The Women’s Eights Head of the River Race is the largest rowing event in the world run for women. Three hundred and twenty crews took to the water on Saturday 5th March to race the 6.8 kilometres from Mortlake to Putney on the ebb tide taking on the most challenging of courses for rowers and coxes.

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club entered Freya Watts, Lucy Brown, Amalia Richardson, Maddie Hall, Uchenna Nwachukwu, Leah Saunders, Harriet Noyes, Kate Richardson and coxswain Imogen Hill in Stratford Boat Club’s distinctive yellow Empacher VIII. Not only was this event the first time they had rowed on the infamous Tideway but it was also their first competition in the eight so there was no shortage of adrenalin in the boat as they rowed up stream to the start!

Run as a time trial, the boats set off in single file and Imogen left a generous gap to the crew in front so that Stratford had clear water for the first part of the race. As they shot through Barnes Bridge, they had gelled really well and settled into a strong rhythm. Well clear of the crew behind, they had a clear run up to Chiswick Eyot closing on the crews in front. As they approached Hammersmith Bridge, Stratford caught Cranford School and after several “polite requests” and robustly holding her line in the fast water, Imogen persuaded their cox to move over!

With 2k to go, the girls dug in for the toughest part of the race, the final run down past Craven Cottage football ground to the Black Buoy. Up went the rate for one final push and they were home in a time 21 minutes 47 seconds placing them 119 overall.

Commenting, Coach Sam Hill said, “Yet again, the squad have risen to the occasion and produced a superb result with the help of Leah Saunders who joined us from Evesham Rowing Club for the event and fitted into the boat so well.”

Earlier that weekend, Stratford Boat Club adaptive member Isaac Clarkson joined nearly 2000 other young people at the Copper Box Arena in London for the National Junior Indoor Rowing Championships. Held at The Copper Box Arena in the Olympic Park in London, the atmosphere was fantastic as clubs and schools from around the country battled it out on the ergos (indoor rowing machines). The competition is also simultaneously in a new venue as NJIRC North in Leeds.

This was Isaac’s first live event and he managed to come away with a personal best which put him in the upper half of 267 entrants. He also fought through an equipment snag to finish fifth in the Year Eight SEND category.

Said Mark Dewdney, Stratford Boat Club’s Head Adaptive Coach, “A lot of fun had, some lessons learned and a whole lot of determination to go back even stronger next year! We are very proud of Isaac who is our youngest adaptive member and has made amazing progress not only on the ergos but also sculling each week on the water: an example to us all of true grit and determination!”

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald page forty four and Stratford Observer back sports page and online at and

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