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

Bumper Weekend for Stratford’s Junior Squad!

After many long months training in isolation and a precious few weeks back on the water, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s Junior Squad were at last back racing at the weekend.  It was to be a baptism of fire for our older athletes with the first event back being the National Schools’ Regatta held over 2000m on the Olympic course at Eton Dorney.  Running as a “Behind Closed Doors” event, the venue was eerily quiet without the usual marquees, trade stands and spectators.  The competition on the water however remained fierce as the top rowing schools and clubs from across the country turned out in force eager to show the fruits of the lockdown labour.  Just two crews from Stratford Boat Club’s J17/18 squad competed under the limited entries permitted. Alice Baines and Amelie Sartain flew the flag in the Championship Double Sculls and recorded a creditable twenty second place ahead of some of the premier rowing outfits nationally.

On Sunday Stratford Boat Club’s J16 Junior Squad also travelled to Dorney Lake for the National Schools Regatta where they took a WJ16 coxless quad. The squad rowed really well in the time trial and fought hard, but came up against some strong schools that had been able to train throughout lockdown and ended up finishing in a very respectable twenty sixth place.

On Monday the rest of the J16 squad also travelled down to Dorney Lake, to race at the Junior Sculling Regatta. First up, very early, was the J16 double of Tomi Wilcock and Will Beattie. They raced hard in their time trial to place eight and gain their place in the B Final. The next time trial was Toby Sartain in the J16 single sculls. He sculled with finesse to put him into fifteenth place and safely into the C Final. The last time trial for the J16’s was for the WJ16 double scull of Honour Keil and Harriet Holmes. They put in a great effort to take seventeenth place and again a place in the C Final.

Later in the day the finals happened in the same order as the time trials. Wilcock and Beattie were first in their B Final of the doubles where they raced hard, coming off the start in first, by halfway they had dropped to third. During the second half they pulled their way back through into second place and were catching up first, but ran out of lake, finishing in second place. Next up was Toby Sartain’s C final in the singles. He raced really well, quickly slotting himself into fourth place, which is also where he finished. He was catching third towards the end but had just too much to do. The last J16 final was the C Final of Keil and Holmes in the double. They went off the start fast but quickly slotted into sixth place. They fought all the way down the 2km track to catch fifth and were catching up quickly on fourth, but didn’t quite have enough left to take them so finished in fifth place. Said Abi Terry, J16 coach, “It was great to see the J16’s racing again after a year and half without any recent racing, we can’t wait for the next event!”

For Stratford’s J15 squad it was also back to sculling regattas at long last and what a way to start the season! Whilst some fifteen year olds might have chosen to spend their half term holiday weekend relaxing at the pool or beach, Stratford’s J15’s chose to test themselves over the 2012 Olympic course at Dorney Lake not once but sometimes twice on the hottest day of the year so far!

Time trials to select crews to proceed to A, B or C finals were the first challenges over 1900m. Up first was Grace Beason and Ruby Brooker Collins double sculls returning a time of 9:29 which was an excellent effort placing them in the C final. They raced just as enthusiastically in their final finishing sixth in a time of 10:42 over the full 2000m.

Next up was Charles Happel rowing a single scull. He demonstrated great technique and great effort recording a time of 8:37 which placed him in the B final. Similar enthusiasm, grit and determination saw him finish an admirable fourth in the final in a time of 9:32, only five seconds behind third place.

Our lady single sculler was Uche Nwachukwa who sculled with great determination, against very strong competition, to finish seventh in her time trial missing a place in the final by just six seconds. A truly great effort.

Finally Stratford’s WJ15 quad of Maddie Hall, Harriet Noyes, Kate Richardson, Amalia Richardson and expertly coxed by Imogen Hill sculled with great precision and energy to record a time of 8:02 in their time trial, just missing a place in the A final by 1.8 seconds. Determined to make amends, they set off at a blistering pace to lead the B final by a length at the 500m mark. Guilford tried to hang on, but broke at half distance leaving Latymer to take up the chase. Stratford saw them coming and opened the taps leaving them for dead in the last 500m to win by three lengths. It was a perfectly executed race in a winning time of 8:47, quicker than both Hinksey and Maidenhead in the A final!

Commenting, Steve Marsden, J15 coach said, “A great performance from all our crews who, as always, performed above and beyond all expectations against the “top” boat clubs. Well done all – they now know the pain and pleasure of competition over a grueling 2km regatta course!”

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald page fifty three and https://www.stratford-herald.com/sport/bumper-weekend-for-junior-squad-9202430 and also Stratford Observer back sports page, https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/editions/view/?/Stratford/2021/06/11&pages=024 and https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/stratfords-young-rowers-buoyant-after-regatta-events

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

Busy Weekend for Stratford’s Rowers!

On a perfect but cold and windy weekend, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s squads went to various locations to test their skills.

The Senior Men’s elite squad spent the weekend at Nottingham training on the multi-lane course honing their technique in preparation for Henley Royal Regatta in July.

Said Bill Sullivan, Senior Men’s Elite Coach, “It was windy and cold in Nottingham but the boys got in some good training putting them in a good position for the preparation for some hard racing at Henley.”

Heading to the other end of the country on Saturday were two senior crews from Stratford upon Avon Boat Club who travelled to Totnes in Devon to compete in the annual Head of the Dart River Race. This year the processional time trial was planned to run from Totnes to Dartmouth over a distance of fifteen kilometres.

Due to weather and river conditions on the day, organisers deemed the conditions at the lower reaches of the river toward Dartmouth too dangerous to run the event over the planned full course. The decision was made to run the race over a shortened five kilometre course, which involved crews rowing down to the revised start and then rowing back up to finish adjacent to the Dart Totnes Amateur Rowing Club.

The re-scheduled shortened race still attracted over one hundred crews from all over the United Kingdom taking part in a very varied range of coastal and river boats (including pilot gigs, canoes and fine boats). Stratford crews rowed in fine boats, more suited to calm inland river conditions.

After launching boats from the Dart Totnes Amateur Rowing Club clubhouse in Totnes, crews rowed down to what became a very congested marshalling area. Once underway, the race itself required a high level of skill in negotiating the tight and winding course, navigation buoys, mud flats, river traffic as well as other competing crews. Due to the delay in the start time, rowing against an outgoing tide and south-easterly winds made conditions severe with a high risk of the boats taking on water.

Top Stratford Boat Club performers on the day were the Women’s Masters crew (coxed quad) of Rosie Stone, Andrea Duxbury, Clare Nash, Rona Fitzpatrick and Alfie Nash (cox), winning their category in an adjusted race time of 00:26:21.

The Stratford Men’s Masters crew (coxed four) of Simon Skillings, Graham Cann, Dave Edwards, Richard Anderson and Jessica Cann (cox) finishing in an adjusted race time of 00:26:43.

Said Alfie Nash, Women’s Masters crew coach, “Although the event was a logistical challenge with the transportation of boats to and from the start and finish locations, it proved to be a very interesting and enjoyable challenge to all crews taking part. Those crews stopping over in Dartmouth and Totnes were able to fully appreciate the hospitality of the host club as well as fellow competitors!”

Meanwhile, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club J13 squad entered three crews in Abingdon Rowing Club’s Spring Head of the River Race on Sunday held on the River Thames over 1850m

The first to boat in Division One at 8.00hrs from an icy pontoon was Imogen Hill and Maddie Hall in their double scull. Undaunted by their first experience of a major event raced over two kilometres, they sculled superbly to finish third in a time that would have beaten two WJ14 crews.

Next to race in Division Two was the WJ13 4x+ of Emily Stobart, Grace Beason, Uchenna Nwachukwu, Ruby Brooker-Collins and cox Kate Richardson: they soon showed they have what it takes to mix it with the big clubs by finishing second splitting the two Henley crews.

In Division Four, the Open J13 4x+ of Ciara Wilson, Louie Beason, Amalia Richardson and Millie Hodgson coxed by Imogen Hill mixed it with boys crews to come third in an identical time to the girls’ quad of 10minutes and 38 seconds. Said Sam Hill, J13 coach, “The results were really encouraging and the whole squad displayed good technique all the way to the finish.”

Matilda Watts and Geoffrey Flambert also both put in strong performances in the J17 1x events finishing fourth and sixth respectively.

The J14 squad was also in Abingdon. In Division One, the squad was represented by the J14 2x of Tomi Wilcock and Will Beattie. Rowing in the higher band, they put down a very strong performance to take the Band One win by seven seconds, despite coming up against very good opposition.

The WJ14 4x+ of Freya Watts, Fleur Griffiths, Bella Chappelhow, Harriet Holmes and cox Toby Sartain were also placed in Band One and despite putting in a good time were just pipped by a crew from Wallingford and were beaten by just four seconds to take second place.

Division Two saw the first of the Stratford J15’s take to the water. The WJ15 singles of Sophie Elstone and Harriet Hodgson both raced well with Elstone battling at the top of the field to take a brilliant win, a second over her closest rival from City of Oxford. Hodgson also put in a good performance finishing eighth.

Will Clarke raced in the J15 single against some strong opposition and managed a sixth place finish. The J15 double of Conar Aitchison and Emma Harrison raced against some all boys crews to finish eighth.

In Division Three, more of the J14’s took to the water with the J14 4x+ of Tomi Wilcock, Will Beattie, Ruby Howells, Bella Chappelhow and cox Toby Sartain in action. Again they faced some strong opposition from Wallingford and were unfortunately unable to overhaul the all-boys crew to finish second by just four seconds.

Next up were the WJ14 double sculls with two Stratford boats in action. The first was Fleur Griffiths and Harriet Holmes, again facing a crew from Wallingford. This time the girls were able to overhaul the opposition and take the event win. The other Stratford crew of Freya Watts and Anne Mynors also put in a very good performance to finish in a highly credible fourth place.

Division Four saw the final Stratford crews of the day racing again with more J15’s on the water. The WJ15 4x+ of Emma Harrison, Abbey Meggeson, Harriet Hodgson, Julia Zanpronio Gurden and cox Sienna Rawlings raced strongly to finish in sixth place. Also racing in this division was the J15 double of Will Clarke and Sophie Elstone who again raced against a lot of all-boys crews to finish in sixth place beating several crews in the process.

The final J15 crew was Conar Aitchison in the single who, despite being rather nervous about competing in the single, had a good race to finish in fifth place over a minute ahead of the sculler behind him.

This week also sees the J17/18 squad on a training camp in Henley and next week is the turn for the existing J13/J14/J15 squads to train at Stratford.

For media coverage, please see Stratford Observer online https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/busy-weekend-for-stratfords-rowers and Stratford Herald page 15.