Last Saturday saw a number of Stratford upon Avon Boat Club and their sister King Edward The Sixth School Boat Club crews brave the blustery trip to local Midlands club Worcester for one of the longest head races of the year. The event, run over two divisions, saw crews competing over a six kilometre course in challenging river and weather conditions.
The morning division saw King Edward The Sixth School boys crew out with their J17 4x (T. Wilcock, R. Macdonald, T. Beard, E. Rose) on the water. It was the first time this crew had raced and against such a decent field, there was no knowing how they would fare. The conditions were not good, a tough head wind off the start and very choppy into the final five hundred metres. The boys held a good pace throughout and coped with the conditions well. Finishing second behind a strong Llandaff crew and ahead of local school crews was a very promising result.
Division Two saw KES’ Nov 4+ (T. Wheeler, E. Craig, T. Wilcock, E. Rose, J. Mitchell) out again after their victory two weeks ago, with one change in their crew. They were up against different opposition this time. Said Hannah Crone, King Edward The Sixth Rowing Coach, “With the challenging conditions having worsened since the morning, the focus was on keeping it clean and steady. Again they coped well with the conditions and came away with their second win of the season.”
Following on behind the King Edward The Sixth School boys was Stratford’s first crew in the event. Racing in a men’s quadruple sculls event (four scullers) was a mixed male and female crew from Upton and Stratford clubs. The crew, which just missed out on a win at the prestigious fours event in London by two tenths of a second, was keen to bounce back from disappointment with a solid performance.
Chasing down a fast men’s Minerva crew, the Upton/Stratford crew found themselves in a tussle with a good Warwick men’s crew. The whole race became a consolidated effort to hold off the Warwick men’s crew and prevent them getting any closer. The very blustery headwind combined with a strong stream leading to choppy conditions increased the pressure on the more lightweight Upton/Stratford crew.
Digging deep, the Upton/Stratford crew worked extremely hard to give little away over the six kilometre course and crossed the line with only a few seconds lost to the Warwick crew over the twenty one minute race. Commenting, Tom Doherty, crew captain, said, “Finishing fourth of six in a men’s event and only ten seconds separating the top four crews including Upton/Stratford was a very good achievement of which the crew can be pleased!”
Also taking part in Worcester Rowing Club Main Head on Saturday were Stratford Boat Club’s Daytime/Off-Peak Rowers’ squad. Not only do crews have to race over a distance of six kilometres but the crews also have to row upstream four kilometres to the start, complete the six kilometre downstream race and then row back upstream for an additional two kilometres to return to the boating area!
Conditions were extremely challenging for all crews. High river flow together with an opposing wind which caused rough water conditions in all exposed areas of the river. The last two kilometres of the race, downstream of the clubhouse, were particularly challenging with an additional high swell. During the afternoon division, rain added to the already difficult conditions whilst the crews awaited the start of the race in the marshaling area, exposed to the elements.
The women’s crew of Daytime/Off-Peak rowers – Ruth Poulten (bow), Paola Ward, Clare Booth and Rona Fitzpatrick (stroke) – competed in their first race as a crew in the Women’s Masters Coxless Quad (W4x-) category. Having mastered the high river flow for the first part of the course, the crew passed the clubhouse spectator area at the four kilometre race distance. The crew were rowing very smoothly and efficiently, making good of the atrocious conditions, unaware of the challenging conditions that lay ahead of them for the remaining two kilometres! The crew completed the race and their time resulted in a first ever race win for the crew! Commenting on what was a fantastic result for the crew, Alfie Nash, squad coach said, “The crew are very deserving of their win in what were very challenging conditions. The crew maintained good position on the river and demonstrated a high level of resilience and skill.”
Also competing for Stratford Boat Club on this very cold day with blustery strong winds was Stratford’s WJ16 squad yet again proving their skill and power to beat the conditions and competition over the six kilometre downstream course on the river Severn.
The coxed four of Amalia Richardson, Harriet Noyes, Grace Beason, Kate Richardson coxed and steered expertly by Imogen Hill beat the novice crew from Birmingham by almost eight minutes recording a time of 22:38 minutes! Conditions for the final one kilometre could only be described as horrendous with strong winds creating waves cascading over the wave breaker on the four but Stratford battled on through to the finish.
The crew celebrated adding to their collection of “pots” by receiving a very attractive china tankard as reward for rowing four kilometres up to the start, freezing for over an hour waiting for the start then racing six kilometres at pace before rounding off with a two kilometre row back to the club to unload.
Commenting, Steve Marsden, J16 Coach, said, “Such are the joys of winter head racing! It was a particularly pleasing result as Grace had stepped in at very short notice in place of Maddie Hall who was unfortunately ill.”
For media coverage, see Stratford Herald online https://www.stratford-herald.com/sport/rowers-succeed-at-worcester-9240226 and page fifty two and Stratford Observer online https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-stratford-upon-avon-boat-club-triumph-at-worcester