Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s junior squad went in force to Stourport for British Rowing’s West Midlands Junior Championships. Making their debut in rowing competition, the eight boys and four girls who make up Stratford’s J13 squad came home with at least one medal each. The J13’s rowed the 1800m downstream course cheered on at the midway point at Stourport Boat Club and showed everybody how focused and determined they are. It was smiles all-round on the day for the J13s. The gold medal time was 8 minutes and 45 seconds. J13 Coach Hugo Happel said,” I’m so proud of these boys and girls. They have great spirit, attitude, belief and are just a joy to coach. They have a terrific bond with each other and that showed again today. What a super bunch! Thanks to the parents for helping out, it is much appreciated!”
The winter head season continued at the weekend for Stratford’s J14 squad at the West Midlands Junior Championships. The event presented the opportunity for the region’s junior rowers to be selected to represent West Midlands at the Junior Inter Regional Regatta in April. As a result, the spectators lining the banks of the Severn were treated to an excellent display of rowing and sculling. First to go for the J14 squad was the girls coxed quadruple scull of Bryony Francis, Maeve Dunn, Becca Smith, Tessa Parkin and Poppy Warren (coxswain). The crew demolished the course to win the event by forty five seconds and gain West Midlands jerseys in the process. Next to go were the three J14 girls double sculls of Isla Dunn and Sophie Franklin, Martha Baines and Mille Smith and Martha Cooke and Josephine Cooper. It was a nip and tuck affair as the crews raced under Stourport Bridge with the majestic Victorian arch willing crews onwards. Commenting, Steve Wellstead, J14 Coach and Junior Co-ordinator said, “In the final analysis, the Stratford Boat Club crews were placed second, third and fifth with a cigarette paper between them: accomplished rows from all!”
The day started early in Stourport for the J16 squad at the qualifying event for the chance to represent the West Midlands at the prestigious Junior Inter-Regional Regatta. The WJ16 doubles headed down the course first, facing strong competition from high level clubs in the region. All three boats rowed elegantly, with the pairing of Nancy Davis and Jess Long coming home in fifth, Harriet Froom and Eloise Cooper in fourth and Megan Rowan and Lucy Sartain in second, meaning they qualified to represent the West Midlands. Next up was Jamie Wilcock in the J16 singles who put in a well composed performance to finish sixth in a field of tough competition. On the heels of the WJ16’s were Lily Warren and Poppy Baines in the WJ15 double and Xavier Sissins-Rofey in the single sculls events. Although not qualifying to represent the West Midlands, both crews delivered an excellent performance, bronze medals for Warren and Baines and silver for Sissins-Rofey
After a strong start in the morning, first crew down the course for division two was the WJ16 coxless quad of Ez Elfwood, Molly Vondrak, Scarlett Richardson and Aimee Appleton. A clean start and some tidy sculling, they pushed on to win with a sub seven minute time, eleven seconds ahead of the home Stourport crew and well ahead of the trailing Kings School Worcester and Pengwern boats to qualify to represent West Midlands at the inter regional regatta. Following the quad was the J16 double of Jamie Wilcock and Will Dalrymple Baker who just missed out on a podium position after delivering a skilful performance. Up next representing the J15’s was the coxed quad of Theo Richter, Seth Vondrak, James Albrighton, Ollie Rowlands coxed by Meg Nuttall. Following on from their previous success at Stourport’s own head race, the J15 boys did not disappoint finishing one second against their nearest rivals and now move onto the Inter Regional Regatta. In hot pursuit was Alexandra Francis competing in the single sculls. Francis was competing against a formidable opponent from AB Severn who last year was awarded a gold medal at the British Rowing Championships. Francis finished just three seconds behind her opponent in silver medal position, a result which shows promise for the year ahead.
Finishing the day with a final singles race, Molly Vondrak, Lucy Sartain and Eloise Cooper went back out for one more run. Chasing each other, they pushed hard and finished with some strong times, Molly finishing fourth, Lucy just behind in sixth, and Eloise in eighth positions in a highly competitive field of eleven boats. Following on was the WJ15 quad with Poppy Baines, Lily Warren trying to repeat their previous placing along with Sophie Evans, Alice Jones and cox Lucy Yang. Despite every effort and up against stiff opposition the girls finished in fifth place.
Two members of the J17/18 squad also took on the familiar course at Stourport-on-Severn. Whilst they were not eligible for qualification for the Inter-Regional Regatta, Charles Happel and Toby Sartain competed in the J17 and J18 singles events respectively. Happel sculled superbly to bring home a confident win in his class, whilst Sartain also put up a good performance to finish third. In the afternoon division, they then combined to compete in the J18 doubles events, where in a field of strong crews they recorded a third place finish, rounding out a successful day.
For media coverage, see Stratford Herald page forty five and Stratford Observer online https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-boat-club-juniors-impress-at-west-midlands-junior-championships
For a selection of photographs see Kathy and Stuart Baines’ amazing album WMJRRC 2023