Glorious Weekend for Stratford’s Juniors!

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

Busy Coronation Weekend for Stratford & K.E.S. in Munich, Dorney Lake & Shrewsbury

Busy Coronation Weekend for Stratford & K.E.S. in Munich, Dorney Lake & Shrewsbury. Harriet Noyes won her first GB vest after a gruelling selection process that started in October 2022. After training hard over the winter at their home clubs, the athletes looked forward to Munich as this was the first opportunity to see how their junior crew measured up against international competition.

Rowing in a pair with Isadora Kennedy on Saturday, Harriet won a bronze medal in a very tight final finishing less than a second behind her teammates in the other GB boat.

On Sunday Harriet and her pair’s partner Isadora were entered in the Coxless Four event. They went out hard leading the field by over a length at the halfway marker. Gradually the Swiss crew started to reel them in as the second GB crew held on to third place. Harriet’s crew picked up the rate to 38 stroke per minute in the last 250 meters to take the gold medal by half a length.

Sam Hill, Harriet’s J17/18 Coach at Stratford said, “Munich has proved to be a remarkable international debut for Harriet and we hope she can continue to represent GB U19s through the summer regatta season.”

Commenting further, Dawson Curnock, Stratford Boat Club’s Chairman said, “The whole Club would like to firstly send massive congratulations to Harriet on her outstanding performances in Munich: we are more than proud of her. Furthermore, congratulations also need to go to her coaches at Stratford upon Avon for matching her goals with their expertise to facilitate the opportunity to get to row for GBR along with her crew at the Club as well. Nor must we not also forget her crew members at Munich, thank you for looking after Harriet, pulling together when it matters, greater together! Lastly, thank you to Team GBR for giving Harriet this great chance: she will not let you down!”

Also finishing off the Coronation weekend were two members from Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s Mixed Ability/Adaptive squad who attended Shrewsbury Sprint Regatta.

Commenting, Mark Dewdney, Stratford’s Head Adaptive Coach said, “After three event cancellations, it was relief to get two members of the squad competing. Unfortunately, many of the large boat club adaptive squads may have to wait to June to make their regatta season debut.”

Andy Morris’s final in the PR3 (limb) singles’ event was against a sculler from Runcorn: the Runcorn man started slightly better than his Stratford opponent and established a small early lead. However, Andy’s more polished technique and race experience soon began to tell. By halfway, Andy had passed the Runcorn competitor. He consistently built on his lead and won the race by about three lengths.

Jake Blatcher in the Open singles mainstream event raced a Shrewsbury local Pengwern competitor in his final. Unfortunately, a rather untidy first hundred metres put him well behind: a deficit he was not able to claw back on the 600m course. It was a good performance spoilt by the start in the final. Jake is due to compete again at Monmouth in three weeks’ time.

Also over the Coronation weekend on Sunday, Stratford Boat Club’s sister club King Edward VI School Boat Club departed Stratford at 06.00hrs and headed to Dorney Lake to compete in the Ball Cup South Regatta. The original Ball Cup Challenge was founded by K.E.S. in 1934 so this regatta is a big one for the school. It is now held over the last 750m of the 2km Olympic lake.

K.E.S. took a squad of fourteen athletes entered across six different events. First up were the J18 double sculls: this event consisted of three heats where the fastest six crews across the board qualified for the final. K.E.S.’s A crew of Tomi Wilcock and Ed Rose rowed in the second heat and had a good start, taking an early lead, they paced the race well maintaining a lively rate and crossed the line first. In the third heat the B crew of Tom Beard and Rafa MacDonald had a steady start and settled into a good pace and started to pick up in the last 150m but it wasn’t quite enough and finished in second place. The times were out almost immediately and it was pleasing to see both crews had qualified for the final in first and fourth positions. An hour later, both crews boated for their final, Tomi and Ed in Lane Three and Tom and Rafa in Lane Five. Tom and Rafa had a superb start taking an early lead but unfortunately couldn’t hold the pace as the faster crews settled into their rhythm and steadily went ahead. Tom and Ed had a good start and settled again into a nice lively rhythm really pushing the other crews: their final sprint saw them pulling away to take the win over Itchen Imperial and Radnor College with Tom and Rafa finishing in fourth place.

Up next was the Girls Ball Cup 4+ event. The K.E.S. crew of Imogen Hill, Lucy Browne, Maddie Hall, Kate Richardson and Amalia Richardson (cox) were a scratch crew having only had one outing in this combination. They went off the start cautiously but quickly and soon found themselves in the lead in this straight final of three boats. They soon settled in and had found their rhythm, looking neat they gradually pulled away from the crews from Sydenham High School and Cambridge City to take the win and claim the trophy!

Ten minutes later was the J18 4x of Tomi Wilcock, Tom Wheeler, Tom Beard and Ed Rose. Another straight final with some stiff competition from the likes of Whitgift School and Globe Rowing Club. The boys had a strong start and kept up the pace throughout: they were just squeezing out in front when unfortunately they clipped the buoys and one of the crew caught their blade under the water and this saw them drop almost to last place. With the adrenaline now flowing, they absolutely flew back into contention but unfortunately didn’t have enough course left and came home in bronze medal position finishing just 0.4 seconds behind silver.

In the third division of the day, Tom Wheeler went out to race in the J18 1x sculls: this was a packed event with three heats, the same format as the doubles earlier in the day. Tom’s second race in the single, he started well and sculled professionally throughout, pushing on into the last 150m. He finished fourth in his heat: unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to see him through to the final finishing eighth overall.

Finally it was the turn of the Boys Ball Cup fours with a straight final between K.E.S. A crew of Tomi Wilcock, Tom Beard, Rafa Macdonald, Ed Rose and Imo Hill and K.E.S. B crew of David Shilvock, Tom Woodcock, Milo Cullimore, Joe Warner and Kate Richardson. The A crew had a fantastic row in almost perfect conditions to take a convincing win, beating the winning time from last year’s regatta. For three of the B crew, this was their second ever race with the whole crew having only started rowing in September. They had a good row and it was a fantastic experience for them and they will be back next year to take the win!

Commenting, Hannah Crone, Head of Rowing at King Edward VI School, “Overall, a great day for K.E.S. Boat Club, claiming a total of five medals from seven crews!”

For media coverage, see Stratford Observer online https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-busy-coronation-weekend-for-stratford-in-munich-dorney-lake-and-shrewsbury, Stratford Herald page fifty five and British Rowing https://www.britishrowing.org/2023/05/gb-junior-rowers-bring-home-a-flurry-of-medals-from-munich-international-junior-regatta-2023

Stratford’s Juniors & K.E.S. Excel at Schools’ Head of the River and Masters’ at Vesta International Masters Head of the River Race

On Friday, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s J17/18 squad travelled to London and the Schools’ Head of the River to take on the revered Thames Tideway, the venue for the Oxford/Cambridge boat race.

The squad competed in the highly competitive Championship quads event which hosted fifty one of the country’s best junior boys’ boats. On the unfamiliar and challenging course that stretches for nearly 7km through West London, the crew of Will Beattie, Tomi Wilcock, Charles Happel, and Toby Sartain sculled with confidence and came home in a strong thirty nineth place ahead of eleven high level crews.

Also at the Schools’ Head was King Edward VI School Boat Club with their unmatched string of victories including their recent success at the West Midlands Championship and now they pulled off another decisive win on the Thames.

The Mixed Eight of Amalia Richardson, Maddie Hall, Tom Wheeler, Rafa Macdonald, Tom Beard, Ed Rose, Harriet Noyes, Kate Richardson and Imogen Hill set an impressive new course record of 19:30 minutes over the 6.8 kilometer Thames Championship Course. Setting off with a strong pace though Chiswick Bridge at a rate of 32 strokes per minute and maintaining this all the way to Barnes Bridge, on the straight to Chiswick Eyot coxswain Imogen Hill took the perfect racing line as the K.E.S. crew picked up the pace. Hot on the heels of Westminster School and overtaking the hosts of the event passing under Hammersmith Bridge, K.E.S. continued to extend their lead past Fulham Football ground to the finish at Putney Bridge.

K.E.S. Captain of Boats, Ed Rose said, “We had it under control for the entire race and I have to agree with the commentator who broadcast – “It looks like good fun”! It feels great to have won this national event giving K.E.S grounds for optimism for the upcoming summer season. Our thanks go to Stratford upon Avon Boat Club for their support in getting us to this event!”

Also at the weekend, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club secured an impressive victory at the Vesta International Masters’ Head of the River Race on Sunday in the Women’s D eights category. The brand-new composite crew, which included members from seven European clubs, completed the Championship course in an impressive 20:02 minutes, and finished as the fourth fastest women’s crew overall.

After the race, Suzie Radley, who represented Stratford, remarked that it was an honour to compete on this historic stretch of the Thames and to witness so many masters crews putting in their best effort. She also expressed her delight at her team’s triumph, stating, “We were thrilled with our win.”

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald page fifty two and Stratford Observer on line https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-stratford-juniors-and-kes-excel-at-schools-head-of-the-river-in-london and back sports page https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/editions/view/?/Stratford/2023/03/24&pages=032

STELLA WEEKEND FOR BOAT CLUB’S JUNIOR AND ADAPTIVE ATHLETES!

The Women’s Eights Head of the River Race is the largest rowing event in the world run for women. Three hundred and twenty crews took to the water on Saturday 5th March to race the 6.8 kilometres from Mortlake to Putney on the ebb tide taking on the most challenging of courses for rowers and coxes.

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club entered Freya Watts, Lucy Brown, Amalia Richardson, Maddie Hall, Uchenna Nwachukwu, Leah Saunders, Harriet Noyes, Kate Richardson and coxswain Imogen Hill in Stratford Boat Club’s distinctive yellow Empacher VIII. Not only was this event the first time they had rowed on the infamous Tideway but it was also their first competition in the eight so there was no shortage of adrenalin in the boat as they rowed up stream to the start!

Run as a time trial, the boats set off in single file and Imogen left a generous gap to the crew in front so that Stratford had clear water for the first part of the race. As they shot through Barnes Bridge, they had gelled really well and settled into a strong rhythm. Well clear of the crew behind, they had a clear run up to Chiswick Eyot closing on the crews in front. As they approached Hammersmith Bridge, Stratford caught Cranford School and after several “polite requests” and robustly holding her line in the fast water, Imogen persuaded their cox to move over!

With 2k to go, the girls dug in for the toughest part of the race, the final run down past Craven Cottage football ground to the Black Buoy. Up went the rate for one final push and they were home in a time 21 minutes 47 seconds placing them 119 overall.

Commenting, Coach Sam Hill said, “Yet again, the squad have risen to the occasion and produced a superb result with the help of Leah Saunders who joined us from Evesham Rowing Club for the event and fitted into the boat so well.”

Earlier that weekend, Stratford Boat Club adaptive member Isaac Clarkson joined nearly 2000 other young people at the Copper Box Arena in London for the National Junior Indoor Rowing Championships. Held at The Copper Box Arena in the Olympic Park in London, the atmosphere was fantastic as clubs and schools from around the country battled it out on the ergos (indoor rowing machines). The competition is also simultaneously in a new venue as NJIRC North in Leeds.

This was Isaac’s first live event and he managed to come away with a personal best which put him in the upper half of 267 entrants. He also fought through an equipment snag to finish fifth in the Year Eight SEND category.

Said Mark Dewdney, Stratford Boat Club’s Head Adaptive Coach, “A lot of fun had, some lessons learned and a whole lot of determination to go back even stronger next year! We are very proud of Isaac who is our youngest adaptive member and has made amazing progress not only on the ergos but also sculling each week on the water: an example to us all of true grit and determination!”

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald page forty four and Stratford Observer back sports page and online at https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-stratford-enter-crew-in-womens-eights-head-of-the-river-race and https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/editions/view/?/Stratford/2023/03/10&pages=032

Stratford’s Juniors Conquer The Severn!

On Sunday, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club junior squads went in force to Stourport Winter Head: the J17/18 squad started the day with singles’ events, which featured Will Beattie and Toby Sartain in the J18 category and Charles Happel in the J17 category. Beattie sculled to his usual high standard, finishing strongly to win the event and was followed down the course by Sartain who crossed the line in second place to round out a 1-2 finish for Stratford. Happel came next and sculled to a similar high standard also to claim second place in his event. Next up was the WJ18 pair of Amalia Richardson and Kate Richardson who, despite being relatively new to the pairs event, rowed proficiently and came home in first place. Finally, the afternoon division saw the two J18 doubles of Will Beattie and Tomi Wilcock and Charles Happel and Toby Sartain take on the 4km course: Beattie and Wilcock set off first sculling typically well on their way to win the event just ahead of Happel and Sartain who also sculled confidently to complete an excellent overall performance for the squad in second place.

For Stratford’s J16 squad, the morning division saw the coxless quad of Aimee Appleton, Scarlett Richardson, Molly Vondrack with Megan Rowan in the stroke seat put on an impressive display of sculling to beat the home Stourport boat by 12.5 seconds and take first place. In the afternoon three doubles of Lucy Sartain and Jess Long, Eloise Cooper and Nancy Davis, Ez Elfwood and Harriet Froom all competed to a very high standard and finished with seven seconds of each other over the 4k course. In the end it was Elfwood and Froom who missed out on a second place by just 1 second to take 3rd with Sartain and Long 0.8sec behind them followed by Cooper and Davis. Finally, Jamie Wilcock competed in the singles event and was in the lead at the halfway stage before a collision caused him to lose time and finish second overall.

For the J14 and J15 squads, the weekend saw the Stratford upon Avon Boat Club athletes from across the age ranges compete on the Severn in the “Blackpool of the Black Country, Stourport-on-Severn”! The 4000m course running with the stream presented a good opportunity for all to display the fruits of their winter training over a longer distance. Conditions on the day were superb with a light breeze and sunshine threatening to make an appearance on occasion.

In Division One, Stratford’s J14s fielded two WJ14 double sculls combinations. The crew of Josephine Cooper and Sophie Franklin powered down the course in style to finish over a minute ahead of Avon County Rowing Club and Evesham Rowing Club. The win however was taken by Maeve Dunn and Bryony Francis by a margin of just three seconds with a superb performance. The J15 squad fielded a coxed four into the event but, without opposition in their age range, took on senior crews. The crew of  Theo Richter, Seth Vondrak, Xavier Sissins-Roffey, Oliver Rowlands and James Albrighton (coxswain) thundered down the course to take the win in emphatic style.

In Division Two, the WJ14 coxed quadruple scull of Sophie Warren, Isla Dunn, Becca Smith, Martha Cooke and Josephine Cooper (coxswain) delivered a stonking row to take the win over quality opposition from Trentham Boat Club and Hereford Cathedral School.  The quadruple scull event was followed by the toughest event of the day by far, the single sculls. Testing themselves, representing Stratford were the J14 girls of Martha Baines, Tessa Parkin and Millie Smith. Dicing with strong competition from around the area, they recorded a creditable eighth, fifth and sixth respectively. Commenting, Steve Wellstead, J14 Coach and Junior Co-ordinator said, “No mean feat over the 4000m course so early in their rowing careers. No doubt, these athletes will return to the Severn in the coming years!”

Representing the J15 squad in the women’s double sculls, the powerhouse duo of Alexandra Francis and Poppy Baines provided a show for the assembled crowd with a textbook row, taking the win by a comfortable margin, In the women’s J15 coxed quadruple sculls event, the crew of Sophie Evans, Meg Nuttall, Alice Jones, Lily Warren and Lucy Yang (coxswain) delivered a solid row chasing Ross Rowing Club all the way to achieve a fourth place.

Joining their Stratford colleagues, King Edward The Sixth School Boat Club also headed to Stourport Head. First up in the morning division was the J18 4+ of T. Wilcock, R. Macdonald, T. Wheeler, T. Beard and I. Hill (cox) they were racing in the open men’s category and put in a great performance to see off crews from Warwick BC and Trentham RC to take the win.

The afternoon division saw a debut for our J16 4x of W. Dalrymple-Baker, H. Hoare, A. Mathers and M. Cullimore, three of whom only start rowing in September. Said Hannah Crone, KES Coach, “This was their first race and the aim was to row well and enjoy it: the boys put in a fantastic performance to take the win over Evesham Rowing Club.”

Next up was our WJ18 4+ of A. Richardson, T. Dunn, M. Hall, K. Richardson and I. Hill (cox) again racing in the senior category. Despite a last minute substitution due to injury, the girls had a good row and came out on top ahead of Evesham Rowing Club and Trentham Rowing Club. This topped off a great day for King Edward The Sixth School Boat Club coming home with three wins from three crews.

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald page forty four and Stratford Observer online https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-stratfords-juniors-conquer-the-severn

For more great pictures of Stourport Winter Head, see Kathy and Stuart Baines’ excellent selection at https://onedrive.live.com/?authkey=%21AOAm%5FWXXHbdtI6M&id=8E50DAC120123B06%2190130&cid=8E50DAC120123B06

Stratford Sets The Thames Alight!

Saturday saw the opening head race of the new season on the Thames in Oxfordshire. Wallingford Long Distance Sculls, held over 4.25km, attracts top level scullers from around the region with Stratford fielding crews across the age range. Stratford’s J14 squad raced in the short course event for their head racing debut: it was to be an all Stratford affair with no other J14 coxed quadruple sculls entered. Undeterred, the Stratford girls took the competition by the horns with the crew of Martha Cooke, Maeve Dunn, Poppy Warren, Bryony Francis and Isla Dunn (coxswain) leading the way down the course being chased by Millie Smith, Tessa Parkin, Josephine Cooper, Martha Baines and Sophie Franklin (coxswain).  In the final analysis, it was Sophie’s crew who took the win with just ten seconds separating the two crews over the eight minute course.

The J15’s raced in their first long distance event: the boys crew of James Albrighton, Xavier Sissins-Rofey, Seth Vondrak, Ollie Rowlands, and Lucy Yang (coxswain) were one of the first crews down the course and finished second in their age group losing out to a local crew. Following the boys in hot pursuit were Sophie Evans, Alexandra Francis, Lily Warren, Alice Jones and Poppy Baines (coxswain). The girls were challenged from the start due to the loss of their rudder: undeterred, Baines ensured her crew navigated the course without further incident finishing fourth in their age group.

The J16 squad started the day with the women’s coxless quad of Esme Elfwood, Eloise Cooper, Nancy Davis and Harriet Froom. New to coxless racing at J16, they steered a good course, rowing a tidy race to finish fourth from a field of eight. Next down the course in the Open Double category were Jamie Wilcock and Will Dalrymple-Baker putting up a strong performance to finish a very respectful third.

In the afternoon division, the women’s doubles started with Lucy Sartain and Aimee Appleton who, following an incident with a rogue boat that caused them to stop, powered on to finish fourth. They were closely followed by Jessica Long and Megan Rowan who showed great form to finish seventh. Rounding off the day were Scarlett Richardson and Molly Vondrak in the highly competitive singles event, both displaying great technical ability and strength with Richardson finishing eighth and Vondrak securing the win by a good margin with an under twenty minute time.

The J17 and J18 squad began the day with the two Open J18 doubles of Tomi Wilcock and Charles Happel and Will Beattie and Toby Sartain. Wilcock and Happel set off first, delivering a convincing performance to finish in first place. Beattie and Sartain followed them down the course, rowing well and coming home happy in third place with what they described as the best they could have achieved. Next came Freya Watts in the Open Women’s single event who sculled confidently to finish in sixth place in a competitive field. Just behind her came Harriet Noyes, Amalia Richardson and Grace Beason, all in the WJ17 singles event, who finished in second, fifth and twenty second places respectively, rounding out a strong showing for the squad in the singles

In the afternoon division, Beattie, Wilcock, Happel and Sartain raced in the Open J18 quads event. They set off well, catching the boat ahead, however trouble struck before halfway as an equipment failure caused them to have to stop, losing a lot of time before they could get moving again demoting them to seventh position from what could have been a much better result. The last race for the squad was the Open Women’s quad of Watts, Beason, Noyes and Richardson. They too set off assuredly, rowing neatly and consistently in another competitive event. They came across the line in an excellent sixth after a long day of intense racing.

Whilst the junior squad were recovering from their successes at Wallingford, Sunday saw Stratford upon Avon Boat Club Masters head off to London for the national Pairs Head of the River race. Held over the famous Tideway varsity boat race course on the Thames over 4.5km, for two crew boats in pairs [one oar each rowers], and doubles [two oars], the event attracted over 330 competitors from across the country. Stratford Boat Club were represented by Ed Lewry and Nick Sartain racing in Open Club Doubles and Heather Hayton and Tom Doherty racing in Mixed Masters’ Doubles.

First Stratford crew off on the day was Heather Hayton and Tom Doherty, the thirtieth boat to start. With conditions considerably more benign than on the previous day, the crew were able to settle into their race plan and chase down the much fancied Walton mixed crew starting in front of them.

Pulling away from some of their immediate competitors starting behind, they managed to open a gap and settled down to chase Walton, managing to maintain their starting distance to them for the first half of the course. The second half of the race saw them working to push away from a number of crews starting just behind including previous winners Upton and Mosley.

At the end of the race the crew failed to catch Walton rowing strongly over the second half of the course who finished a magnificent eighty sixth overall with the third fastest woman in the whole event in their boat. Although they failed to catch Walton, the crew held off and pushed away from the crews behind to finish in a time of 15mins 21 sec, one hundred and fifty third overall and second in their event.

The best was yet to come however with Ed Lewry and Nick Sartain: starting in one hundred and thirty third position in the middle of a strong pack of crews including the GB/Leander crew of Dawson/Rossiter, the crew settled into an early rhythm and were able to use their power and fitness to row through a number of crews down the course. A very strong finish as they approached Hammersmith Bridge saw them close on several other crews finishing in a magnificent time of 14 mins and 11 secs for a fantastic overall finish position of thirty second and third in their event.

Said Heather Hayton afterwards, “We were very pleased with our race keeping the boat speed at 1.44/500m splits for the whole course and left nothing in the tank at the end, finishing only five seconds behind our quad crewmates and event winners Upton and four seconds behind big rivals Molesey: however, the biggest cheer of the day  must go to Ed and Nick for their magnificent achievement which made for a great days racing.”

For media coverage, please see Stratford Herald page fifty eight and Stratford Observer online https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-stratford-start-new-season-in-style

Stratford’s Juniors Clean Up At Henley!

The weekend’s Henley Town & Visitors regatta was to host pulsating performances by the young ladies from Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s J15 squad. Racing over 800 metres of the famous Henley Royal Regatta course, the ladies demonstrated their devastating sculling skills, honed on the river Avon, to their opponents from home clubs on the river Thames.

In the morning the quadruple sculling crew of Scarlett Richardson, Megan Rowan, Jessica Long and Harriet Froom coxed supremely by Nancy Davis annihilated a Wallingford crew by more than three lengths to earn each crew member a lovely engraved pewter tankard.

Later in the day, two double sculling crews of Aimee Appleton partnered by Molly Vondrak and Scarlett Richardson with Nancy Davis took on the mighty Henley Rowing Club and Wallingford Rowing Club respectively. Both crews sculled well, demolishing Henley by five lengths and Wallingford by over three lengths to bring both Stratford crews to the final. In what was the best race of the day, both crews sculling out of their skins were neck and neck all the way down the course. As they approached the finish the crowd was on its feet to witness Scarlett and Nancy winning by just one foot!

The regatta on Thames treated Stratford upon Avon Boat Club athletes to very kind weather on Saturday: not too hot with a fair breeze down the course at least to start the day with the breeze strengthened during the afternoon.

Stratford Boat Club WJ16 ladies were entered into an open category meaning they were to scull against adult ladies in a coxless quad. Not daunted, the junior crew of Amalia Richardson, Harriet Noyes, Maddie Hall and Kate Richards faced up to a crew from Walton Rowing Club in their first race. Sculling with great energy over the 800m course beating Walton by one and a half lengths in a time of three minutes and thirty five seconds. This was a great race and qualified them to meet a composite crew from Upper Thames Rowing Club and Wycliffe Rowing Club in the final.

In the final, the Stratford crew got off to an excellent start but gradually Upper Thames and Wycliffe pulled away to a two length lead in the mid course which was pulled back to finish to only one and a half lengths ahead at the finish. Commenting Steve Marsden, J16 Coach said, “A valiant effort against a very experienced crew.”

First to race for Stratford’s WJ 17/18 squad was Elisabeth Edwards in the Women’s Single Sculls. Racing against two highly experienced scullers from Upper Thames RC and University College London, Edwards had a rough start but soon recovered and settled into a clean and tidy rhythm down the course. A final sprint in the last 200m narrowed the gap between the other scullers but she ultimately ran out of time to catch them. Said Helen Smith J17/18 Coach, “Despite this, Elisabeth looks forward to her next race in a few weeks’ time, where she hopes to better Saturday’s result.”

For media coverage, please see Stratford Herald page forty three

Stratford Boat Club Regatta: Covid Comeback!

The weather could have been better but great participation from crews local and further afield from Evesham Rowing Club, Worcester Rowing Club, AB Severn Rowing Club (Tewkesbury), Cheltenham College, Dragon School Boat Club, King Edward The Sixth Boat Club, King’s School Worcester Boat Club, Magdalen College School Boat Club, Nottingham and Union Rowing Club, Ross Rowing Club and Worcester Royal Grammar School as well as major entries from Stratford upon Avon Boat Club. The regatta this year had three divisions and one hundred and sixty three separate races starting at 08.30 and running all day through until a close at 17.45hrs!

Dan Warren, Stratford Boat Club’s Regatta Secretary said, “This year we were very heartened again by the huge turn out from local and distant clubs and the interest from the public. A massive thanks to all our hard working Stratford Boat Club members, visiting crews, umpires and officials and especially the public for supporting the event. We were especially honoured to have Stratford upon Avon Town Council Mayor Gill Cleeve attend our regatta.”

Colin Davies, Regatta Water Team Lead commented. “It was a long day’s racing: our tea tent was extremely busy dispensing dozens of cakes and snacks. What a magnificent day topped by great racing! We decided to stay with the shortened 500 metre sprint course to ensure the safety of all the competitors and river users: we ran the regatta under very tight protocols. We were especially grateful for the help and tolerance of those operators who work and make their living on the river.”

Commenting on the J13’s squad’s successes at the regatta, Steve Wellstead J13 Coach and Junior Co-Ordinator said, “Our home regatta brought more high quality racing from Stratford’s J13 squad to the calm waters of the Avon.” First to take to the course was the coxed quadruple scull crew of Martha Cooke, Millie Francis, Sophie Franklin, Isla Dunn and Bryony Francis (coxswain). The girls made short work of the first round but then faced a quality crew from Nottingham & Union Rowing Club in the final. The quality of the Stratford crew shone to take the win by a solid three lengths and the first pots of the day. Next down the river was the double sculls event where Cara Berisford-Murray and Poppy Warren dispatched Evesham to face another Stratford crew of Tessa Parkin and Josephine Cooper. Great sculling from both crews wowed the Stratford crowd with Cara and Poppy the eventual winners.

In the single scull event, two J13 Stratford scullers took to the water. With a bye in the first round, Maeve Dunn had to wait whilst Bryony Francis raced. After a nail biting run down the course, Bryony was pipped to the post by just one length leaving Maeve to fly the Stratford flag. Maeve bravely faced a formidable sculler from AB Severn and made the AB athlete work hard for all of the 500m with the final margin being four lengths to AB Severn.

For the J14s it was a chance to try out some new crew combinations, starting with Alice Jones racing in the J14 single for the first time this year. After a strong start, both boats were neck and neck, with the sculler from Nottingham and Union inching away in the second half of the race to take the win by less than two lengths. Next up were the boys coxed quadruple scull crew of Theo Richter, Seth Vondrak, Xavier Sissins, Ollie Rowland and James Albrighton (cox). A powerful start put them well up on their opposition, however a boat malfunction soon after forced them to row a man down giving Magdalen College the upper hand to take the win.

Next up for the J14’s were the girls’ coxed quadruple scull of Meg Nutall, Sophie Evans, Lily Warren, Lucy Yang and Alexandra Francis (cox). In a nail biting race against a strong crew from Evesham, Stratford really showed their skill resulting in a photo finish where Evesham took the win by one foot. In the afternoon James Albrighton and Alexandra Francis took to the water in the open J14 double scull, winning their first two races against solid crews. In the final Stratford were fiercely holding off the Nottingham and Union crew until they caught a boat stopping crab where the opposition squeezed past them to take the win. In addition Sophie Evans generously stepped into a J14 double sculls on the day with a rower from Worcester, Roxie. With Sophie taking the bow seat, they comfortably won both two races to get them to the final. In the final, the Worcester/Stratford composite took the lead from the start and held it down the course to take the win.

The WJ15 1x event saw Aimee Appleton rowing a fantastic first race against her formidable Nottingham & Union opposition and beating her by three lengths with fine technique. Sadly, Lucy Sartain lost her first race against the eventual winner from AB Severn and Eloise Cooper had a capsize shortly after the start.

In the WJ15 2x event, Jessica Long and Nancy Davis showed great technique over the sprint course but lost by three lengths to a very powerful AB Severn crew who would take the overall win later on. In the OJ15 2x event, Jamie Wilcock and Will Dalrymple-Baker were drawn against their nemesis from Evesham Rowing Club. They rowed well and came half a length short.

Following this, the WJ15 4x+ semi-final event saw Scarlett Richardson, Molly Vondrak, Megan Rowan and Esmerelda Elfwood, coxed by Lucy Sartain having a poor start followed by catching a bad crab from which they recovered well and then showed grit and determination but ended up losing by two lengths to the winning finalists from AB Severn.

Stratford’s J16 competition started with Charles Happel  competing against a single sculler from Magdalen College: Charles sculled energetically with stroke precision to cruise home with a four length advantage. His next race proved to be more of a challenge against another sculler from Magdalen. Charles sculled a valiant race but lost out by two lengths. In the afternoon it was the turn of the WJ16 double crew of Grace Beason and Charlotte Isbel who, after a lengthy delay, rowed against a very experienced Evesham doubles crew in their doubles finals race having benefitted from a bye to the final: success eluded Stratford this time despite a spirited and technically good performance losing just by four lengths.

The day started early for the J17/18 squad with Will Beattie and Tomi Wilcock competing in the Open J18 doubles event, one of the first races to set off. They beat crews from Magdalen College and Worcester Rowing Club comfortably in the heats and finished two lengths ahead of the anticipated King Edward The Sixth Boat Club crew in the final to bring home the win. Bella Chappelhow and Honour Keil raced in the Women’s J18 doubles just missing out on the final in their heat against Worcester Grammar School, a crew that went on to win the event. The story was the same for the other girls double of Fleur Griffiths and Harriet Holmes who, despite steering an expert line, also finished just short of the final. The girls’ quad of Freya Watts, Ruby Howells, Amelie Sartain and Lucy Browne raced a straight final against Worcester Grammar School in the Women’s J18 coxless quads event, rowing to a mid-afternoon victory. The final effort of the day came from Toby Sartain in the Open J18 singles event where his competitor’s dubious steering contributed to him just missing out on the final. Alongside racing, J17/18 squad each helped the umpires in their role throughout the day where their assistance was much appreciated.

Meanwhile away at Henley Women’s Regatta, Stratford’s WJ16 four of Amalia Richardson, Maddie Hall, Harriet Noyes, Kate Richardson and coxswain Imogen Hill entered The West End Cup. Stratford rowed with great skill to finished ninth out of twenty crews in the time trial just missing the top eight to progress to the knockout stage of the regatta. J16 coach Sam Hill said, “Henley Women’s Regatta attracts the best crews from clubs and schools across the UK, so to finish in the top half of the time trial is an excellent result!”

Also on the river at Henley Women’s Regatta were some of Stratford Boat Club’s alumna – Talei Dunn and Hermione Hill (Durham), Molly Gill-Swift (Exeter) and Katie Wellstead (Oxford) competing for their respective universities.

Saturday’s busy regatta will be followed by the Club’s Fun Regatta on Saturday 09 July where the Club give crews from local companies, clubs and organisations three hours training, a boat and an experienced cox.

Paul Stanton, Stratford Boat Club’s President said, “Although we weren’t blessed with good weather for the regatta, there were still crowds watching the racing adding much to Stratford’s atmosphere and vitality: we were glad to showcase our sport and demonstrate our part in the success of our town! The support of our sponsors is much appreciated especially from our headline sponsor Stratford Self Store as is the tolerance and help from the other river users and colleagues.”

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald online https://www.stratford-herald.com/sport/gallery-regatta-returns-with-a-bang-despite-the-rain-9260166 and Stratford Observer https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-stratford-upon-avon-boat-clubs-junior-sprint-regatta-round-up and https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-stratford-upon-avon-boat-club-host-successful-junior-sprint-regatta: also see Stratford Observer back sports page https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/editions/view/?/Stratford/2022/06/24&pages=024

For The Herald’s pictures of the regatta, see https://www.stratford-herald.com/_media/img/749×0/XFZHHK000DN7B5TQNQB1.jpg

Silver Glory for Stratford’s J16 Juniors!

The National Schools’ Regatta is the largest and most exciting regatta junior race calendar in Great Britain. The regatta attracts crews from over three hundred and fifty clubs and schools with over five thousand competitors. It is the premiere junior regatta in the country. With racing for ten hours per day, exciting closely matched rounds and finals, this is the regatta where you will see future Olympic Champions start out! … and Stratford upon Avon Boat Club juniors were there in force!

Returning to Dorney Lake near Windsor, the Junior 14’s were welcomed by sunshine, a marked improvement from their previous attendance at the 2012 Olympic venue where they had previously competed in torrential rain!

The boys crew of Seth Vondrak, Xavier Sissins-Roffey, James Albrighton, Oliver Rowlands and cox Theo Richter were first to face the time trial raced over the 1000M course. After an unsettled start, the boys soon got into their rhythm and delivered a solid row. Despite a valiant effort, the boys missed out on selection for the finals by eight seconds. Following hot on their heels were the girls’ crew of Alexandra Francis, Poppy Baines, Sophie Evans, Alice Jones, and cox Meg Nuttall. Another solid performance by the girls resulted in selection for the B final. Crossing the finish line in fourth place delivered an outcome of tenth out of thirty-six competing crews. The squad are looking forward to competing at the British Rowing Junior Championships at the National Water Sports Centre in July.

Competing at NSR for the first time, the coxed WJ15 quad of Harriet Froom (cox), Lucy Sartain, Molly Vondrak, Scarlett Richardson and Aimee Appleton (bow) rowed a superb 1000m in the time trial with a top twenty finish in a gargantuan entry of sixth nine crews, 15.7 seconds off the top crew and three seconds away from a B Final. Their time was faster than Thames Scullers A, Kingston, Lea Rowing Club, Fulham Reach Kings School Chester, Henley E and many more. Commenting Hugo Happel, J16 Coach said, “Terrific result, great work ethic and a great foundation to build on!”

The J16’s entered Amalia Richardson, Maddie Hall, Harriet Noyes, Kate Richardson and coxswain Imogen Hill for the Anna Fegen Cup event on Saturday. On the back of a successful head racing season in the four and a strong performance in a quad at The Junior Sculling Regatta, the girls set their sights on reaching the A final. The time trial went according to plan with Stratford recording the second fastest time behind hot favourites Headington School. Stratford needed a top three finish in the semi-final to progress to the coveted A Final. The girls produced a perfect race leading from the start and sitting on their split and rate all the way to the finish taking the win without needing to increase the pressure. The starters’ role call for the A Final was a list of the top rowing schools in the country: Headington, Stratford, Godolphin, Pangbourne, Yarm and Sir William Perkins. The girls had achieved their goal, now could they go one step further and win a medal? Stratford put down another blistering start to lead by a canvas at 100 meters. By 500m Stratford and Headington were neck and neck easing out a lead from Godolphin and Pangbourne. By the 1000m board Stratford had dropped Godolphin and Pangbourne to fight for the Bronze, but Headington were half a length ahead. Stratford gave all they had in the last 500m to secure the Silver medal as Headington hung on to take the Gold.

J16 Coach Sam Hill commented, “To win a Silver medal at National Schools Regatta is a major achievement and just reward for all the hard training the girls put in every week. We look forward to the next challenge at Henley Women’s Regatta in three weeks time!”

For the J17/18 squad, the day started with the boys’ double of Tomi Wilcock and Will Beattie with them taking to the lake to compete in the Open Championship Doubles event. Putting up a strong battle against the wind, they finished a respectable twenty first in their time trial. The girls pairing of Amelie Sartain and Freya Watts were next up in the Women’s Championship Doubles event, finishing a symmetrical twenty first against crews from some impressive clubs. Last out for the squad was Toby Sartain competing in the Open Championship Singles event: Toby finished an impressive thirty seventh against stiff competition from across the country.

It may have been a half term holiday but there was no let up for Stratford Boat Club athletes and coaches as they took part in the Club’s Junior Coaching Assistants’ Course on Monday. Said Abi Terry, J17/18 Performance Squad Coach, “This course is designed to give competent junior athletes the skills to pass on their knowledge to their younger colleagues and those new to rowing and sculling: it covers essential points such as safety, techniques and how to put these across to others. It was heartening to see how many volunteered for the course and the effort they put in over a long day!”

For more great pictures of the J14’s achievements and others, please see Kathy Baines’ selection https://1drv.ms/u/s!AiW2DAyn9tg9j5M5T-GeVQz0ndO5iQ?e=C2Qgjm

Another Busy Weekend for Stratford Juniors and KES

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s J16 squad faced a busy weekend: after a light outing and more boat loading, the J16 squad set off at the crack of dawn for Dorney Lake and The Junior Sculling Regatta. With crews from clubs and schools all over the UK and even the South African Schools Rowing Union, top competition was assured. Charles Happel sculled brilliantly over the 1900 meter time trial to finish seventh out of thirteen scullers in his event, missing out on a place in the A final by just 1.5 seconds, a splendid come back from his misfortune at Evesham. Charlotte Isbell and Grace Beason again in their double acquitted themselves well gaining a lot from the experience of competing at a high level event. Amalia Richardson, Harriet Noyes, Maddie Hall and Kate Richardson competing again in their quadruple scull faced twenty one other crews in the time trial finishing seventh, just 0.3 seconds behind Maidenhead.

Also qualifying for the B final just 0.3 sec behind Stratford and starting in the next lane were Tideway Scullers. Stratford made a sensational start leading the field by a quarter of a length after seven strokes. Tideway edged back after 500 meters and took a one length lead by 1400 meters with South Africa closing the gap: Amalia made the call to up the pressure and go for home. South Africa couldn’t answer and with a high rate burst for the last ten strokes, Stratford secured second place by just three quarters of a length to Tideway Scullers. Said Sam Hill, J16 Coach, “The J16’s showed great skill and determination this weekend proving they have what it takes to compete with the best!”

In addition, some of the J17 performance squad travelled to Dorney Lake to compete in small boats also at the National Junior Sculling Regatta. This was their first opportunity this season to compete in small boats and each learned a lot and put in some really good performances. First up were the J17 double scull of Tomi Wilcock and Will Beattie. They were up against some strong opposition from some of the top rowing clubs from around the country. They managed to come in seventh place, less than three seconds from the A Final.

Next to go was Toby Sartain in the J17 single sculls. Toby sculled a good race and finished up in thirteenth place with a solid technical performance. Lastly from the J17 squad was Freya Watts in the WJ17 single sculls. Freya had never raced in a single at a national competition before and this was a good challenge for her. Finishing in a solid ninth place with just thirty five seconds separating her from first place. Commenting, Abi Terry, J17/18 Performance Squad Coach said, “This was a great event to give the squad a real test against some top opposition. Next up is National Schools Regatta at the end of May!”

Also rowing at Dorney Lake in the Ball Cup was Stratford’s sister club, King Edward The Sixth School Boat Club, this time in the Ball Cup, a competition which KES founded. KES won gold in the quad and a silver in the coxed four events.

For media coverage, please see Stratford Herald online https://www.stratford-herald.com/sport/j16-squad-show-they-can-compete-with-the-best-9253801 and page fifty three. See also Stratford Observer online https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-stratford-upon-avon-boat-clubs-junior-squad-enjoy-junior-sculling-regatta-challenge and back sports page https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/editions/view/?/Stratford/2022/05/13&pages=024