To close out the National competitions for the season, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s junior squad competed at the British Rowing Junior National Championships. This year’s edition proved more of an adventure than most with the selected venue being in Strathclyde in Scotland. Undeterred, Stratford fielded seventeen crews across the J14 to J18 age range into the event on Strathclyde Loch.
First to go from Stratford’s J14 squad was the coxed quadruple scull of Bryony Francis, Maeve Dunn, Martha Baines, Sophie Franklin and Isla Dunn (coxswain). A solid time trial performance secured the crew a place in the semi-final where a gutsy row earned them a place in the B-Final after a tussle with Calpe Rowing Club of Gibraltar. In the B Final, the crew led from the front and wowed the crowd with a dominant and confident row to take the win and seventh overall.
On Day Two of the regatta, it was the turn of the J14 single scull event with Maeve Dunn and Martha Cooke representing Stratford Boat Club. In a howling headwind both athletes demonstrated composure in both time trials and their finals to end the day in twentieth and twenty seventh places respectively in field of over forty competitors, a great result with quality opposition in their wake.
Day Three saw the WJ14 double scull event and another day of challenging conditions with a heavy tailwind demanding a change in technique to take full advantage. Stratford fielded three crews with the combinations of Martha Baines/Sophie Franklin, Millie Smith/Isla Dunn and Poppy Warren/Martha Cooke. The Baines/Franklin combination smashed the time trial to secure a spot in the A Final with Warren/Cooke and Smith/Dunn well on the pace in D and E Finals respectively. A tough lane draw in the A Final meant Martha and Sophie were unable to better their time trial result ending the day a superb sixth place nationally. Poppy and Martha delivered again to take third place in the D Final whilst Millie and Isla showed their grit and quality taking the race to the Tideway clubs in the E Final with a stonking win by just 1.5 seconds over the 1000m course.
Stratford’s J15 squad also headed north of the border to the British Rowing Junior Championships held at Strathclyde Country Park, Motherwell. Strathclyde Park is the only 200M multi-lane course in Scotland, built in 1986 for the Commonwealth Games and it hosts the Scottish Rowing Championships each year and more recently the 2018 European Rowing Championships.
Representing the Junior 15 girls on Day One were Alexandra Francis and Poppy Baines in the single sculls event. Despite the long delay at the start, both girls showed amazing determination and skill in their time trial, overcoming the gusty conditions and earning spots in the C and D finals. Francis finished second in her final, while Baines came sixth, both with impressive times.
Day Two saw Baines and Francis teamed up for the Junior Women’s double sculls event. They faced the Scottish weather with courage and resilience and made it to the D final, where they had a thrilling race and finished just behind Queen Elizabeth High School.
Also competing in this event were Lily Warren and Sophie Evans who had a fantastic row and gave their best effort but unfortunately missed out on a finals selection by a narrow margin.
Day Three saw Seth Vondrak made his debut in the single sculls event. Vondrak had a superb start and middle piece showing his talent and strength but the conditions on the day were very challenging and he did not qualify for the finals. However, he should be very proud of his performance and his participation in this prestigious event..
Gusty conditions welcomed the W16 2x to their time trial on Friday morning. Despite the winds, the double of V Vondrak and Aimee Appleton finished fifteenth securing a 3rd place spot in C final, followed by Lucy Sartain and Ez Elfwood who placed twenty firth and secured a D final race in a field of thirty seven competitors. Throughout the afternoon, conditions worsened but the racing continued in the pouring rain. In their final, the 2x of Sartain and Elfwood had a fast start and kept the pace throughout the race, pulling ahead of three other boats, earning them fourth place. They were followed by Vondrak and Appleton in the C final who gained momentum through the race and overtook close rivals from Lea RC to finish second, only 1.5 seconds off the winner over the 2000m course.
Windy conditions prevailed again for Sundays racing and the W16 4x- started with the time trial, finishing tenth in a field of seventeen very competitive boats, earning them fourth in the B final after a fabulous race. Semi finals were cancelled due to the weather conditions, so they proceeded straight to the finals. Off to a strong start, they held the line with the other boats. but with tricky conditions one of the crew caught a crab which stopped the boat and allowed the other boats to pull ahead. Showing real grit the girls quickly got back up to race pace and with the second fastest final 1000m, put their months of hard training to work to catch the pack, pulling ahead of local rivals Stourport to finish fifth in the last few metres of the race.
Also on Sunday, the OJ2x combination of Jamie Wilcock and William Dalrymple-Baker battled the rough conditions and placed a respectable twentieth place out of thirty seven competitors and qualifying for a place in the D final. A tightly bunched field highlighted the importance of marginal gains with over twenty crews finishing within eight seconds of each other over the seven minute course.
Four members of the J18 squad, Will Beattie, Tomi Wilcock, Charles Happel and Toby Sartain also travelled to Glasgow to compete in the annual British Rowing Junior Championships at Strathclyde Country Park. Friday saw all four boys competing together in the OJ18 coxless quads event, an event that took place over three rounds of side by side lane racing throughout the day. The first round saw them finish in eighth place out of thirteen competitors which moved them into a second round repêchage against three other boats in which they were placed in third place, fighting a strong headwind and heavy rain. This then put them into the B Final, in which they pushed hard and sculled well in similarly tough conditions to come home in fourth place, just missing out to the third placed crew by less than a second.
Saturday then saw Beattie and Wilcock compete together in the OJ18 doubles event, and in the first round time trial event they sculled excellently to place a highly respectable twenty first place out of thirty seven crews. Facing similarly tough weather conditions to the previous day, they then attacked the D Final and edged out a crew from Grosvenor Rowing Club to claim a well earned second place to conclude both a successful and enjoyable weekend for the squad.
For media coverage, please see Stratford Herald page forty four and online https://www.stratford-herald.com/sport/junior-rowers-head-north-for-nationals-9323323 also Stratford Observer online https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-boat-club-juniors-close-out-competitive-season-at-junior-national-championships and back sports page https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/editions/view/?/Stratford/2023/07/28&pages=32
For more great pictures of British Rowing Junior National Championships, see Kathy Baines’ excellent selection https://1drv.ms/f/s!AiW2DAyn9tg9j7J6BC78SySITB0ARg?e=d3IKSp