Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s adaptive squad went to Marlow Town regatta for what to most was the first racing of their regatta season. There was a hint of regatta rustiness!
The race of the day was an all Stratford final between Rob Pedley and Jess Dowdeswell in the PR1 singles. This is a fixed seat event for those with a Spinal Cord Injury or some other condition that makes it impossible to use legs. It was nip and tuck all the way with the vastly more experienced Pedley winning by just one foot!
Andy Morris triumphed in a PR3 event, defeating his Oxford rival by a length. There was also a surprise win for Curtis Dickens and Jake Blatcher: Curtis has been rowing for less than two months. However, they trounced a Marlow and Sudbury crew.
The rest of the squad performed well, but all lost their finals by small margins.
Jess Dowdeswell and Curtis Dickens have been referred to the Stratford Boat Club by the GB Paralympic team. The Club’s adaptive coaching team have been asked to develop them to the appropriate level.
The weekend also saw the highlight of the masters’ regatta season with the British Rowing Masters Championships held at the multi lane national course at Holme Pierrepoint in Nottingham. The event, held over two days in glorious sunshine, attracted a record entry of over eight hundred crews to race on the 1000m multi lane course. A very strong tailwind and a choppy course promised challenging but fast racing. Stratford upon Avon Boat Club we were represented by a number of women’s and men’s crews competing over the two days.
Saturday saw the first action for Stratford with Heather Hatton and Tom Doherty competing with their friends Tabatha and Julian Scrivener from the Upton club in mixed masters E (average age 55) quad sculls (two blades [oars] each) against a strong field from Warwick, Monmouth and Ardingly.
A good start from Stratford/Upton saw them edge ahead of Ardingly to lead Monmouth and Warwick by about a length at the halfway 500m mark. A big push from Warwick saw them close to about half a length at the 750m mark with Monmouth still in the race only a length behind. With all to play for, Warwick continued their push drawing level at the 800m mark.
A furious race to the finish continued with Warwick using their size and strength to just push through to win by three seconds with Stratford /Upton settling for the silver medal in second place ahead of a strong Monmouth crew a length behind in third place.
Next up at midday in the heat of the sun was Stratford’s Ed Lewry and Nic Sartain in the Men’s Masters’ B (average age 35) double scull event. The race was a heat with three of the five crews progressing to the final later in the day. A fast start from Ed and Nic saw them pushing hard for a final place.
With only four seconds separating the four crews at halfway, a tight finish was on the cards. With Nottingham and Poplar edging ahead, the final place was between Stratford and Falcon clubs. A very close finish saw Stratford pipped by the slenderest of margins of less than half a second.
Next up for Stratford was Heather Hayton and Tom Doherty in their Mixed Masters E double scull category. Racing former internationals from Castle Semple and also multiple championship winners from Lakeland, the race was always going to be for the minor places. As predicted Castle Semple and Lakeland moved away from the rest of the field in the by now quite choppy conditions leaving a three way battle for the minor placing between Bewel Bridge, Stratford and Bentham. A big push by Stratford in the final 250m was not enough to overhaul Bewel Bridge however and Stratford had to settle for fifth place.
The final Stratford competitor saw Tim Lunel racing in the Single Masters’ E sculls event. In what was one of the strongest entries of the whole championship with three heats, it was always going to be a stiff challenge to qualify for the final. With the choppy conditions still persisting, Tim put in a solid performance but sadly it was not enough to make the final.
Sunday saw Stratford back in action with Tom Doherty racing in the Men’s Coxless fours sweep (one oar) race with Greenbank Falmouth. Despite never having rowed together before, the crew were looking to qualify from their heat for the final. Against a quality field including ex-Irish internationals from Commercial Rowing Club and Upper Thames, Nottingham and Avon County, it was going to be a big ask.
A very fast start rating forty one strokes per minute and a fast race tempo of thirty eight strokes a minute for the whole course, enabled the Stratford/Greenbank composite to edge ahead by a length over a much fancied Nottingham crew to hold third place behind Commercial and Upper Thames and qualify for the final. A further tough race in the final saw the Stratford/Greenbank, Tyne and Minerva Bath crews battle for the minor places with only two seconds separating the three crews at the finish.
And finally for Stratford, Suzie Radley and Amanda Bowden won a gold medal at the British Masters’ Rowing Championships! The double rowed with a powerful, consistent rhythm, pulling away from the competition over the length of the course. The conditions were very favourable, although swelteringly hot! The masters’ women were delighted to demonstrate improved cohesion and boat speed, both positive steps in preparing for the European Masters’ Championships at the end of July.
For media coverage, please see Stratford Herald page forty four and Stratford Observer online https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-stratford-masters-win-gold-and-silver-at-british-rowing-championships