Gold for Stratford Juniors at Peterborough!

A splendid summer Saturday saw Stratford’s junior squads sweltering under a beating sun at the Peterborough Junior Championships last weekend in the penultimate major event of the season.

The thousand metre four laned course looked splendidly still as the J15 double of Harriet Hodgson and Julia Zampronio Gurden took to the water for their doubles race. Despite a strong row against opposition who ultimately finished first and second in the event, they just missed a placing in the semi-finals.

Advancement through the heats for the J15 squad then fell on the singles events. Elisabeth Edwards was next to take her lane, yet despite finishing in a respectable third missed out on the further heats and meanwhile Conar Aitchison and Will Clarke, in separate heats, couldn’t break through the heat stages despite some hard racing along the course. Hopes then rested with Sophie Elstone, whose race plan saw her establish first position early and able to control the race to win her heat for a place in the final later in the day.

The first races of the afternoon saw Aitchison and Clarke together in the double. With a good start and the first 500 metres looking promising they settled nicely ready for the final push. As the finish approached the race noticeably upped a pace and despite a fight to the finish the boys once more closely missed a finals place. As the Sun continued to beat down, the girls’ quad crewed by Edwards, Elstone, Hodgson and Zampronio Gurden, coxed by Toby Sartain, started well but were again unable to advance to the finals.

Closing the racing for the J15s, Sophie Elstone’s final in the singles event saw her line up under the relentless Sun for her fourth race of the day. Another good start looked promising and pushing strongly through the first half made for some good racing, the last two hundred metres forced each competitor to the limit with Elstone finishing in Bronze medal position at the end of a very demanding day.

The J14 squad began their day’s racing with the boys singles of Tomi Wilcock and Will Beattie, in separate heats, both ‘easily’ gaining places through to the next round. Racing next to each other for the one remaining place in the final, both boys setting off well with Wilcock able to maintain the lead throughout and win the remaining place in the final, to be run later in the day.

The girls’ double of Bella Chappelhow and Honour Keil were next and another hard fought and confident race saw them miss a finals place by only seven seconds against the eventual event winners. The J14 girls’ singles event followed with Freya Watts, and Harriet Holmes comfortably winning places through to the next rounds, however both were just pushed out of places for the final.

Chappelhow, Holmes, Keil and Watts with cox Toby Sartain joined forces in the girls’ quad for the start of their afternoon racing. An exciting opening race with only 1.2 seconds separating them from first place, saw the girls into the semi-final where accurate bladework and synchronicity quickly led them into the final for what turned out to be the most exciting racing of the day.

With not the best of starts, the girls found themselves in fourth position, however they calmly focused on the task ahead maintaining rhythm and control settling nicely. At the halfway point and still in fourth position the girls could be seen to find a second wind; with three hundred metres to go the encouragement from Sartain saw the boat accelerate to push convincingly into third position and then further boosted from the ever increasing cheering from the crowd, into second place finally finishing only four seconds behind the winners, a great race showing fantastic strength.

Following their initial singles races, Beattie and Wilcock then came together in the double and maintained the J14 run by easily qualifying for the final. Yet more close racing from was to follow from the boys and the day’s excitement was far from over as from the start the opposition from Maidstone put up the fight in what was to finish as the closest race of the day.

Another steady start found the Stratford crew slightly behind by the halfway point. Sheer determination mixed with skilled sculling saw the double break away from the bronze position pushing ever closer towards the Gold. A neck to neck final hundred metres had the crowd mesmerised as the finish bell rang twice in such quick succession it was impossible to know, until the announcement, that Beattie and Wilcock had won the Gold medal by 0.4 of a second, a much deserved win.

The day’s racing wasn’t yet over for Wilcock, who shortly after winning Gold in the double had to race the singles final with little rest allowed. After a short recovery period, he once again took to the water, however the effort given to win the double event proved the singles a race too far, with Tomi finishing out of the medals by only a few lengths.

Said Trevor Tiller, J15 coach, “A fantastic day’s racing for the Stratford Juniors with all showing great promise leading into the highlight of the season later in July, the British Rowing Junior Championships at Nottingham!”

On Sunday there was no let up for Stratford Juniors as they raced the preliminary heats of the Club’s internal President’s Sculls. Said the Club’s President Paul Stanton, “The President’s Sculls was introduced to encourage not only the junior squad but all age groups to improve their skills and competitiveness in sculling. We are certain that this emphasis will help our athletes excel in our own rescheduled regatta on Saturday 21 September. We have been heartened by the response of most of our regatta sponsors who have stuck with us over the cancellation of our June regatta and carried their support over to September: it’s going to be a great day!”

For media coverage of J14 and J15 successes at Peterborough Junior Championships, please see Stratford Herald page fifteen and online at and Stratford Observer online at

Posted in News.