Sunday saw the first resumption after lock down of the National Veteran Fours head of the river race in London on Sunday. The event held over the varsity boat race championship course but in the reverse direction from Mortlake to Putney, a distance of 4.25 miles. The head attracted a full field of 227 entries from across the country with competitors from 27 years of age up to 70.
Stratford upon Avon Boat Club was represented by Heather Hayton and Thomas Doherty rowing in a mixed quad (two blades each) with colleagues Tabatha and Julian Scrivener from Upton Rowing Club in the Masters’ E age group category (55 to 60 years).
The crew which has been training together over the past two months came to the Tideway on the back of a good win at Gloucester Head and were eagerly looking forward to the challenge of racing some of the best mixed quads in the country. With two past winners in their age group event from Maidenhead and Bewel Bridge/Tideway scullers and a quality Molesey crew making up the field the race was going to be a serious challenge.
Unusual benign conditions for the Tideway saw all 237 crews racing off at 10 second intervals: in a fast start for Upton/Stratford, the crew settled into a consistent 32/33 strokes per minute for the whole 4.5 mile course in an effort to keep their immediate competitors who were starting behind at a safe distance.
The Thames is never without its challenges and some blustery conditions around Barnes Bridge tested the technique of all racing crews. Settling into a fast hard rhythm keeping the boat speed split times continually below 1:40 for the whole course, Upton/Stratford crew began to pull away from Bewel/Tideway Scullers and Maidenhead and then had to focus on overtaking a number of men’s boats ahead of them as they proceeded down the course.
Lungs were burning by the time the crew reached Hammersmith Bridge but still more effort was required with the race far from finished. Chasing a very fast and ultimate younger age group event winner from Bridgnorth in a mixed quad just ahead of them, helped the crew to maintain the pace and effort all the way to a very welcome finish line by Putney Bridge.
The results when they came were both a pleasure and a pain for Stratford/Upton who after a very good row saw them finish 67th overall out of 237 entries and beating both previous age group winners Bewel Bridge/Tideway Scullers (23 mins.27.4sec) and Maidenhead (22 mins.33.9sec.), in a time of 22 mins. 2.3secs.
In a cruel twist of fate, Stratford/Upton were pipped for a medal by Molesey who finished in a time of 22mins.2. a mere two tenths of a second quicker over the 22 minute race!
Once the tears had died down, the crew was able to reflect on an excellent race having beaten amongst others over 15 means quad crews in similar or younger age groups representing all the big London Clubs.
Said Tom Doherty “We had an absolutely superb race and we couldn’t have done any more and the crew were superb .The boat has been getting faster and faster as the weeks have progressed and we will put our disappointment behind us and look ahead to further races with confidence!”
For media coverage, see Stratford Herald online https://www.stratford-herald.com/sport/duo-narrowly-miss-out-on-medal-9227202 and page fifty nine and Stratford Observer online https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/stratford-just-miss-out-on-medal-in-national-veteran-fours and back sports page: https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/editions/view/?/Stratford/2021/11/26&pages=032