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 Create Storm Indoors!

On Sunday, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club junior squad and their parents braved Storm Ciara to attend the annual South of England Indoor Rowing Championships in Abingdon run by Hinksey Sculling School.

The championship started with the individual events with the J15 girls five minutes category first. Ruby Howells went out hard and led her group closely followed by Fleur Griffiths and Freya Watts. At the other end of the sports hall, Bella Chappelhow also started out well and led her group by a considerable margin. The battle between Howells and Griffiths continued and they finished with exactly the same distance gaining themselves the silver medals. Chappelhow finished just one metre behind them to take the bronze, with Watts finishing in a very respectable seventh place.

Next up was the J15 boys’ five minutes race. Tomi Wilcock, Will Beattie and Toby Sartain all competed in this with another close battle for the top with Wilcock and an athlete from Hinksey Sculling School. Wilcock took the silver nine metres behind gold with Beattie in sixth and Sartain in twelfth place.

Will Clarke was the only J16 taking part and he raced over the full 2000m. He went out hard but having been suffering with a bad virus found he couldn’t sustain the fast pace he had set. Despite this, Clarke finished in a very good eighth place.

The day culminated with the relays. Both the open and girls’ J15 relays took place at the same time competing over 3000m. The open team of Wilcock, Beattie, Sartain and Lucy Browne put in a good performance in a battle with The Langley Academy and Falcon Boat Club. The Stratford Boat Club quartet finished in a brilliant third place to secure the bronze medal.

The girls’ team of Howells, Chappelhow, Griffiths and Watts faced another closely fought race with Hinksey Sculling School. The Stratford Boat Club girls did what was needed and despite the race coming down to the final 250m, they won the title for the second consecutive year picking up the gold medals.

Said J15 coach Abi Terry, “A brilliant result for the J15 squad all coming back to Stratford with at least one medal each!”

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald page fifteen and online https://www.stratford-herald.com/105985-stratford-storm-medal-success-south-england-champs.html and Stratford Observer online https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/stratford-rowers-create-a-storm-indoors

National Schools Regatta: Testing Ground for Stratford Juniors!

The J14 squad, competing in their first National Schools Regatta, also took part on Friday. First up was the crew of Will Beattie, Tomi Wilcock, Bella Chappelhow, Harriet Holmes and cox Owen Perkins. As the only mixed crew in an open event, racing against all boys’ crews, the Stratford combination put in a fantastic performance. They overtook a crew from the Windsor Boys School on their way to a very respectable twenty fifth place out of the forty one crews taking part.

The J14 girls’ crew of Freya Watts, Lucy Browne, Fleur Griffiths and Honour Keil, expertly coxed by Toby Sartain, performed well in the time trial to place sixteenth, just thirty seconds off first place and gain themselves a place in the C Final.

In their side by side final, they raced against some strong crews. They put in a quick start and found themselves leading the race away from the stake boats. As they settled into their mid race pace, they found themselves in a tussle with a crew from the Grange School, Hartford. The two crews battled their way down the course neck and neck until the Stratford crew pushed away, as they hit the last 250m to take fifth place.

Said J14 coach Abi Terry, “It was a very encouraging day’s racing from the J14 squad, showing that there is plenty more to come. We’re all looking forward to the British Junior Championships in July.”

For the J15 squad, Friday was the first day of a thrilling weekend’s racing at Dorney Lake for the National Schools Regatta.

The J15 girls’ quad of Abbey Meggeson, Amelie Sartain, Emma Harrison and Sophie Elstone, coxed by Mary Walton were the first crew from Stratford to time trial the 1900m for places in the finals later in the day.

Said Trevor Tiller , J15 coach, “Despite a good strong row in the field of sixty eight crews, only eleven seconds saw them miss out on a finals placing, however the experience of the event bodes well for the remaining regatta season.”

The Stratford J16 squad fielded two crews as the regatta continued into its third day.  First down the course was the combination of Jasmine Mountney, Maiya James, Mya Kenny and Alice Baines in the women’s coxless quadruple sculls event.  Always a highly competitive event in junior sculling, the girls finished the day with sixteenth place overall leaving some quality competition in their wake.

Next up was Fred Tyler who raced in the Championship single sculls event.  Commenting, Steve Wellstead, J16 coach and Junior Co-ordinator, “Competing against boys two years his senior, his twenty seventh place overall belies the quality of his performance and over the middle 1000m of the race, he was safely in the top ten fastest scullers. A superb performance from a promising young talent.”

Stratford’s J17 girls coxed four  – Katie Wellstead, Khloe Curnock, Emily Browne coxed by Mimi Hill – stunned many of the crews from the big schools and clubs with their solid performance. Nineteen crews from England, Wales and Scotland entered the time trial event with only the quickest twelve progressing to semi-finals raced over 2000 metres. The girls were sixth fastest in the time trial followed by a fifth place in their semi final. This put them into the non-medal final against five other crews.

Said Dr Graham Collier, J17/18 coach, “This was one of the most exciting races in which Stratford raced neck and neck with their closest opponent who train on the Thames at Marlow. After 1850 metres only six seconds separated all the crews but Stratford put in an incredibly powerful spurt to overtake the Sir William Borlases Grammar School crew and win by the race by half a length.”

For media coverage, please see Stratford Herald page 14 and online at http://www.stratford-herald.com/99178-regatta-provides-tough-testing-ground-stratford-juniors.html and Stratford Observer https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/national-schools-regatta-provides-stern-opposition

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.