No Slacking for Stratford in the City of Dreaming Spires!

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club started the weekend on Saturday travelling the comparatively short way to Oxford to compete in the Oxford City Royal Regatta hosted by City of Oxford Rowing Cub: the regatta has been running consistently on the Isis River in Oxford since 1841 with only occasional breaks due to war.

Stratford’s WJ17/18 athletes Martha Usselmann and Hannah Broome in the Women’s Double Sculls event had a close race off the start against City of Cambridge who then pulled away and beat Stratford to the final. Said Helen Smith, J17/18 Coach, “Martha and Hannah were happy with their race, as they hadn’t previously raced a double together and kept a strong effort against the more experienced crew.”

On Sunday, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s adaptive squad followed up its recent highly successful trip to Maidenhead with another day of great results at the Oxford Sprint Regatta. The crews competed in four events on the day and won them all!

All the singles races took place in the morning: adaptive athlete Lee Cairns competed in two events for wheelchair users. His first final was against his club mate Rob Pedley: Rob’s larger physique and somewhat better technique on this occasion took the honours with Rob winning by three lengths over his plucky rival.

Lee’s second event saw him race Luke Payne from Sudbury in the final. The pair had had an epic encounter at Marlow earlier in the summer with Lee beating Luke by half a length. This latest meeting reflected Lee’s fast development over the last few months with Lee leading from start, finishing with a comfortable win over his opponent from Suffolk.

In the afternoon, the adaptive pairs final was another all Stratford affair between Gillian Middleton and Dan Godefroy with Gillian and her support rower overcoming Dan and his support rower Joe Moore by about a length. Gillian’s ‘never say die’ attitude perhaps proving the critical factor in this well matched struggle!

This left Ian Ward and his mother Paola to try to complete the clean sweep against another mixed crew from Marlow in the final of the adaptive doubles. The race proved close but the Stratford family crew kept their nose in front most of the way and better steering in the latter half of the race gave them a win by a couple of lengths.

Head Adaptive Coach Mark Dewdney commented, “This regatta looks like the end of the season for us: sadly no one wants to race us at the Bank Holiday weekend Gloucester Regatta! That is disappointing but we are going out on a high! Stratford’s adaptive section have been invited to compete in Italy in October so we have plenty to look forward to! As always, a big thank you to the adaptive support crew, helpers and buddy rowers from other clubs: we were also honoured to have our President Paul Stanton and Vice President Colin Upchurch visit and support us during the regatta: their encouragement means a lot!”

For media coverage see Stratford Herald online and page fifty one and Stratford Observer online and back sports page

Stratford’s Adaptives Prove Themselves at Maidenhead!

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s adaptive squad took the long journey to Maidenhead to compete at their regatta on Saturday. Five clubs entered eight different events for the disabled. The other clubs won one each. Stratford won the other four; four of the five adaptive events they competed in.

Jake Blatcher also attended and raced in both his single and as well as a support rower with some of his adaptive colleagues. In Jake’s first race, his opponent from Reading University took an early lead. However, Jake closed the gap consistently and his opponent, feeling the pressure, started to make mistakes and as Jake came alongside, the Reading man made a fatal mistake resulting in his capsize and defeat! Jake’s second race was against a large sculler from Ardingly: this was an epic encounter that Jake lost by just a quarter of length!

First up from the adaptive squad was Andy Morris racing Watson from Oxford in his singles’ final. The Oxford sculler was given a twenty second head start: Andy succeeded in clawing this back by halfway down the course eventually winning by a comfortable four lengths.

Rob Pedley then took on a sculler from Lagan (Belfast) in his final: this was Rob’s first event. The competitor from Northern Ireland was also given a twenty second head start. It was only in the last one hundred metres that Rob poked his nose in front, winning by a few lengths as his opponent faded.

The next event turned out to be an all Stratford final as new boy Dan Browne took on the more experienced Gillian Middleton in Mixed Ability Doubles/Pairs. Dan was given a head start which he and his steerer, Joe Moore, never relinquished: this was Dan’s first win after a few tries.

The final win for Stratford Boat Club came in another Mixed Ability Doubles/Pairs event. The final was between a Lagan and Maidenhead combined crew and Dan Godefroy and Jake Blatcher from Stratford. This was an exercise in better technique overcoming a lot of effort. Rowing smoothly down the whole course, the result looked inevitable well before the finish, Dan and Jake drawing applause from the crowd for what looked like effortless rowing.

Rob Pedley kindly agreed to race Akhurst from Marlow who otherwise would not have had an opponent: this was a tremendous race with the experience and technique of Marlow against the brawn of the Stratford man. As with the previous final, technique came out on top with Akhurst winning by a few lengths.

Commenting on the day, Stratford Boat Club’s Head Adaptive Coach Mark Dewdney said, “We are pretty happy with the outcome. It has been a while since our last event and I was concerned we would be a bit rusty. We are off to Oxford Regatta in a fortnight and hope for similar results!”

For media coverage, please see Stratford Observer online and back sports page and also Stratford Herald online and page forty five.

Stratford’s Adaptives and Masters Make A Splash at Gloucester!

Starting the morning at Gloucester Rowing Club’s Spring Head, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s Adaptive Squad its first outing at the season. On a 1750 metre course, the Stratford Boat Club swept the adaptive board winning both the singles and doubles/pairs events.

Andy Morris competing in his first event for the Club covered the course in a few seconds under ten minutes. Bennett from Stourport was second about twenty seconds behind. Holliday from Gloucester came in third.

The doubles/pairs events were a 1-2-3 for Stratford Boat Club’s Adaptive Squad. All the Club’s crews finished in between ten and eleven minutes. After time adjustments to compensate for varying levels of disability, the winners were Gillian Middleton with her support rower Rona Fitzpatrick. Ian Ward and his mother Paola finished second. Hattie Throssell and rowing partner Joe Moore were third. Jake Blatcher also had a good row in his single but suffered from cramp during the last kilometre of his 5000 metre race which sadly ruined his chances of success.

The Adaptive Squad now forms part of a new initiative at Stratford Boat Club – The Stratford Mixed Ability Rowing Team. This aims to integrate the adaptive squad with able-bodied people learning to row and the Club’s day time recreational groups. The Club is introducing this change slowly so that the best result is achieved for all concerned. The Adaptive Squad’s next event is a time trial at Henley-on-Thames on 3rd April.

Saturday morning at Gloucester Rowing Club’s Spring Head also saw a composite Stratford/Gloucester crew comprising Gary Clay and Kjersti Rogneflaten (representing Gloucester but also a Stratford member), racing as Masters F Mixed Double Scull event: they were up against stiff opposition from Upton and two Warwick crews from the start. With a strong head wind, the double settled into a strong rhythm and managed to overtake four women double scull crews who had set of ahead of them. The double then negotiated the tricky course and finished strongly to win by four seconds from Upton (the Scriveners, who joined forces with Stratford in the afternoon division).

Another Stratford upon Avon Boat Club Masters’ squad continued their competition in the 5km afternoon division of Gloucester Rowing Club Spring Head with Heather Hayton and Tom Doherty rowing with their Upton friends Tabatha and Julian Scrivenor in the mixed Masters’ fours event.

With a field of five crews of varying age groups from average age of under 30 up to 60, the race was always going to be keenly contested. The Stratford/Upton crew with an average age 55 to 60, lead off closely followed by Bristol Ariel average age 35 to 40.

The Ariel crew put immediate pressure on the Stratford/Upton crew who refused to give in and dug deep to keep Ariel behind them down the course. With tricky head wind conditions, Ariel were only able to close slowly with Stratford/Upton managing to keep them behind until the three kilometre mark, well over half way down the course.

At the approach to a narrow bridge, a well known feature of the course, Ariel managed to sneak past and establish a lead of less than a length going into the last 1.7km.

The Stratford/Upton crew continued to dig deep and hang on to Ariel knowing that a close finish would guarantee them a win on the races age group handicap system. Although Ariel pulled out to about a twenty second lead at the finish, it was not enough as Stratford/Upton were able to come home in second place with a significantly close overall time to take the race win.

Sadly, Stratford’s Junior Squad and King Edward The Sixth Boat Club had to make the best of the water on the Avon at Stratford as their West Midlands Rowing Championships at Stourport were cancelled as the River Severn was not viable for rowing.

For media coverage, see  page fifty two and Stratford Observer online

For more great pictures of Gloucester Rowing Club’s Spring Head, see Matt Jones Photography’s selection at

Stratford’s Dewdney Gets Life!

Not only does Stratford upon Avon Boat Club think that Mark Dewdney, Head Adaptive Coach, is ‘the bees’ knees’ but this was confirmed by British Rowing, the sport’s governing body, when they awarded Mark with the West Midlands area Lifetime Achievement Award!

This year, British Rowing had a huge number of nominations for the awards from right across the country and so it’s been a tough job for British Rowing’s judging panels to narrow them all down to this year’s shortlist. British Rowing took time out to thank everyone who made a nomination and congratulations to the volunteers, coaches, clubs, crews and other rowers who have been selected for this year’s shortlist.

Mark’s West Midland’s ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ will also go forward for consideration for British Rowing’s national award, selected from British Rowing’s shortlist, and this will be announced in a live webcast on 20 January alongside the winners of British Rowing’s Medal of Honour, Medal of Merit, Beryl Crockford Award and National Safety Award. All winners will be visited by a British Rowing official at their club to receive their award in person, following the webcast.

Commenting, Paul Stanton, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s President said, “We are very proud of Mark and all that he has achieved not only for the ever increasing successful adaptive section but for Stratford Boat Club as a collegiate whole. Mark’s considerable success in raising funds for the adaptive squad has had a ‘trickle down’ effect for the whole Club making more equipment available for juniors, seniors, masters, weekday rowers, Learn to Row and Junior Summer camp participants as well as the adaptive section.”

Joe Moore, Senior Adaptive Coach, said,” Mark’s recent success of having Stratford Boat Club awarded ‘ParaSport Club of the Year’ has now been followed by British Rowing’s accolade: the Club’s hopes are high for Mark’s National Award!”

For an expanded article on Mark’s accolade, see Stratford Observer online also page back sports page Stratford Herald page fifty six and online

Stratford’s Masters’, Adaptive & Junior Squads Competing at High Level!

The Junior and Masters squads of Stratford upon Avon Boat Club were in action again over the weekend on the hallowed waters of Henley-on-Thames.  As the trailer rolled into the historic town, the conditions could not have been better and gave no indication of what lay ahead.

Henley Town and Visitors Regatta provided high quality side by side racing over 800m on the Henley Royal Regatta course. Warm up complete, the Masters’ double scull of Henley Town and Visitors Regatta took to the water and made short work of their Guildford Rowing Cub competition in the first round. Steeling themselves for the final, the Hayton/Doherty combo turned swiftly and lined up against a quality crew from Poole & Warwick clubs. Sadly, victory was denied by a tight margin with the Poole/Warwick composite taking the win.

Then, it rained: with a biblical downpour in full effect the WJ18 quadruple scull of Jasmine Mountney, Isabelle Watts, Alice Baines and Mili Wilcock fully expected Noah and his Ark to be competing! Rowing up in the Senior Women’s event, the Stratford Boat Club athletes were drawn against what can only be described as a rowing super group consisting of Irish and Estonian national team members.

Unfazed, the J18 Stratford crew took their place on the start. The flag dropped and the girls went off well and held the Twickenham Rowing Club/ Thames Rowing Club/ Neptune Rowing Club composite to no more than half a length for the first half of the race. Experience won out in the end however and the composite took the win and went on to win the event overall. Commenting, Steve Wellstead, Junior Co-ordinator and J18 Performance Squad Coach commented, “That’s racing and indeed, the luck of the draw: onwards and upwards to Stourport Boat Club Regatta next Saturday!”

The Stratford Boat Club’s every increasing adaptive (disabled) squad competed at Maidenhead Rowing Club Regatta on Saturday. Xander Van Der Poll won his debut event in his single: in the final, he defeated a sculler from Northern Ireland by a considerable margin. Xander, a former King Edward The Sixth School pupil, is in the Great Britain Paralympic pathway system and hopes to represent Great Britain in the Paris Paralympics in 2024. He is one of two such athletes being developed by the Club’s adaptive section and can be seen on the Avon early most mornings training when not at Bristol University studying for his medical degree.

Gillian Middleton also made her first competitive appearance after only a few months rowing and an impressive one it was: she and her crewmate Joe Moore were only overhauled by a strong Marlow crew in the last few strokes of the final.

Paola and Ian Ward, in their final, were similarly overtaken close to the finish line by an all male Guildford crew. Dan Godefroy and Jake Blatcher were beaten by a technically excellent City of Oxford crew.

Said Mark Dewdney, Stratford Boat Club’s Head Adaptive Coach said, “Due to many last minute changes, some Stratford rowers were put in races against much faster opposition: on this occasion, this reduced our chances of multiple wins that we have had in most regattas in the last few years. Nonetheless, well done to all the rowers and helpers! We were very pleased with the general level of performance. Xander will face tougher opposition in the future so his training and steps along the GB Paralympic pathway will continue in earnest: Gillian’s performance was the star of the day! Stratford’s adaptive section is interested in everyone rowing as well as they can and we are happy as long as everyone rows well. The squad’s next outing is at Oxford on the 21st August in an event just for adaptive/disabled rowers.”

For media coverage see Stratford Herald online and page fifty.

For more great pictures of Henley Town & Visitors Regatta, see Kathy Baines’ selection at!AgY7EiDB2lCOhMdRfeSXA-kVvsp4wA