Excellent Scratch Regatta to Finish 2023!

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s traditional Boxing Day Scratch regatta over 600m from the ferry to the Club grounds is always a superb attraction for the Stratford upon Avon townsfolk and visitors to the town for Christmas.

This Boxing Day Scratch Regatta was no exception as twenty four rowers together with volunteer coxes took part in the coxed fours knockout racing with the bonus of enjoying the sunshine and chance to get out on the river which recently has been hampered by high and fast river conditions.

The ‘luck of the draw’ brought together combinations of adults, juniors and novice rowers and it was also wonderful to see the previous juniors returning from university to join in the fun including athletes likely to be competing in the March 2024 University Boat Race. This year the races were followed the safety launch and the crews were given Santa’s reindeer names in keeping with the season! Starting at the ferry, the guaranteed wild steering, splashing and crabbing did not disappoint the spectators as the crews dashed towards the finish at the club but gave the organisers the occasional unwarranted cause for slight concern!

Commenting, Amanda Bowden, Women’s Masters Vice Captain who acted as finish umpire said,” Well done and thanks to all who came down to race and to those who came and supported the event. The winners of the plate competition were ‘Prancer’ with the overall winners of the valued chocolates were ‘Dancer’!”

Kjersti Rogneflaten Wolley, a member of the winning crew, reflecting on the event said, “It was great Boxing Day racing. Each round had its excitement, first with a crab and the second with a crash of oars and boats: possibly not our prettiest rowing but we went for power and persistence which won through!”

Commenting further, Paul Stanton, the Club’s President said, “Many thanks go to Dave Edwards, Masters Men’s Vice Captain for organising the event; Amanda Bowden; Ian Wilcock, Safety Officer on the launch and to Dawson Curnock, Chairman and starter for running the event. The start of 2024 is looking good and the Club looks forward to training and competing in local, regional and national head of the river races.”

For media coverage, please see Stratford Herald online https://www.stratford-herald.com/sport/dancer-is-the-winner-in-the-battle-of-reindeer-on-the-river-9346375 and page thirty eight and also Stratford Observer online https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-stratford-boat-club-end-year-with-annual-boxing-day-regatta-2 and back sports page https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/editions/view/?/Stratford/2024/01/05&pages=24.

For more great pictures of the Boxing Day Scratch Regatta, see Kathy and Stuart Baines’ excellent selection https://onedrive.live.com/?authkey=%21AKRzlgR1ojfobI0&id=3DD8F6A70C0CB625%21255859&cid=3DD8F6A70C0CB625

Boxing Day Scratch Regatta

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club finished the 2023 season with a certain amount of frustration with the high water levels and fast following river forcing most athletes off the river and into the Club for land training. Said Steve Wellstead, Stratford’s Junior Squad Co-ordinator, “December is a challenging month for training with many Junior Squad athletes taking important mock exams and the river this year has restricted us even more to indoor and land training”

However, there has been some recent good news to spur athletes on: Stratford’s alumnae Alice Baines and Katie Wellstead have been selected for the Trial Eight Crews for the Boat Race in March 2024. Alice, a member of Magdalen College Boat Club rows for the University of Cambridge and Katie, a member of St Edmund’s Hall Boat Club rows for the University of Oxford. Commenting Paul Stanton, Stratford Boat Club’s President said, “We have watched Alice and Katie’s progress with pride and they stand out as role models to all showing that hard work and dedication produces results!”

The adaptive section this weekend said goodbye for a week or so to Curtis Dickens who has been accepted onto British Rowing’s Pararowing Talent Pathway and is off for a GB pre-Christmas training camp. Mark Dewdney, Stratford’s Head Adaptive Coach commented, “This is entirely due to the planning and training that the adaptive section’s coaches and helpers have given Curtis but most importantly and without doubt, the massive effort that Curtis has put into his own progress. His positive ‘can do’ attitude and his eagerness to learn will help him a long way to his potential path to a possible future Paralympics!”

As complete contrast, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s Boxing Day Scratch Regatta has become a firm fixture on the Boat Club’s and town’s calendar allowing Club athletes to blow away the over indulgence of Christmas, have fun and set their sights firmly on serious training for the 2024 season

Over forty athletes from the Club traditionally brave the cold and damp to take part in the Scratch Regatta, competing in fours over a short sprint course from the Ferry to the Club grounds on the Town stretch of the River Avon, weather permitting

Says Dave Edwards, Masters’ Vice Captain and organiser of this year’s Boxing Day Regatta, “We pick Club crews from names entered into a draw based on gender, age and ability so that all the crews are more or less equal, ranging from members of the Junior squad right through to Masters”

To ensure fair play and safety, starters, umpires, spotters and the safety launch will all be in place whilst crowds can watch and cheer from the Recreation Ground, The Royal Shakespeare Terrace, Bancroft Gardens and The Tramway Bridge

“The training schedule will be back on target the first weekend after the New Year,” says Steve Wellstead, “2024 is going to be another great season for Stratford in all categories and we’re heading for continued success in local and national regattas and heads!”

Why not come down to the river on Boxing Day Tuesday 26 December: racing begins at 10.00hrs!

For media coverage, please see Stratford Observer online https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-stratford-boat-club-preparing-for-annual-boxing-day-scratch-regatta and back sports page https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/editions/view/?/Stratford/2023/12/22&pages=24 and also Stratford Herald page thirty six

Stratford’s Masters & Seniors Win at Peterborough

It was hugely encouraging to see the women of Stratford upon Avon Boat Club dominating the racing in Peterborough.

In a tremendously strong tail wind, the Masters’ Women fought to hold the quad level off the start and powered their way to catch up the crew ahead, that had been given a time handicapped head start. Finding better water at 250m they came back through the lead crew to win just as the crews went over the line. A win by 0.4 of a second! Charlotte Jones, crew member, said, “The crew overcame challenging conditions to win! Great win and great fun!”

The gusty strong tail wind continued into the afternoon for the Masters’ Women’s double of Suzie Radley and Amanda Bowden. They comfortably won the heat and the final race in a time of 1:55minutes.

Heather Hayton, Club Captain and stroke of the quad, highlighting the wins said, “It is spectacular to see women, across all age groups, come together and succeed in their sport. Inspirational! Added to that, the Stratford ladies won the most female events of the day!”

Racing in the first boat of the day for the senior women were Alice Baines and Imogen North in the Women’s Band 2 doubles event. Despite only having one outing prior to the event, they commanded their heat and subsequently their final in a time of 1:46.0. In the afternoon both Alice and Imogen took to the water again joined by Elisabeth Edwards and Katy Thomas for the Women’s Band 2 quads event. This was an exciting start to Katy’s sculling career as her first ever sculling race having taken up the sport whilst at university. This scratch crew, with only one outing under their belts, took themselves by surprise by winning comfortably both their heat and final despite the blustery conditions

Stratford’s Masters men also competed at Peterborough: Sunday afternoon saw Stratford’s men’s masters competing after quite a break. Conditions were good but an occasional wind across the course was causing some problems for steering.

A lack of competition saw the coxless four masters crew (Dave, Simon, Graham and Richard) entered into open category against much younger crews from Auriol, Cantabrigian and Dart Totnes. Undaunted, they decided to give it their best and recorded a personal best in what would have been very credible time for a masters’ E event

After the fours’ event, there was the return to competitive rowing by John Robinson. Facing stiff competition from Peterborough City and Bewl Bridge, John remained within one boat’s length right up to the finish but sadly missing out on a pot

Said Dave Edwards, Masters’ Vice Captain, “An excellent day was had by all and the squad is now looking forward to the start of the head season”

For media coverage, please see Stratford Observer online https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-stratfords-women-win-at-peterborough and back sports page https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/editions/view/?/Stratford/2023/08/18&pages=24 and also Stratford Herald page forty three

Onwards to 2023!

It was a bright, sunny morning, and Stratford upon Avon Boat Club were out in force with twelve athletes competing in freshly assembled crews for the annual Boxing Day Regatta. First up was Team A: Martha Usselmann, Matt Meynell, Heather Hayton, Elisabeth Edwards and cox Cameron Dalrymple-Baker vs Team B: Jack Arrowsmith, Will Dalrymple-Baker, Jackie Josbury, Amanda Bowden and cox Katie Phillips. All crews raced twice, switching their lane after the first race. A quick start saw Team A draw ahead but Team B held their own, keeping level with Team A until the final few lengths of the race where Team A pulled away to take the first win of the day. Both teams had a quick turn around and were soon back up at the start, ready to go again. Another quick start from Team A saw them claim victory once more, with Team B battling with them to the end.

Both crews were pulled in and Team A swapped out with Team C: Katie Phillips, Ruby Howells, Cameron Dalrymple-Baker, Dave Edwards, and cox Elisabeth Edwards. Team B stayed on, swapping their cox for Martha Usselmann. Crews paddled up to the start and moved off with a strong start but the slightly fresher Team C gradually pulled away from Team B to take the lead, crossing the line just ahead of Team B. Both crews turned and headed back up on opposite sides. Once again both crews had a strong start, with Team C pulling away initially but Team B keeping the pressure on them. Team C crossed the line first but their aggressive racing line caused Team B to move close to the bank to avoid contact which led to the race being considered a draw.

Finally Team A swapped in with Team B, with both crews changing their coxes to Amanda Bowden (A) and Will Dalrymple-Baker (C). Both crews headed up to the start line for the final two races of the morning. Once more, quick starts from both crews were seen and they kept level with each other for the first half of the race. A burst of pressure from Team A as the crews passed the theatre saw them move away from Team C in the final stages of the race and take victory. Both crews took a leisurely paddle back up to the start in an attempt to catch their breath and lined up once more. Both crews were quick off the mark and kept level, with Team C starting to move ahead as the crews reached the halfway mark, however a well timed call from Team A’s cox saw the boat gain speed and move away from Team C just as the crews crossed the finish line.

With four wins across the morning, Team A were declared the victors and were each awarded a Stratford Boat Club tankard. Tankards were also awarded to all who coxed, as well as one being awarded to the brilliant finish marshal, who helped signal the end of each race.

Commenting, Paul Stanton, the Club’s President said, “Many thanks go to Trevor Tiller, Zöe Edwards, Helen Smith and Ian Wilcock for marshalling and to Dave Edwards for organising the event.”

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald pages forty and thirty eight.

For more great pictures of the Boxing Day Scratch Regatta, see David Phillips’ excellent selection https://1drv.ms/u/s!AiBE8NqoVVypgg6L22bLS2AnUG6E?e=3kjYqr

Stratford out in force at Stourport!

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club went in force to Stourport Boat Club’s Small Boats Winter Head on Sunday. The J18 Club squad was racing in the afternoon, with Martha Usselmann, Isabella Sandland, Hannah Broome, and Elisabeth Edwards competing in the WJ18 coxless quads. This was the first race for half of the crew and it started off well with Stratford putting a good distance between them and the next crew. Passing the Stourport clubhouse, Stratford overtook an eight and in the last few metres of the race were overtaken by another quad in a dramatic race to the finish. Although finishing fourth, the girls greatly enjoyed the race and hope to be back again soon at the same venue.

For the J16 squad, it was the first event of 2022 which saw a very bright and sunny mid winter’s day for the J16 girls’ crew of Amalia Richardson, Maddie Hall, Harriet Noyes, Kate Richardson and coxed by Imogen Hill. Competing for the first time in a coxed sweep boat, they literally swept away their completion from Trentham Boat Club, winning their event by fifty nine seconds in a fantastic time of 14:08 minutes. Commenting, Steve Marsden, J16 Coach, said, “The girls provided a great demonstration of sweep rowing at pace, guided expertly by the cox to accelerate across the finish line in front of a large group of spectators. Unfortunately, the girls’ coxless quad were unable to compete and this slightly dampened the day.”

Both Stratford Boat Club WJ15 4x+ crews performed extremely well on the 3.8km Stourport course downstream, narrowly missing out on Gold against Trentham Boat Club, who finished in a winning time of 14.07. The WJ15x+ squad did beat crews from Evesham, AB Severn and Stourport. After a long wait in the marshaling area, they sustained their technique for the complete distance, rating at up to 35spm. The girls were very pleased with their performance, surprised not to have won, but that is the nature of the great sport of rowing: sometimes an unexpected entrant comes along and takes the spoils! J15 Coach Hugo Happel said, “The girls did Stratford proud with some very fine technique sustained over 3.8km: they should reflect on their achievement and celebrate until Tuesday at least, when some more character-building land training awaits once more!”

For some of Stratford’s J14 athletes, this was their first ever head race, and at a lengthy 3.8km, it was a baptism of fire! Due to logistical challenges, the J14’s had one crew race up an age category in Open J15 coxed quad facing challenging competition. Despite this, the crew of James Albrighton (cox), Alexandra Francis, Seth Vondrak, Xavier Sissins and Poppy Baines got off to a flying start, holding their own against the older boys’ crews the whole way down the course, not making it easy for their competition right the way to the final stroke. They were shortly followed by the WJ14 coxed quad of Sophie Evans (cox), Alice Jones, Meg Nuttall, Lily Warren and Lucy Yang for which it was their first outing in the combination. It was a gutsy row, going hard off the start and showing off their technical skill even at the tail end of the course when their competition were faltering. In the second division with the cold creeping in, the open J14 coxed quad of Alexandra Francis (cox), James Albrighton, Ollie Rowlands, Theo Richter and Sophie Evans proved they were made of tough stuff, holding off a strong crew for over half the course and powering through to the finish with their heads held high.

Stourport Winter Head marked the first race also for King Edward The Sixth School Boat Club for twenty three months. Not only this but the crew were now with an entirely new squad and it was the first race for the boys in the coxed four (J. Mitchell, T. Wheeler, E. Craig, R. Macdonald, E. Rose), three of whom only started learning to row last September. With some excitement and a bit of nerves, the crew took everything in their stride: they were the third crew off in their category so had two targets ahead of them. Half way down the course, they successfully picked off the first of their opposition putting in a push to power past the crew from Hereford which left them with our friends from Stratford Boat Club to chase down! They didn’t have enough water to catch Stratford but the squad finished in an impressive time winning their category by just over one minute.

Not to be outdone, Stratford’s Masters were also at Stourport competing in a coxed four. Commenting, Dave Edwards, Masters’ Vice Captain said. “In fairness, we beat the other masters in that group by over a minute, so not too bad a row even though we were beaten by a very much younger crew!”

For media coverage, please see Stratford Herald page sixty one and also Stratford Observer online https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-stratford-upon-avon-boat-club-impress-at-stourport-boat-clubs-small-boats-winter-head.

For more great pictures of Stourport Head, see Kathy Baines’ selection https://1drv.ms/u/s!AgY7EiDB2lCOhPwCJoS_zRzcEKRK3g?e=6t7Ryt

Busy Weekend for Stratford’s Rowers!

On a perfect but cold and windy weekend, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s squads went to various locations to test their skills.

The Senior Men’s elite squad spent the weekend at Nottingham training on the multi-lane course honing their technique in preparation for Henley Royal Regatta in July.

Said Bill Sullivan, Senior Men’s Elite Coach, “It was windy and cold in Nottingham but the boys got in some good training putting them in a good position for the preparation for some hard racing at Henley.”

Heading to the other end of the country on Saturday were two senior crews from Stratford upon Avon Boat Club who travelled to Totnes in Devon to compete in the annual Head of the Dart River Race. This year the processional time trial was planned to run from Totnes to Dartmouth over a distance of fifteen kilometres.

Due to weather and river conditions on the day, organisers deemed the conditions at the lower reaches of the river toward Dartmouth too dangerous to run the event over the planned full course. The decision was made to run the race over a shortened five kilometre course, which involved crews rowing down to the revised start and then rowing back up to finish adjacent to the Dart Totnes Amateur Rowing Club.

The re-scheduled shortened race still attracted over one hundred crews from all over the United Kingdom taking part in a very varied range of coastal and river boats (including pilot gigs, canoes and fine boats). Stratford crews rowed in fine boats, more suited to calm inland river conditions.

After launching boats from the Dart Totnes Amateur Rowing Club clubhouse in Totnes, crews rowed down to what became a very congested marshalling area. Once underway, the race itself required a high level of skill in negotiating the tight and winding course, navigation buoys, mud flats, river traffic as well as other competing crews. Due to the delay in the start time, rowing against an outgoing tide and south-easterly winds made conditions severe with a high risk of the boats taking on water.

Top Stratford Boat Club performers on the day were the Women’s Masters crew (coxed quad) of Rosie Stone, Andrea Duxbury, Clare Nash, Rona Fitzpatrick and Alfie Nash (cox), winning their category in an adjusted race time of 00:26:21.

The Stratford Men’s Masters crew (coxed four) of Simon Skillings, Graham Cann, Dave Edwards, Richard Anderson and Jessica Cann (cox) finishing in an adjusted race time of 00:26:43.

Said Alfie Nash, Women’s Masters crew coach, “Although the event was a logistical challenge with the transportation of boats to and from the start and finish locations, it proved to be a very interesting and enjoyable challenge to all crews taking part. Those crews stopping over in Dartmouth and Totnes were able to fully appreciate the hospitality of the host club as well as fellow competitors!”

Meanwhile, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club J13 squad entered three crews in Abingdon Rowing Club’s Spring Head of the River Race on Sunday held on the River Thames over 1850m

The first to boat in Division One at 8.00hrs from an icy pontoon was Imogen Hill and Maddie Hall in their double scull. Undaunted by their first experience of a major event raced over two kilometres, they sculled superbly to finish third in a time that would have beaten two WJ14 crews.

Next to race in Division Two was the WJ13 4x+ of Emily Stobart, Grace Beason, Uchenna Nwachukwu, Ruby Brooker-Collins and cox Kate Richardson: they soon showed they have what it takes to mix it with the big clubs by finishing second splitting the two Henley crews.

In Division Four, the Open J13 4x+ of Ciara Wilson, Louie Beason, Amalia Richardson and Millie Hodgson coxed by Imogen Hill mixed it with boys crews to come third in an identical time to the girls’ quad of 10minutes and 38 seconds. Said Sam Hill, J13 coach, “The results were really encouraging and the whole squad displayed good technique all the way to the finish.”

Matilda Watts and Geoffrey Flambert also both put in strong performances in the J17 1x events finishing fourth and sixth respectively.

The J14 squad was also in Abingdon. In Division One, the squad was represented by the J14 2x of Tomi Wilcock and Will Beattie. Rowing in the higher band, they put down a very strong performance to take the Band One win by seven seconds, despite coming up against very good opposition.

The WJ14 4x+ of Freya Watts, Fleur Griffiths, Bella Chappelhow, Harriet Holmes and cox Toby Sartain were also placed in Band One and despite putting in a good time were just pipped by a crew from Wallingford and were beaten by just four seconds to take second place.

Division Two saw the first of the Stratford J15’s take to the water. The WJ15 singles of Sophie Elstone and Harriet Hodgson both raced well with Elstone battling at the top of the field to take a brilliant win, a second over her closest rival from City of Oxford. Hodgson also put in a good performance finishing eighth.

Will Clarke raced in the J15 single against some strong opposition and managed a sixth place finish. The J15 double of Conar Aitchison and Emma Harrison raced against some all boys crews to finish eighth.

In Division Three, more of the J14’s took to the water with the J14 4x+ of Tomi Wilcock, Will Beattie, Ruby Howells, Bella Chappelhow and cox Toby Sartain in action. Again they faced some strong opposition from Wallingford and were unfortunately unable to overhaul the all-boys crew to finish second by just four seconds.

Next up were the WJ14 double sculls with two Stratford boats in action. The first was Fleur Griffiths and Harriet Holmes, again facing a crew from Wallingford. This time the girls were able to overhaul the opposition and take the event win. The other Stratford crew of Freya Watts and Anne Mynors also put in a very good performance to finish in a highly credible fourth place.

Division Four saw the final Stratford crews of the day racing again with more J15’s on the water. The WJ15 4x+ of Emma Harrison, Abbey Meggeson, Harriet Hodgson, Julia Zanpronio Gurden and cox Sienna Rawlings raced strongly to finish in sixth place. Also racing in this division was the J15 double of Will Clarke and Sophie Elstone who again raced against a lot of all-boys crews to finish in sixth place beating several crews in the process.

The final J15 crew was Conar Aitchison in the single who, despite being rather nervous about competing in the single, had a good race to finish in fifth place over a minute ahead of the sculler behind him.

This week also sees the J17/18 squad on a training camp in Henley and next week is the turn for the existing J13/J14/J15 squads to train at Stratford.

For media coverage, please see Stratford Observer online https://stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/busy-weekend-for-stratfords-rowers and Stratford Herald page 15.