No ‘Holiday’ Weekend for Stratford Rowers!

This was the first racing regatta for the J13 squad which was represented by two doubles and two coxed quad boats at Evesham Regatta. The very early morning start was a shock to our first two crews!

First to race was the doubles boat crewed by Kate Richardson and Ruby Brooker-Collins who overcame steering difficulties to finish strongly behind a crew from City of Bristol. Next up was the doubles boat of Louie Beason and Charles Happel who provided another fine example of sculling but failed to match a very strong crew from Upton Rowing Club.

After a long break, the afternoon racing saw the first of our coxed quads compete comprising Amalia Richardson, Maddie Hall, Uche Nwachukwa, Emily Stobart and coxed by Louie Beason scull smoothly and at high rate only to suffer a dreaded crab towards the end of the course and so miss out to a City of Oxford Crew.

The final race of the day for the J13s saw a coxed quad of Millie Hodgson, Ruby Brooker – Collins, Grace Beason, Imogen Hill and coxed by Charles Happel demonstrate a very good example of large boat sculling but miss out to a strong crew from City Of Bristol.

Said Steve Marsden, J13 coach, “Whilst no pots this time, all agreed it had been a great experience and provided great preparation for the next event at Blenheim Palace!”

On Saturday, the J14 squad also travelled to Evesham for the annual regatta: the event was held over 1000m upstream on the River Avon.

The J14 squad were out in force and the morning division saw the WJ14 coxed quad of Freya Watts, Lucy Browne, Fleur Griffiths and Honour Keil, fantastically coxed by Toby Sartain, reach the final having beaten crews from Haberdashers Monmouth School and Abingdon Rowing Club. In the final they raced against a strong crew from City of Bristol. Despite having an issue with a buoy just a few strokes off the start, the Stratford crew pushed through their opposition to form a convincing lead heading towards the finish. Toby steered the crew perfectly around the course and on crossing the finish line won their first pots of the season by two and a half lengths.

In the afternoon division, the J14’s had three boats in action. This time, the doubles, with the pairings of Honour Keil and Fleur Griffiths, Lucy Browne and Freya Watts and third double of Bella Chappelhow and Tomi Wilcock.

In the girls’ event, both crews came up against very strong crews again from City of Bristol. Keil and Griffiths put up a good fight all the way to the line but were beaten by three lengths. Watts and Browne again raced hard all the way to the line, having had a mishap in the first part of the course with the opposition veering towards them. They too were beaten by their opponents and the verdict this time was just two lengths. With all of the girls racing hard in the quad in the morning, they found the doubles too much of a struggle in the afternoon to come back victorious again.

With Bella and Tomi racing in the open event, all three crews that they raced against were all boys. First up was the Evesham duo and the Stratford pairing did all that was necessary to come around the corner with a convincing lead. Racing to the finish they recorded a verdict of easily. In the semi-final racing a crew from City of Bristol, it was more tightly fought to the line with the Stratford crew victorious again, this time winning by one and a half lengths. In the final they came up against another crew from City of Bristol. As they raced neck and neck down the course, the win could easily gone either way. With the Stratford crowd erupting from the bank cheering and willing their crew across the line, Wilcock and Chappelhow emerged victorious winning this time by just two feet.

On the Sunday the course runs in the opposite direction and is just 500m long. Up for the J14’s were the singles. Freya Watts took to the water, closely followed by Lucy Browne to take on their first round opposition. Both girls faced crews from City of Bristol. The races were close and both were won by the Stratford girls. In the semi-final, Lucy took on Fleur Griffiths in an all Stratford race. This was extremely close from start to finish and with just two feet separating the two crews at the end, it was Fleur who gained her place in the final. In the other semi-final, Freya took on the West Midlands Champion from Ross and despite her best efforts, it was the Ross sculler who would face Fleur in the final. The race for the pot was another strong fight from Fleur but the Ross sculler stamped her authority on it and beat the Stratford sculler to take the win.

Tomi Wilcock also raced in a single and beat a sculler easily from Llandaff to take his place in the final. Tomi then came up against a very good sculler from Warwick who he had faced at Stratford Regatta last year where Tomi was beaten easily. This time it was to be a much closer affair as the Stratford sculler has improved immensely over the past twelve months and made it a much closer race. Unfortunately, the Warwick sculler was still too much for Tomi and he was beaten by just one and a half lengths.

The J14 quad of Honour Keil, Bella Chappelhow, Ruby Howells and Toby Sartain expertly coxed by Sienna Rawlings (J15) raced in a very close semi-final against Llandaff boys. Again just two feet separated the two crews with the Stratford crew making their way to the final. The final was against a City of Swansea crew which also had a girl in the boat. The Stratford combination was dominant from start to finish winning their event easily.

In Division Two, Ruby and Toby teamed up in a J14 double racing against two very strong boys from City of Bristol. This time it was not to be for the Strafford duo and it was the Bristol crew into the next round. Honour and Tomi also teamed up and raced against another Bristol crew, again the morning efforts had taken it out of them and they lost by just one and a half lengths.

Bella and Lucy teamed up in the WJ14 double sculls where they faced Abingdon in the first round. The Stratford girls won by two lengths and were into the semi-final. Here they were met by a Bristol crew who were too fast for the Stratford duo and this time were beaten by two lengths.

Freya and Fleur also teamed up in the doubles but were unfortunate to meet AB Severn in the first round who were in the end the event winners. Conar Aitchison raced in the J15 singles event and was unlucky to be drawn against a strong sculler from Ross who again went on to be the event winner.

In the WJ15 singles Band One event, Stratford’s Amelie Sartain and Harriet Hodgson competed. Harriet’s semi-final opposition scratched, awarding her with a place in the final. Amelie raced against a strong sculler from City of Oxford in another tight race all down the course where Amelie was victorious by three quarters of a length. The two girls then faced each other in another all Stratford final where again it was tight all the way down the course. Amelie was awarded the win despite Harriet’s best efforts.

In the Band Three event, Elisabeth Edwards was again drawn against the events final winner from Gloucester. She put in a good performance but it wasn’t enough to win her place in the final. Emma Harrison and Sophie Elstone teamed up to race in the WJ16 doubles and even thought the Stratford combo were racing up an age group, put up a strong fight, but were beaten by a duo from Monmouth Comprehensive School by just two lengths.

In Division Three, it was time for more doubles with two J15 crews in action. Sophie Elstone, who stepped in as a late substitute, paired up with Amelie Sartain to race in the boys’ category. They put in a great performance and the boys crew form City of Oxford proved too much for the Stratford crew. Harriet Hodgson and Elisabeth Edwards teamed up to also race against City of Oxford, this time in the girls’ event. Unfortunately again it was the Oxford crew who were victorious.

Said Abi Terry, J14 coach, “Two very good days of racing from all of the Stratford athletes, many of whom are beginning to erupt onto the racing scene. Hopefully this is a sign of plenty more wins to come across the season!”

Saturday’s outing to Evesham regatta for the J15 squad began with Will Clarke teaming up with Tomi Wilcock (J14) in the doubles event. A confident win in the heats had them lined up in the semi final against a strong City of Bristol boat. A neck to neck race along the 1000m course finished with a crowd rousing sprint to the finish with Will and Tomi missing the place in the final by just one length.

The doubles events continued with Julia Zampronio Gurden and Martha Usselmann taking to the water alongside Amelie Sartain with Sophie Elstone for their respective races. Zampronio Gurden and Usselmann, up against a strong City of Oxford crew, maintained their strong starting pace, keeping with the opposition to the final straight where, despite rowing strongly, were eventually out sprinted at the final push.

After heats against boats from Oxford and Evesham, Sartain and Elstone won through to the final against another Oxford boat. An excitingly close race from the start saw Stratford gain distance in the closing hundred metres in front of the growing crowd to win the event by half a length.

The afternoon division had the quad of Anne Mynors (J14) Elisabeth Edwards, Julia Zampronio Gurden and Martha Usselmann, coxed by Toby Sartain fight hard against the Ross on Wye opposition, only to miss a place in the final by four lengths.

The single sculls were the last events of the day for the J15 squad. This saw Conar Aitchison and Will Clarke take to the water first for the squad. Aitchison, despite determined effort, was unable to close upon the AB Severn boat, missing out on further heats. Clarke meanwhile winning his heat met the AB Severn boat in the final. With some impressive sculling during an amazing race, the final result, when eventually released, had Clarke missing out on the winning spot by the smallest possible ‘umpires eye’ amount of just one foot.

Harriet Hodgson, Amelie Sartain and Sophie Elstone then followed in their single sculls. While Sartain faced an adversary from Abingdon, Hodgson and Elstone raced well against each other. The results saw Elstone through to the final against Sartain, winning through her heat by a close three quarters of a length.

Having won their doubles event together earlier in the day, the girls now lined up against each other. With gladiatorial yet sporting spirit, both girls sculled strongly along the 1000m course, both seeking their second pot of the day. Ultimately Elstone won through for the win, ending a fine day’s racing for the squad and continuing this promising start to the season.

The weekend saw King Edward Sixth School boys’ 4+ of Adam, Felix, George and Joe produced a quick race against Clifton College Bristol, winning their heat easily in their first ever regatta event together at Evesham. In the final they met a very tidy crew from Pangbourne College which included a crew member who has previously won at Henley Royal Regatta. The Pangbourne crew was very tidy in their technique giving the KES boys worthy opposition and KES managed to keep the distance down to three lengths gaining good experience against a very good crew.

Also for King Edward Sixth School, Joe in a single scull, met an Abingdon school boy in the semis and managed to stay just half a length behind him at the final. The Abingdon boy having been sixteenth fastest overall just recently at the National Sculling Championships.

Kjersti Rogneflaten Woolley, a Stratford upon Avon Boat Club master rower, raced in the morning in composite women’s coxed four with Derwent Rowing Club. They first had a comfortable win over Northampton in the semi-final, and then achieved a good win in the final against home crew from Evesham. Said Kjersti, “A typical master event: Derwent borrowed a boat from Evesham and had Mel coming from Bewdley Rowing Club to cox!”

Kjersti then competed again in the afternoon in a single scull against a capable Evesham sculler. Thanks to cheering from the riverbank, Kjersti put in a good sprint at the finish and won the semi-final. Her opponent in the final was an experienced national and international sculler from Exeter Rowing Club. “It was a great honour to meet such a nice lady in a local event and learn from her,” said Kjersti.

As a warm up to this month’s National Schools’ Regatta, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s J16 and J17/J18 squads travelled to Eton Dorney’s purpose built rowing lake for Wallingford Regatta. Held over 2km, the event delivered exciting side by side racing against crews from around the United Kingdom and beyond with South Africa also represented.

The WJ16 coxless quadruple sculls entry of Mya Kenny, Nixie Brunt, Mili Wilcock and Alice Baines set down a solid marker for the regatta season ahead securing tenth fastest in the heats.  Building on recent successes, Fred Tyler from the J16 squad lined up in the J18 single sculls event and provided a thrilling race for all present. Dueling with Fulham Reach Boat Club in the last 500m, Fred secured third place and just a boat length off second with an example of fine sculling.

The J17 squad was represented by its young ladies: in the final Schools Single Sculls event, Talei Dunn came home in fourth place – a tremendous performance in her first ever single race. Katie Wellstead, Khloe Curnock, Emily Browne and Molly Gill-Swift coxed by Mimi Hill raced in the Schools Coxed Fours event against top opposition from well known rowing schools and the big clubs from the Thames region. An outstanding performance in their heat produced the fourth fastest time from the fifteen competing crews. This took them into another gruelling final in which they came home in fifth place in front of Kings School Worcester.

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s Elite Men’s coxless four were at their first regatta of the season at also at Wallingford Regatta: the Stratford Men were starting on the road to seeking qualification for Henley Royal Regatta 2019.

Twenty four crews from around the country were entered into the Club Fours, split into four races. The Stratford crew of Michael Hourigan, Patrick Hourigan, Finn Sprackling and Tom Coles were up early for their journey down from Stratford for their first race of the day starting at 07:35hrs.

Only the winners of the four heats qualified direct for the final and in their heat, the Stratford boys finished third but the time was quick enough to give them another chance of making the final via the repêchage. Needing to finish in the first two in the repêchage to make the final, they ended up having their best row of the day to ease clear of the field alongside Reading Boat Club to book their spot in the main event. Unfortunately with limited time to recover before the final itself, the crew struggled to make an impact in the main event and finished sixth.

Elite Men’s Coach Bill Sullivan said “Its early days but making the final against some solid competition represents a good start to the regatta season. We know we will need to keep improving from here, but I’m sure we will!”

Stratford’s Adaptive Squad went to Marlow Spring Regatta also at Dorney Lake on Bank Holiday Monday. Said Adaptive Coach Mark Dewdney, “No wins but the athletes were up against strong opposition. Hattie Throssell continues to impress and narrowly missed out on her debut win. Dan Godefroy, in his first regatta, came second in his final. Ian Ward and Mark Sanders also performed well.”

For media coverage, please see Stratford Herald online and page 15

For more great pictures of Wallingford Regatta, see Stuart Baines’ excellent selection on

Posted in News.