Stratford at Gloucester in Showers and Rain!

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club Masters squad braved inclement weather conditions to gain some much needed race practice at Gloucester Head on Sunday. Competing on a canal system avoided the current flooding river problems being suffered by some clubs and enabled a full day’s racing albeit in very windy and choppy conditions.

First up for Stratford Boat Club Masters  in the morning division was Richard Nelson competing in his long course first singles scull race for over a year in Masters E/F age group .With a race spent coping with very choppy conditions blowing the boat about on the course as well as pressures from other competitors, Richard found himself in a tight battle with another sculler but managed to hold him off to finish in a deserved second place losing only to highly regarded Siderway from Warwick Boat Club.

The morning division also saw the first ever race for Arne Flood in open Men’s short course sculls. Arne who has only taken up the sport in the last year displayed exceptionally calm nerves given the tough conditions and was able to deliver a highly competent performance in choppy waters which promises much more to come in future races.

The afternoon division saw a strong wind become even stronger as the mixed Masters double sculls of Heather Hayton and Tom Doherty took on the long course. With no age group completion, Stratford found themselves in a battle with a mixed Masters B crew from Southampton half their age and some very good quality men’s doubles. A hard race saw Stratford hold off the men’s crews for some distance but eventually had to give way to the heavier men’s crews who were able to cope with the choppy conditions more favourably but still finished in a very creditable time. Said Tom Doherty, Masters Vice Captain, “It was great to see Arne in his first ever race cope so well in very tough conditions and also to see Richard back racing.”

Joining the Masters at the event, Stratford juniors were represented by J17 Jake Blatcher in his single scull. With his opposition withdrawn Jake was racing against the clock for a ‘time only’ run.

The 4km ‘warm up’ row down to the start of the 1750m (short course) race gave Jake plenty of opportunity to get used to being back on the water after a long break due to the recent local river conditions.

The sun continued to shine, however the steady wind driving down the canal caused some choppy waters which can easily cause all sorts of problems especially in smaller boats. Unfazed by the difficult water conditions and the odd passing shower, Jake achieved a time of 8:27, faster than some of the older more experienced scullers, and larger crewed boats over the same distance.

For media coverage, please see Stratford Observer online https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/vital-practice-for-crews and Stratford Herald page fourteen and https://www.stratford-herald.com/106775-stratford-masters-brave-inclement-conditions-gloucester-head.html

Stratford Returns to Racing!

NRS HORR 2020

A cold but beautiful sunny day saw the resumption of competitive head season racing after several months of flooded rivers and cancellations with Stratford upon Avon Boat Club heading to Northampton for some much needed competition.

The event split into four divisions throughout the day enabled a number of races for each crew. For the early birds in division one 09.15hrs race start saw Stratford take on much fancied Derwent in Mixed Masters D (50-55 average age category) double sculls. Derwent current National Championship silver medalists were always going to be a tough challenge but a good solid race by Stratford saw them hold Derwent for the majority of the course until poor steering towards the finish by a Leicester quad crew being overtaken led to an entanglement of blades forcing both crews to stop. Once Stratford got going again they pulled away on a closing Derwent crew but the stoppage proved too much to pull back and they finished ten seconds behind Derwent in 8.19 minutes.

Straight off in division two saw Heather Hayton from Stratford in her first ever single scull head race. With her competitors racing over three divisions it was left to Heather to focus on her own performance which saw her pull away from the scullers behind her to finish strongly in a time of 9.19 minutes. Overall in her event racing category C, minimum age 43, she was just pipped by the younger age group sculler from Oundle (age category B, minimum age 36), who finished in a time of 9.16 minutes, but the medal went to the youngest competitor from Milton Keynes (age category A, minimum age 27 years) in a time of 8.48 seconds.

With the third division reserved for recovery and cake, division four saw the Stratford’s Masters’ mixed double of Heather Hayton and Tom Doherty racing in the younger age category event of A,B,C, taking on younger age category competitors from Peterborough (age category A), and Sudbury (age category B).

A good start saw some overtaking of slower doubles resulting in a solid finish time of 8.02 minutes, with Sudbury  finishing in 7.56 minutes, but Peterborough were clearly the strongest in a very fast time of 7.24 minutes.

The Junior squad was also represented in division four with Jake Blatcher racing in the J17 single sculls event. This was Jake’s first head race having only been rowing for a year. Head racing is different to the rowing events normally seen, as rowers set off in procession and race purely against the clock with the other competitors around you not necessary in the same event.

After a good start, negotiating the corner well, Jake set off strongly, settled well and soon caught the double ahead of him. Despite having to crisscross the river in order to overtake, he soon regained his rhythm keeping distance from a senior boat chasing him and finishing fifth in a time of 9:29 minutes. Said coach Trevor Tiller, “This is a great start to the season for Jake, especially now that water training can continue after months of local flooding.”

For media coverage, see Stratford Observer online https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowers-thrilled-to-make-return and Stratford Herald page fifteen and online https://www.stratford-herald.com/105399-welcome-return-racing-stratford-rowers.html

Stratford Masters’ Double Impresses at Pairs’ Head

Sunday saw the annual running of the national Pairs Head of the River Race in London.

The event, organised by Barnes Bridge Ladies’ Rowing Club, brings together the best two person double sculls (two blades each) and pairs (single blade each) crews from all over the country for a spectacular time trial event on the River Thames with over four hundred and sixty entries racing over the majority of the Boat Race Course, a distance of 4.5km.

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club was represented in the Mixed Masters D Double Sculls category (average crew group age 50 to 55) by Heather Hayton and Tom Doherty.

On a day that forecast heavy rain and bad weather, the competitors were pleasantly surprised to be greeted by sunshine and a moderate wind to provide unusually reasonable calm conditions, most unlike a normal Tideway events.

Starting in the one hundred and ninety fifth position gave Stratford a chance to watch the race spectacle unfold with some of the country’s top national rowers competing for honours and leading off the field.

Stratford Boat Club, up against a good Ardingly crew and surrounded by other boats containing ex- internationals, were in for a tough race but made a good start and, although in a heavy boat, held off some quality crews from Bewel Bridge and Upton for the majority of the course.

Stratford were able to close on Bristol, their direct competitors, and a close battle ensured for the majority of the course with less than a length separating both crews for the last two kilometres. With Hammersmith Bridge fast approaching and the finish in sight, a final push saw Stratford just pip Bristol over the finish line to complete the event in fifteen minutes and fifty one seconds to beating Bristol overall by nineteen seconds. Unfortunately this was not enough to win their category with Ardingly finishing twenty three seconds ahead which saw Stratford settle for second place.

As with most major Thames races, a degree of steering was required to avoid both slower crews and charging faster boats leading to some very close encounters. With conditions being reasonably favourable, all crews were set on fast times and aiming to take advantage of the stream, leading to close side by side racing for much of the course.

Said Tom Doherty, Masters’ Vice Captain, “This was Heather’s first visit to a major Tideway event and only her third ever head race: it was great to see her put in a big performance against some very good opposition!”

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald online http://www.stratford-herald.com/102714-stratford-masters-double-impress-pairs-head-race.html and page fifteen and also Stratford Observer https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/stratford-masters-double-impresses-at-pairs-head

Choppy Thames Conditions for Vesta International Eights Head!

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club were represented at this year’s Vesta International Eights Head of The River race on Sunday. The race, which is the premier veterans’ rowing event of the year, is held over the championship course which is better known as the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race course in central London on the Thames. On a clear but blustery day, over 245 crews set off from Mortlake for the 6.8km timed race down to Putney at ten second intervals making for some exciting racing over the whole length of the course.

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club provided the majority share of a composite crew with fellow Midland clubs from Warwick Boat Club and Bridgnorth Rowing Club. The crew, stroked by Paul Wallis from Bridgnorth, comprised Tom Doherty (Stratford) at 7, Richard Nelson (Stratford) at 6, Rob Graham (Bridgnorth) at 5, Tim Grimsdale (Bridgnorth) at 4, Gary Clay (Stratford) at 3, Jon Martin (Warwick) at 2 and Simon Beard (Stratford) at bow with Sarah Graham (Bridgnorth) at cox.

The crew racing in the Masters’ E age category section (55 to 60 years) were up against formidable competition with no less than 34 competitors in their age group. The crew, on the back of a much improved showing at the North of England Head at Chester the week before, got off to a fast start taking the rating up to 34 strokes per minute under Chiswick Bridge as they crossed the start with Bewdley and an international Danish crew starting close behind.

A solid rating push off the start saw the crew opening a significant gap on the two immediate crews behind as they approached Barnes Bridge. Tricky winds saw the Tideway live up to its reputation as a tough place to row with some large waves leaving most of the crew and the cox soaked. However, not to be deterred, the crew settled in to a good rhythm maintaining 32 strokes per minute for the whole of the remainder of the 6.8km course. This paid dividends as they proceeded to catch a Broxbourne eight by Chiswick Eyot which lead to some lively advice on the merits of considerate steering being exchanged between the crews!

With over half the race completed and the crew going well, a big push saw the crew clear Hammersmith Bridge and its legendary rough water and they proceeded to catch a number of crews as the final few kilometers beaconed. This lead to some exciting racing as the Stratford composite crew closed past Fulham football ground on no less than four crews all line abreast across the river. Holding their own and with some excellent coxing from Sarah Graham, the crew pushed between Putney Town, Ardingley, Grosvenor and Bradford on Avon clubs to inch over the finish line in front providing good excitement for the crowds of spectators.

Hard racing over the whole course in blustery conditions saw the crew record a time of 22 minutes and 7 seconds finishing thirteenth out of 35 crews in their Masters E event and  107 seconds behind Moseley, the fastest crew of the day and overall 63rd out of 245 crews that finished the event.

Said Tom Doherty Stratford’s Masters Vice Captain, “This was a crew put together in mid-January that has been limited to one training session a week: the crew has shown consistent improvement over the weeks from a poor race at Nottingham to record a very good result with our best row to date in tricky conditions on the Thames, something of which we can be all proud!”

For media coverage, please see Stratford Herald page 15 and online http://www.stratford-herald.com/97340-stratford-rowers-face-choppy-thames-conditions-vesta-international.html and Stratford Observer online https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/choppy-thames-conditions-for-vesta-international-eights-head