported the Stratford rowers back to pre-lockdown days when racing was part of their weekend routines.

Bewl Bridge Rowing Club hosted the virtual event and offered racing categories across the age and experience range with an additional running event for those without access to rowing machines.

In the 5k ergo event, Amelie Sartain scored a solid 8th place in the WJ17 category whilst in the blue riband junior event at WJ18 Mili Wilcock and Alice Baines took 7th and 8th place respectively.

Isabelle Watts casually recorded the second fastest time in the WJ18 5k run to take Silver with Maiya James taking a creditable 5th place. Knowledge of the course was clearly a factor as Bewl Bridge took the Gold.

The J15 athletes exchanged the very glamorous surroundings of the Stratford Boat Club rooms for the even more glamorous home gyms for this virtual Ergatta with tremendous results.

Charles Happel came first in his age group for the 5,000m run in a personal best time of 24 minutes and 21seconds.

Amalia Richardson recorded a personal best time of 12:22.3, in the Women’s J15 3,000m ergo event, beating Maddie Hall into 2nd place by just 6.9 seconds, Uche Nwachukwa came 4th and Harriet Noyes 7th out of twelve entries.

Amalia Richardson and Maddie Hall won the WJ 15 double event with Uche Nwachukwa and Harriet Noyes coming 2nd.

Amalia Richardson, Harriet Noyes, Maddie Hall and Uche Nwachukwa won the WJ 15 quad event.

Commenting Steve Marsden J15 coach said, “Admirable results demonstrating athletes’ levels of fitness have been maintained throughout lockdown. We can look forward to similar successes once we are allowed to attend water based events as lock down is behind us.”

First up in the WJ14 5,000m Running category, with two clubs battling it out for top honours with multiple entries, Stratford Boat Club and Lea Rowing Club (London E5, Hackney), a Gold medal for Stratford went to our Eloise Cooper, in a time of 22 minutes 22 second, a full minute and 29 seconds faster than her nearest competitor from Eloise Cooper. A good performance also from our other Stratford J14 athlete Nancy Davis, who ran that distance for the first time, in a creditable 28 minutes 55 seconds, still five minutes faster than another Lea Rowing Club competitor, and no doubt would have been collecting a medal too had it not been for her brother unwittingly deleting all the music from the family iPhone!

Moving on to the rowing events, in the 3,000m Mx 4x J14 category, with an ultra- featherweight cox, our Stratford athletes Will Dalrymple-Baker (S), Jamie Wilcock, Lucy Sartain and Scarlett Richardson (B) took Gold in a resplendent time of 13 minutes 07.4 seconds. ‘It was a great boys and girls collaborative effort,” said the crew afterwards, feeling very chuffed clearly. “The boys did need to talk less during the race though,” quipped bow!

Next up in the 3,000m 2x J14 event, our Stratford J14 boys Jamie Wilcock and Will Dalrymple-Baker faced passionate competition from the boys from Lea, Weybridge and Bewl Bridge (the host club). In a very credible time of 12 minutes 45.5 seconds, our boys took Bronze. Both athletes commented afterwards that a lot of energy was spent splashing each other!

Next up in the 3,000m 2x WJ14 event, our Stratford J14 girls Scarlett Richardson and Lucy Sartain translated all their land and water training experience into a superb performance which earned them the Gold medal, against competition from Shoreham Rowing Club, in a winning time of 13 minutes 29.3 seconds. Both athletes were very pleased with their technique and said there’s a lot more to come.

In the final event for our J14 squad, in the 3,000m WJ14 singles, earning Stratford two medals against intense competition from Tideway Scullers School, Weybridge and Shoreham, Scarlett Richardson won Gold with a time of 13 minutes 01.9 seconds, 16 seconds clear of her nearest competitor and Lucy Sartain won a commendable Bronze for the Club.

Said Hugo Happel J14 coach. “It was a fantastic tally of four gold and two bronze medals for our J14 athletes, showing grit and determination in difficult conditions, and bodes very well for when Junior rowing restarts in the real world, on the water – soon hopefully!”

Recreational weekday rower Ellie Davis was encouraged by a co-member (Mark Tailby) to enter the Ergatta. Having never tried 5k on an ergo before, and with just two practise sessions before the event, she joined the Ergatta from her very cold garage, with only fairy lights for company, and knocked twenty five seconds off her best previous time. She’s now upping her training ready for more competition this season!

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald page fifty five and Stratford Observer online https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/stratford-success-at-bewl-bridge-ergatta