Last Saturday, several young athletes travelled to Hampton Court to compete in the Hampton Small Boats Head, a processional time trial over three thousand metres. This race is recognised as the highest quality winter event for small boats: it attracts over seven hundred crews from famous and highly successful rowing schools and clubs.
In this extremely competitive cauldron of racing, the J17 athletes competed in two events. Joe Hodson representing Stratford in the J17 singles and King Edward Sixth School in the schools event finished ninth and sixteenthwith Molly Gill-Swift competing magnificently in the comparable but very challenging girls’ races. Emily Browne, Katie Wellstead and Talei Dunn all sculling with great skill and determination finished their singles’ race in thirteenth, twenty seventh and twenty eightieth place respectively. Then followed the partnerships of Talei Dunn with Katie Wellstead and Khloe Curnock with Emily Browne tackling the girls’ J17 double sculling race. They finished within three seconds of each other and only forty five seconds behind the winners to take thirteenth and fourteenth place. These are all tremendous performances by a small club in this most demanding sculling theatre.
The morning division saw the J15 doubles partnership of Amelie Sartain and Sophie Elstone finishing an outstanding fifth from a strong field of thirty three and within only five seconds from a medal winning position. The second double crewed by Harriet Hodgson and Sienna Rawlings followed closely with an equally respectable fourteenth, against very tough competition from the country’s top clubs.
Spread over the morning and afternoon divisions the WJ15.4x+ event saw the crews of Sienna Rawlings, Amelie Sartain, Sophie Elstone and Martha Usselmann coxed by Elisabeth Edwards: along with the boat crewed by Abbey Meggeson, Elisabeth Edwards, Emma Harrison and Julia Zampronio Gurden, coxed by Conar Aitchison, placed twenty seventh and thirty ninth respectively from a strong and large tightfield of forty three.
Stratford Masters were in attendance at Evesham on Saturday supporting the Senior crews with a number of development crews and scullers looking to commence their winter racing season.
After their success at the prestigious Fours Head, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s Senior Men’s squad was at Evesham for the annual Masters of the Avon head races. Racing against the stream over four thousand and five hundred meters, the top boat a coxed four of Mike Hourigan, Patrick Hourigan, Finn Sprackling and Max Marcus, with local coxswain Amie Jones steering, set off first against competition from Evesham, Trafford and Worcester.
A powerful steady row allied to Jones’s local knowledge of the stream quickly enabled them to pull clear of the pack – ending up with a comprehensive forty five second win.
The morning division also featured the first outing in a Head race for the youngest member of the squad, Harvey Mole. Harvey was up against ten other singles – all from Stowe School and got out of the blocks quickly, catching two of the Stowe scullers just after halfway and had nearly caught two more by the end of the course. He ended up finishing a very promising third.
The afternoon division featured the Hourigan brothers racing a pair for the first time, where they finished a very respectable second behind an experienced pair from Worcester Rowing Club.
Seniors’ Coach Bill Sullivan said, “The squad have trained hard since September and been rewarded with some good wins at Worcester, London and now Evesham. It’s a promising start to the season and bodes well for 2019”
Racing in the morning division first off were the Men’s’ Masters F age group quad in their first race outing of the season. The crew, Gary Clay, Neville Hand, Wallace Brown and Tom Doherty in a borrowed boat took on local crews from Worcester, Warwick and event hosts Evesham.
On a demanding four kilometre course with a number of tight bends requiring significant steering input, the crew settled into a solid row rating thirty one strokes per minute for the whole course to finish in a time of seventeen minutes and nine seconds to finish seconds behind a much fancied and very experienced Evesham crew who finished in a time of sixteen minutes and forty four seconds but ahead of crews from Worcester and Warwick finishing overall tenth fastest crew of the day.
Masters rowers were further represented by Gina Fusco taking part in her first single sculling event. Gina, up against a very experienced sculler from Exmouth Rowing Club, produced a very creditable racing and steering performance to finish in a time of twenty three minutes and twenty nine seconds, behind the Exmouth sculler winning in twenty one minutes and three seconds.
Stratford’s Masters Women’s daytime rowing squad of Rona Fitzpatrick, Jackie Joesbury, Rosie Stone and Clare Nash, coxed by husband Alfie Nash, not to be out done, also competed in the Women’s open coxed quad event and finished in a good time of 21.33 twenty one minutes and thirty three seconds, behind a significantly younger Evesham winning crew in twenty minutes and sixteen seconds
In the afternoon division, Stratford Masters rowers Gary Clay and Tom Doherty teamed up with their old friends from Bridgnorth to continue their success in a composite Men’s Masters E coxed four to record their third straight win following previous success at Grosvenor and Stourport against crews from Worcester, Warwick, and Evesham in a time of seventeen minutes and fifteen seconds. Said coach Helen Smith, “It was great to see so many development crews getting some good quality race experience.”
On Sunday, the Masters’ men continued to build up their season race experience with a trip up to Chester to take part in Chester Long Distance Sculls. Held on the picturesque River Dee in glorious winter sunshine over a five kilometre course, the day produced some good quality racing against strong opposition which saw Stratford’s Masters’ Men’s quad of Simon Beard, Richard Shepherd, Richard Nelson and Tom Doherty taking on crews from Grosvenor, Runcorn and Kings Chester in the Masters D event.
After a steady start and hitting some debris in the middle of the river which caused a few steering issues, Stratford were unable to hang on to a good quality Grosvenor crew racing on their own water, rowing at three/four strokes per minute above the Stratford crews rating of thirty two strokes per minute, and found themselves instead in a side by side battle for two and a half kilometres with a very experienced Runcorn crew who despite closing on Stratford could not overtake and towards the finish Stratford’s better fitness meant they were able to pull away from them until the end of the race to finish third in a time of twenty minutes and twenty three seconds.
For media coverage, pleasesee Stratford Herald page fifteen and online http://www.stratford-herald.com/93380-youngsters-take-best-hampton-head.htmland Stratford Observer page twenty three and online https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/excellent-performances-against-top-opposition. For more pictures of Hampton Small Boats Head,please see David Phillips’ great selection https://1drv.ms/f/s!AgY7EiDB2lCOgsx7iw3lkzfVJQfNlA