On Saturday 11 February, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s Women’s Masters crew of Ruth Poulten, Paola Ward, Clare Booth and Rona Fitzpatrick in a coxless quad took part in the Worcester Head of The River, a 6km race on the River Severn. The crew were unable to find their form in this year’s Worcester Head, despite near perfect conditions. The crew had been hoping to repeat their win from last year but it was not to be.
Being brought to a halt in the final third of the race by erratic steering from a coxed quad added to the crew’s disappointment and frustration. Even so, it was a good 12km with great team spirit as always and the shouts of support from those on the riverside were fantastic and very much appreciated. Nonetheless, the crew had a very solid race over the long course and continued to record a very admirable time of 26 minutes and 37 seconds. Crew member Paola Ward commented, “Onwards and upwards to the next race!”
Saturday also saw the continuing training progress towards the national eights race in London in March for Stratford Boat Club’s combined men’s masters eight with Bridgnorth Rowing Club. The crew, which has been training since before Christmas, was looking to follow on from a solid performance and win at Stourport Head two weeks earlier with an improved performance at Worcester Head. The event held on the River Severn, one of the longest races in the country at over 6km, promised a great day’s racing with a large turnout of eights men’s and women’s crews. With perfect rowing conditions and little wind, the stage was set for some fast times.
The Stratford/Bridgnorth crew were up against crews from Bristol Ariel, Bewdley, Evesham, Pengwern (Shrewsbury), Avon Country and Monmouth in several masters’ age categories making for some good competition. The race was a chance for the crew to try out Bridgnorth’s brand new racing Stampfli eight and the boat did not disappoint as the crew set off at a lively race pace of 32 strokes per minute.
Race conditions and a clear river meant there were no issues with having to overtake slower crews and this enabled the crew to settle into a nice cadence at 32 strokes per minute for the whole of the race, which saw them close on the preceding crew which was Pengwern. Given the large gaps between crews at the start for safety reasons, it was unlikely that any crews would be fully caught on the course so it was important to focus on the crews own performance. Closing past Worcester’s impressive clubhouse saw an uplift in crew effort as supporters’ cheers became audible. The race was by no means over however with a further two kilometres still to race.
A further push took the crew through the narrow road bridge arches in the centre of Worcester and part the magnificent riverside cathedral to set up a final effort down the finishing straight. The effort was not in vain however as the crew recorded a very satisfactory win in a time of 20 mins and 52 seconds. Said stroke Paul Wallis, “This was our first outing in the new boat and the race was all about getting used to the feel and run of the boat rather than focusing on just racing so to come away with a win was very satisfying.” The crew’s training continues with eyes now turned to Runcorn Head on 25th February and a further step up in quality opposition from north of England clubs.
Also racing at Worcester was Stratford’s sister club, King Edward The Sixth School Boat Club who had a very successful day taking the win in the J18 4x section over experienced first crews from Kings School Worcester and Royal Grammar School Worcester in convincing fashion over the 6km course. The quad, consisting of Tomi Wilcock, Tom Beard, Tom Wheeler and Ed Rose, had a steady start to the race and were able to find their rhythm and put in a strong first half to the race. After a well managed first half, the cheers from the bank at the 3km mark lifted the crew and they began to extend their lead over the competition. A strong push to the finish saw them overtake an university eight and close the gap on the Kings School Worcester crew who started off ahead on the course. Commenting, Hannah Crone, KES’s rowing coach said, “An exceptional time of 20 minutes and 22 seconds saw KES placed eight in the division and also placed as the second fastest quad of the day!”
For media coverage, see Stratford Herald page forty three and Stratford Observer online https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-mixed-results-for-stratford-crews-at-worcester