The Bank Holiday Weekend saw the 2023 edition of the UK’s premier rowing event for junior athletes. Held on the Olympic Lake at Eton Dorney, the National Schools’ Regatta attracts the highest quality crews from schools and clubs from across the country. Day One of the three day regatta saw Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s J14 and J15 crews competing over a 1000m distance. First to go were the WJ14 coxed quadruple scull crew of Maeve Dunn, Becca Smith, Martha Baines, Sophie Franklin and Josephine Cooper (coxswain) who stormed the time trial to record the sixth fastest time of the fifty three crews entered. Later in the day the girls lined up in the A Final to come home sixth after a nip and tuck race with Molesey Boat Club. Next to go was the WJ15 coxed quadruple scull crew of Alice Jones, Alexandra Francis, Poppy Baines, Sophie Evans and Lucy Yang (coxswain) who delivered a solid time trial performance to earn themselves a place in the C Final. The girls delivered another great row to come out fourth in their final. Last down the 1000m course was the OpJ15 coxed quadruple scull crew of Ollie Rowlands, Seth Vondrak, Xavier Sissins-Roffey, Lily Warren and Meg Nuttall (coxswain). The crew scored the twenty eighth fastest time against tough opposition.
The final day saw of National Schools ‘Regatta saw Stratford Boat Club enter both the first and second WJ16 quad events. These were run as separate events for schools and clubs fortunate enough to have strength in depth to enter two competitive boats in the same category. The first quad crew with Esme Elfwood at stroke, Molly Vondrak, Scarlett Richardson and Aimee Appleton at bow came through the time trial to secure a place in the B final eventually finishing in twelfth position after a close contest all the way to the line against a crew from Yarm School in North Yorkshire. The second quad crew with Jessica Long at stroke, Lucy Sartain, Nancy Davis and Harriet Froom in the bow seat qualified third fastest in their time trial and rose to the occasion in their A final to produce a clean row and maintain third place, securing a bronze medal for Stratford. In doing so they recorded a very impressive time to finish within five seconds of the boat in silver medal position and ensure that Stratford Boat Club returned home with two WJ16 quads in the fastest fifteen boats at this premier national event.
On Saturday, Stratford entered Junior 17 Uchenna Nwachukwu in the Championship single scull event. Finishing thirty fifth out of forty nine in the time trial, Uche went on to the repechage where she won a place in the E final, but unfortunately had to pull out with a shoulder injury.
The Women’s Junior 17 coxed 4 of Amalia Richardson, Maddie Hall, Harriet Noyes, Kate Richardson and cox Imogen Hill entered the Championship event coming fourth out of twenty two in the time trial. They stuck to the race plan in their semi final finishing second to gain a favourable lane for the eight lane A final. Stratford made an excellent start holding third place at the 500 metre marker, by 1500m Shrewsbury School had pulled out one length when Stratford increased the pressure. By 250m to go, Stratford had reduced the deficit to half a length, then they went up another gear increasing the rate to draw level with Shrewsbury. In the last few strokes, the crews swapped the lead with each stroke, but Shrewsbury took the Bronze medal by the tightest of margins.
J17/18 Coach Sam Hill said, “Our target was to reach the A final at the National Schools’ Regatta this year, so to finish within half a second of a medal is a great achievement. We will be back next year!”
The J18 squad was represented on Sunday by Lucy Browne and Freya Watts in the Women’s Championship Double Sculls event. A lively time trial and placing of twenty second saw the duo qualify for the C final in the early afternoon. Despite the sunshine and moderate temperature, a strong northerly crosswind created harsh conditions for the double’s last ever national event as juniors. Nevertheless, Browne and Watts powered through the 2km course, with support from coach Abi Terry cycling alongside, to secure a strong sixth place, losing to the fifth placed crew by only a second.
Abi Terry, J17/18 Coach added “It was a great way for Lucy and Freya to finish their last National Schools Regatta, moving up on where they had placed in the time trial.”
For media coverage, please see Stratford Herald page forty five and Stratford Observer online https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-boat-club-juniors-win-bronze-at-national-schools-regatta and back sports page https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/editions/view/?/Stratford/2023/06/02&pages=024