Good Start for Stratford Juniors First Head

Last weekend saw the opening head race of the new season on the Thames in Oxfordshire. Wallingford Long Distance Sculls, held over 4.25km, attracts top level scullers from around the region with Stratford fielding crews across the age range. Stratford’s J15 squad were represented in the coxed quadruple sculls event by Freya Watts, Lucy Browne, Fleur Griffiths, Honour Keil and Harriet Holmes (coxswain). Their row was sufficient to rank them fifth just ten seconds behind Headington School. In the shorter course event (1.5km), the J15 single scullers of Harriet Holmes and Owen Perkins ranked sixth and third respectively.  In the double sculls, the J15 crew of Ruby Howells and Bella Chappelhow delivered a solid row to achieve tenth amongst a strong field. This left the double scull of Will Beattie and Tomi Wilcock last to compete in the J15 event. The powerhouse pair dominated their event taking the win by more than twenty seconds. Said Steve Wellstead, Junior Co-ordinator, “A superb result for the season opener.”

Yet again the two quad boats of the J14s did not disappoint, providing very spirited demonstrations of their sculling skills over a 1500m course. The WJ14X+ quad of Amalia Richardson, Grace Beason, Uchenna Nwachukwa, Millie Hodgson expertly coxed by Imogen Hill provided a battling sculling performance to finish a very creditable fourth place behind boats from Headington and Maidenhead but beating two other boats from Headington and Maidenhead. The J4 4X+ quad boat of Charles Happel, Madison Hall, Louie Beason, Harriet Noyes superbly coxed by Emily Stobart were racing to record a time, having no other competing crews for their category. However the time they recorded of 8 minutes and 49.4 seconds beat the girls’ quad by 2.5 seconds. Said Steve Marsden, J14 coach, “Perhaps they grabbed the bragging rights for the J14’s on this occasion. A final note that the times recorded were 2.3 and 4.8 seconds, respectively, faster than the J15 race and would have finished fourth in that race too.”

The J17/18 juniors started the new season by competing on Wallingford’s challenging course over 4,500 metres with some not insignificant bends to test the bow steered coxless boats. The event was attended by over six hundred high quality crews competing across three divisions. Boating first for Stratford in the Open Junior 18 sculls was Joe Hodson competing against a large field of sixty one competitors achieving a creditable result of thirty four out of sixty one.

Next up to the challenge was the crew of Emily Browne, Maiya James, Nixie Brunt and Matilda Watts competing in the Junior 18 women’s coxless quad which resulted in achieving twelfth place in their category.

In the afternoon division, the crew of Alice Baines and Katie Wellstead competed against a plethora of London based schools in the women’s Junior 18 double sculls achieving eleventh place, a promising start given this was their second outing together.

Finally the crew of Mili Wilcock, Molly Gill-Swift, Hermione Hill and Jasmine Mountney took to the water. Due to the high number of entries in the Junior 18 category the girls had to step up to the Women’s coxless quad event which resulted in achieving sixth place.

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald page sixteen and online

For more great pictures from Wallingford Head, see Stuart Baines’ excellent selection

Wet Weekend for All Stratford’s Rowers

With Evesham Junior Head cancelled on the Saturday, it was left to the Masters to represent Stratford rowing this weekend. Unlike Evesham, the weather was set to be glorious on Sunday at Bedford Autumn Small Boats Head. Masters rowers Christine Goodwin and Tim Lunel had only raced once before in the Masters D Mixed Double category and they showed they had learned much tactically by choosing to row in the first division at 09.15hrs, so not only an early start but also an early shower in some of the heaviest rain of the day!

A good row over the 2,000m course where the highlight was the first half of the course but Stratford rowers didn’t quite have the run that brought them victory at Wallingford in September but finished in a very creditable second place where they were only beaten by a very good Cantabrigians mixed double by three seconds in actual time and sixteen seconds allowance for their Masters E handicap. Christine and Tim’s time was twenty six seconds ahead of their next nearest competition and this would have put them in second place in the Open Masters D double which puts the time put in by Cantabrigians into perspective.

Said Masters rower Tim Lunel, “An excellent second run out for the mixed double and plenty to build on for the rest of the head season.”

Elsewhere on the water were four Stratford members taking their RYA Level Two Powerboat certificate on Birmingham Edgbaston Reservoir so that they can drive Stratford Boat Club’s three safety and coaching launches. Despite the inclement weekend weather, all water sessions went ahead safely and the Club squads’ training for the head season went ahead as planned. Said Junior Coach Dr Graham Collier, “Our athletes showed real determination going out on the water and training in such wet conditions but they were kept safe by their coaches, safety launch drivers and spotters.”

For media coverage see Stratford Observer page 30 and online and Stratford Herald online

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club makes its mark at Wallingford

A crisp autumnal morning greeted Stratford upon Avon Boat Club Junior scullers as they arrived at Wallingford for the first head race of the winter season on Saturday 29 September. Sculled over 4,250 meters upstream on the Thames, the event attracts entries from many of the top clubs and schools who use it as a selection trial for their winter heads programme. The Great Britain coaches taking notes on the bank gave a clue to the quality of the entry.

Stratford got off to a flying start with Fred Tyler powering his way to third place out of twenty two in the Open J16 single sculls event. Fred dug deep to pull off an heroic finish posting the fastest time for the second half of the course.

Stratford entered three scullers in the Women’s Junior 17 single sculls event. Khloe Curnock and Katie Wellstead were only separated by 2.6 seconds in eighth and eleventh places respectively and Talei Dunn finished a highly creditable sixteenth. Katie recorded fifth fastest time for the second half a very encouraging performance for an endurance event.

Molly Gill-Swift and Emily Brown faced girls from the older age group in the Women’s Junior 18 double sculls. Molly and Emily sculled superbly putting in a typically gritty performance to finish in third place, less than five seconds behind Emanuel beating Wallingford on their own water in the process.

Stratford member Joe Hodson represented King Edward VI School in the Open Junior 17 single sculls event. Joe had to contend with an old injury to his arm flaring up in the second half of the race dropping him from twenty third at the half way point to finish in twenty sixth place, so not a result indicative of Joe’s potential.

Despite competing at Wallingford for the first time in a single, Mya Kenny rounded off the day’s racing with a very strong performance in the Women’s Junior 16 single sculls finishing in twelfth place beating Evesham to boot by just over a second.

Coach Sam Hill said, “Wallingford gives us a measure of where we rank against top competition at the start of the winter head season. Our Junior athletes have put down a very impressive marker this weekend. ‘Man of the Match’ definitely goes to Fred Tyler for his amazingly powerful performance!”

The Masters also had a representation at Wallingford with Christine Goodwin and Tim Lunel racing in their first Head competition as a mixed pair. Under ideal sunny and calm conditions, they had a great row really making the boat run and do the work, knowing how important that is when it gets over 4,000m! It felt like an excellent row and the times showed that in beating their two opposition crews by two minutes including a Masters C crew. Not only that their time of 19:15 bettered three of the six men’s Masters doubles!

Said Tim Lunel, Masters’ sculler, “Not a bad first time out as a mixed pair in a head!  We then made the fool-hardy choice to go out and do it all again in singles in the afternoon session: the less said about that the better, except maybe showing that neither of us was holding anything back from getting a good time for the morning session for the afternoon scull!”

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald page 15 and Stratford Observer page 31. For great pictures of Wallingford Long Distance Sculls, see Lawrence’s great pictures at