Rowing for the Disabled Flourishing at Stratford Boat Club!

If there’s one thing Stratford upon Avon Boat Club takes great pride in, it’s being able to give everybody, no matter their age, ability or circumstances, the chance to compete on the water.

And one of the Swans Nest Lane club’s biggest success stories has been the growth of their adaptive rowing section for those who have disabilities. The adaptive squad had just two rowers when it was first launched in 2015, but since then, the numbers have increased steadily year on year.

Fast-forward five years and the Club now has ten regular members who are out on the River Avon and competing at events across the country. “This might not seem like many, but in adaptive terms it’s enormous,” said Head Adaptive Coach Mark Dewdney. “It’s regarded as just about the largest, and certainly the fastest growing squad in the country and an exemplar for what can be achieved in adaptive rowing with relatively few resources.”

Last year provided plenty of success for the talented group, with every rower who competed in the summer claiming at least one regatta victory. On top of that, Kingsley Ijomah – who was one of the first two members of the adaptive squad in 2015 – will compete at the Paralympics for his native Nigeria this year. “We started him off and we are proud of what he has gone on to achieve,” beamed Dewdney.

Current athletes in the adaptive squad have spinal cord injuries, hemiplegia, visual impairment, autism and other disabilities. Because of this, as well as the rising number of members, the squad is dependent on a large set of dedicated coaches and volunteers. “We need fifteen or more helpers to run a squad of ten rowers,” explained Dewdney. “It is a major logistical exercise, especially when we go away to compete. We would be nothing without these volunteers.”

While getting the adaptive squad into competitive action is the primary aim, Dewdney stressed participation and social inclusion was “equally important”. “We are a social and mutually supportive group and everyone is encouraged to participate as fully as possible, not just on the water,” he added. “Like any club squad, we are only as good as what the members are prepared to contribute.”

While it’s all go on the competitive side of things, the Club are actively working hard to improve the in-house facilities for its adaptive rowers. “We are making steady progress, but we still have some way to go to provide our adaptive members with full access to everything at the club,” said Dewdney. “The adaptive squad could certainly do with a corporate sponsor to help towards this aim.”

As part of the wider scene across the country, adaptive rowing is still in its infancy. Dewdney currently chairs a group of English adaptive clubs who are attempting to grow the sport, but it’s all about evolution and not revolution. The committee works directly with the governing body, British Rowing, to formulate plans for adaptive rowing going forward. Many of the lessons learned at Stratford and at the other established clubs are now being fed directly into future strategy.

Paul Stanton, President of Stratford upon Avon Boat Club, concluded: “The amount of work that Mark and his fellow adaptive coaches and helpers have put into the adaptive squad is shown by their success not only in regattas, but also by the enjoyment that can be clearly seen by the ‘can do’ attitude of the squad. “Mark thoroughly deserved the James Roe Award for outstanding services to the club and rowing in the area that was given to him last year.”

Anyone interested in learning more about adaptive rowing can contact Dewdney through the boat club website: www.stratford-rowing.co.uk/contact. Businesses who would like to help the Club in their endeavours to improve its facilities should also contact Dewdney via the website.

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald pages sixteen and fourteen.

For more great pictures of our adaptive squad, see Trevor Tiller’s excellent selection at https://1drv.ms/f/s!Ajo1zADNwhQAmRM00kIAkANYR2i7

Article courtesy of Craig Gibbons, Sports Editor, Stratford Herald

Dinner Surprise for Stratford’s Adaptive Coach!

At Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s formal dinner on Saturday, the Club’s Adaptive Coach Mark Dewdney got a surprise when he was awarded the James Roe Award for outstanding services to the Club and rowing in the area

In the citation given by Oliver Smith, Captain of Boats, considerable mention was made of Mark Dewdney’s tireless efforts to establish and expand adaptive rowing at Stratford and throughout the region. Said Oliver Smith, “Mark’s hard work and determination are an example to us all: the standard of coaching that Mark and his fellow coaches and supporters have given to Stratford’s adaptive squad is a beacon of excellence which we hope will be copied throughout the region and gain the support that adaptive rowing deserves.”

Paul Stanton, the Club’s President said, “The James Roe Award was named after and first awarded to the Club’s 2012 Olympic Gold Medal winner, James Roe MBE to commemorate James’ great achievement and the kudos and lift it gave to the Club and rowing at Stratford. The cup has only been awarded to a very few club members since 2012 and Mark’s presentation was richly deserved.”

The guest of honour at the Club dinner was Richard Phelps, 1992 Olympian in the Great Britain Men’s Eight in Spain, competitor at the World Championships in 1993 and 1994, a member of the winning Cambridge crew in three University Boat Races in 1993, 1994 and 1995 and many other sporting successes. Richard is a member of the Leander Club, Thames Tradesmen’s Rowing Club, Chiswick Boat Club, Cambridge University Boat Club and Kingston Rowing Club. Richard was also the University Boat Race umpire for the women’s race in 2019 and the men’s race in 2014. In his speech, Richard enthralled the audience with his many rowing anecdotes on and off the water!

The weekend’s duties were not over for Richard Phelps as he was out early on the Sunday morning as guest coach for the Club’s J17/18 squad with Stratford coaches Dr Graham Collier and Colin Bell. Said Dr Graham Collier, “Richard certainly didn’t give the crews an easy time and pushed and encouraged them using his considerable experience as a coach and competitor: our young athletes gained much from the outing and we are so grateful to Richard for the time he spent with us.”

For media coverage, please see Stratford Observer online https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/news/stalwart-stratford-boat-club-coach-honoured-for-outstanding-service and Midweek Herald page twenty eight

Stratford’s Adaptive Squad Scores at Worcester

At the weekend, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s Senior Men’s sculler Harvey Mole travelled to Worcester Regatta and had a first round victory in the Band Two Open Single Sculls event beating Crane from local club Warwick. In the final, Harvey was against a rower from City of Bristol: whilst Harvey started well, he lost the middle part of the race giving away two and a half lengths at the halfway mark. Although Harvey took back a length, he left himself too much to do in the final sprint.

The mixed Masters double sculls event featured Stratford rowers Heather Hayton and Thomas Doherty against a younger Minerva Bath crew in a straight final. After a fast start, the Stratford crew racing with a slight handicap advantage rating a lively 38 strokes per minute off the start eased out into a significant lead by the halfway stage.
A big push saw the Stratford crew consolidate the race easing through to the finish rating 35 strokes per minute for a comprehensive win to round off a successful days racing.

Following their recent success at Oxford, Stratford Boat Club’s Adaptive squad was equally triumphant at the weekend’s Worcester Autumn regatta. Pride of place must go to Hattie Throssell. All season she has been getting closer and closer to that debut win: it finally came on Saturday. In the final, Hattie competed against an all male crew, again from Stratford. It was a clear win for Hattie and her support rower Paul Beason. The whole squad was ecstatic for her; even her well beaten colleagues.

Other wins included Mark Brookes, another athlete succeeding for the first time, again with Paul Beason. In the final of the adaptive pairs they

narrowly overcame their young opponents Dan Godefroy and Jake Blatcher in yet another all Stratford final, only nudging into the lead in the last one hundred metres of the race.

Mark Sanders and Jake Blatcher, in better form than at Oxford, had a comfortable win over Maidenhead in a supported doubles event and also Mark was beaten by a mere six feet in the semi final of the adaptive singles event.

The remainder of the Club spent the weekend settling into their new squads and learning new skills and techniques such as how to go through the very narrow spans of Clopton Bridge. Last minute jobs were being completed ready for the Club’s rescheduled regatta on Saturday 21 September.

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald http://www.stratford-herald.com/101914-stratfords-adaptive-squad-scores-worcester-regatta.html and page fourteen and Stratford Observer https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/stratford-squad-shines-at-worcester.

Stratford’s Adaptive Squad Makes Racing Debut!

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s adaptive squad went to its first event of the season last Sunday.

Stratford is one of the “Big 5” adaptive clubs that dominate the scene in the South of England. All but one of these clubs attended the Time Trial that was rowed over part of the Henley Royal Regatta course. The five squad rowers from Stratford were Jake Blatcher, Dan Godefroy, Hattie Throssell, Ian Ward and Mark Sanders. A couple of athletes, due to their disability, require experienced club volunteers to row with them. For Dan and Jake it was their first competitive event.

Jake won the prize for best junior men’s performance of the day. Mark missed out on the men’s adult prize by 0.1 of a second to a Marlow sculler. The other athletes all produced times that bode well for this summer’s regatta season.

The adaptive squad was revived at the Stratford Boat Club in 2015: since that date, the squad has grown steadily. “We have athletes with a variety of disabilities: some just require a little extra support. Safety is always paramount: we can deal with most issues but not all. The emphasis is on participation and enjoyment but it always great to get a win at these events” says Mark Dewdney, the Club’s Adaptive Coach.

The squad’s next competition will be at Marlow on the May Bank Holiday Monday.

For media coverage, please see Stratford Observer online https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/adaptive-rowers-impress-at-henley and Stratford Herald page 16 and http://www.stratford-herald.com/97512-stratford-boat-clubs-adaptive-squad-makes-racing-debut.html

For those interested in learning more about adaptive rowing at Stratford Boat Club, please contact the Club via the Club’s website http://www.stratford-rowing.co.uk/contact