Stratford Triumphs on the River, Beach and in Munich!

After the excitement of National Junior Championships, the Stratford upon Avon Boat Club junior rowing summer calendar turned to Henley Town & Visitors Regatta for the next races. Held over 800m on the famed Henley Reach, the event always provides great racing and moreover a great relaxed atmosphere. First to go from the J14 squad was the women’s coxed quadruple scull of Sophie Franklin, Becca Smith, Martha Baines, Bryony Francis and Poppy Warren (coxswain). Competing in the J15 category, the crew made easy meat of Wallingford Rowing Club in the first round. However not to be outdone, the hunter became the hunted in the final and a second Wallingford Rowing Club crew, recent National Junior Championship finalists, took the win in the final by just four lengths over the Stratford girls.

The racing continued furiously with the WJ14 single sculls next to boat. Sophie Franklin and Millie Smith represented Stratford with great sculling in a tough headwind, both placed second in their respective semifinals and narrowly missing out on a place in the final. Challenging conditions continued for the WJ14 double sculls event where three Stratford crews competed. Bryony Francis and Martha Cooke powered their way past a quality Wallingford Rowing Club double in the semifinal whilst Martha Baines and Becca Smith booked their place in the final showing Falcon Rowing Club nothing but wake. Meanwhile in the third semifinal, Isla Dunn and Poppy Warren narrowly missed out to a quality Henley Rowing Club double. With the regatta drawing to a close, the final wasn’t quite an all Stratford affair and the Henley Rowing Club crew took full home advantage securing the win with Stratford nipping at their heels until the finish line.

Stratford’s Junior 15’s had four events to participate in, starting with Theo Richter and Ollie Rowlands in the Junior 15 double sculls. They faced tough competition from Falcon and Henley who took an early lead and kept it until the end. Richter and Rowlands did their best but could not catch up on the short course. Sadly, they did not qualify for the final.

Stratford’s J15 girls had more success in the single sculls event with Sophie Evans, Alexandra Francis, Poppy Baines and Meg Nuttall representing Stratford Boat Club. Evans raced against City of Oxford and Wallingford and, despite being more used to racing in bigger boats, she performed well and finished third. Francis and Baines competed in the second heat against Shiplake with Francis advancing to the final finishing first with Baines finishing second in their heat. Nuttall who usually coxes, tried her hand at sculling in the third heat but lost to the eventual winner of the event. In the final, Francis fought hard against Wallingford but lost by a narrow margin.

The next event was the J15 singles where Seth Vondrak faced Henley in a straight final. The two boys were evenly matched in the first part of the race but Vondrak used his experience from the British Rowing’s recent Junior National Championships to pull ahead in the middle section. He maintained his lead and won by four lengths. Finally In the double sculls event for girls, Lily Warren and Alice Jones competed for the first time as a crew. They faced Wallingford and Shiplake in their heat who were both strong contenders. Wallingford took an early lead and kept it until the end, winning the overall event. Stratford and Shiplake fought for second place but Warren and Jones overtook them at the halfway point and secured their position, finishing second.

Stratford’s J16 squad entered three crews, enjoying an early success in the double sculls when Jamie Wilcock and Will Dalrymple-Baker executed their race plan perfectly in a straight final against a Wallingford crew. The boys went off hard to open an impressive lead by halfway and maintained their composure with a two boat length advantage as they crossed the line. Next to compete was Elliot Baird in the J16 single sculls: Elliot found himself in a very competitive heat with scullers from Wallingford and Henley. A strong start saw Elliot well in touch during the early part of the race before eventually crossing the line a couple of lengths behind the other two crews in a closely fought finish. Finally, the WJ16 coxless quad of Jessica Long, Scarlett Richardson, Megan Rowan and Harriet Froom took to the water rowing up an age category against a composite WJ18 crew from Staines and Mundener from Germany. Despite a good start and clean row from the Stratford athletes, the age difference told with the very accomplished WJ18 opposition taking the win in blustery conditions.

From Stratford’s J17 squad, Charles Happel stepped up to do battle in the Senior single sculls event.  Despite remaining in contact throughout, it was not to be Charles’ day as his opponent from Upper Thames Rowing Club took full benefit of a home crowd and crossed the line first.

The weekend also saw Stratford upon Avon Boat Club masters and adaptive rowers competing against athletes from far and wide with rowers in Germany in the European Club Championships on the south coast of England at the British Offshore Rowing Championships and also at Henley on Thames for the Henley Town & Visitors Regatta.

The British Offshore Rowing Championships took place off Exmouth and attracted its largest entry with rowers from the Czech Republic, France and Germany taking part in racing over two days.

Racing commenced on Friday with Stratford rowers Andrew Morris and Tom Doherty joined by their fellow rowers Ali Martineau and Kath Coleman-Jones from the Coastal Barbarians Club racing in the mixed ability quads sculls over a 4 km course. Up against crews from Fishguard, Llandaff and Mayflower, it was going to be a closely contested race with Mayflower with two of their senior men and Sophie Harris former GB Paralympic squad member.

A good start saw Stratford/Barbarians gain a half length lead which they held to the buoy turn out to sea. Over the next two kilometres, Mayflower edged back and both crews were racing for the buoy side by side in the choppy sea conditions. At the three kilometre buoy turn, Mayflower started to edge ahead by a length but drifted off course allowing Stratford/Barbarians to close and edge ahead and gain a short lead which they held to the finish. Said Tom Doherty, crew captain, “This was Stratford’s Andrew Morris’s first experience at sea rowing and he put in an incredible performance to win a gold medal. It also shows there are no limits to what adaptive athletes can achieve.”

Stratford were not finished with Tom Doherty back on the water half an hour later for the senior Men’s 6km Double Sculls final with Robin Steward from the Mayflower Club. In a very competitive field of six crews, a good start saw the double edge into second place behind Jersey with Eastbourne neck and neck. A long side by side race ensued with Eastbourne finally pulling away at the three kilometre point. Jersey, who had been leading, began to tire and were pushed into second place as Stratford/Mayflower attempted to close on second and hold off a fast finishing Ardingly crews behind. Jersey rallied enough to hold onto second place with Stratford/Mayflower finishing in third place for the bronze medal.

Meanwhile, Stratford’s Women’s Masters were competing in the Euro Master Regatta in Munich. Stratford’s Masters Women won five gold medals and secured several second and third positions of the thirteen events entered. The races were all extremely tight with often just a second between the top three places.

Particular congratulations to Suzie Radley, who won three of the gold medals in women’s VIII; Amanda Bowden, winning a gold medal in women’s VIII; Heather Hayton, winning gold in a Mixed double and Kjersti Rogneflaten Woolley who represented Stratford across several boat classes at times combining with other clubs. All the events saw hard racing from everybody involved across the four days.

Commenting, Amanda Bowden, Stratford crew member, said, “Lining up on a start to hear the starter announce ‘Great Britain’ alongside the other international competitors was totally thrilling! It was hugely inspiring to race masters’ athletes at this level, competing against other nations and great fun catching up with previous rowing friends and making new ones! Many thanks to all our supporters, with a special mention to Dan Simkins for boat support and David Bowden for the driving to and from Munich!”

For media mentions, see Stratford Herald page forty four and Stratford Observer back sports page https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/editions/view/?/Stratford/2023/08/04&pages=24

For more great pictures of Henley Town & Visitors regatta, see Kathy Baines’ selection https://1drv.ms/f/s!AiW2DAyn9tg9j7QT6aOurkcIfval3A?e=NE1B7N

Peterborough, Ironbridge & Nottingham in One Weekend!

Saturday saw Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s J14 squad in action at Peterborough Junior Championships on the purpose-built Cambridgeshire rowing lake. The event drew in top schools and clubs from the junior rowing scene to do battle on the 1000m four lane course. First to go in the heats were the WJ14 coxed quadruple scull of Martha Cooke, Millie Smith, Josephine Cooper, Isla Dunn and Maeve Dunn (coxswain) with a solid fifth place of the twenty four crews entered.  Going forward to the B Final, the girls had a ding dong battle with Cambridge’s Rob Roy Boat Club to finish second by the slimmest of margins.

Next to go were the WJ14 double sculls of Sophie Franklin and Becca Smith along with Bryony Francis and Poppy Warren going to work in the heats to record fourth and fifth place respectively of twenty two entrants. In their finals the Francis/Warren combination dominated their B Final and romped over the line in first place whilst the Franklin/Smith crew chased Nottingham and Union down the course to maintain their fourth place overall ranking. In the last of the J14 events, Stratford’s single scullers took to the course as the afternoon heat continued to bake the spectators. In the heats Stratford was represented by Tessa Parkin, Martha Baines and Maeve Dunn who recorded eighth, fifth and fourth respectively of the thirty three scullers racing. In the B Final, Tessa and Martha brought their best to finish fourth and second against stiff competition.  Meanwhile, in the A Final, Maeve Dunn dug deep and tore down the lake to better her time trial ranking and earn herself a richly deserved silver medal against quality competition in the process.

Stratford’s Junior 15 squad also competed at the Peterborough Junior Championships. The competition was intense, with crews from Leeds, Lincoln, Oxford, Sussex, and London. There were one hundred and fifty two races, with four-lane racing and initial time trials. The fastest twelve crews were seeded into the ABC finals, which took place throughout the day.

In the double sculls event for the Junior 15’s, Theo Richter and Ollie Rowlands represented their squad and finished third in the C final. Xavier Sissins-Rofey and Seth Vondrak competed in the time trials for the same event and finished fourth in the B final. Vondrak and Sissins-Rofey also competed in the single sculls event and finished fourth in their respective division B finals. Lucy Yang and Alice Jones raced in the Junior Women’s 15 single sculls event. Yang did not qualify for the finals due to being overwhelmed by her first singles event more to come in future events but Jones finished third in the C final.

In the double sculls event for the girls, Alexandra Francis and Poppy Baines narrowly missed out on the A final but won their B final. Lily Warren and Sophie Evans finished fourth in their B final. Francis also competed in the single sculls event and won a bronze medal in the A final, while Baines placed second in the B final.

Commenting, Colin Bell J15 Coach said, “Overall, the event provided valuable learning experiences for Francis, Baines, and Vondrak, who will apply what they learned in the upcoming British Junior Championships.”

Sunday saw the trials for the U16 GB vs France match take place at the National Watersports’ Centre in Nottingham. ‘V’ Vondrak and Scarlett Richardson entered in the double sculls event in their first opportunity to compete for a GB Rowing badge. With the forecast for thunderstorms in the afternoon, the side by side finals were cut from the programme meaning selection would be based on performance in the time trials only. The Stratford girls sculled well in the early heat of the day, missing out on a top five finish by just 0.5 seconds but demonstrating they are in the mix with the most competitive crews in the country.

Meanwhile, Jake Blatcher, competing in the open single sculls event, was the only Stratford Boat Club representative at Ironbridge Regatta on Saturday. In the first round he came up against a local rival from Evesham. Jake overcame his opponent, in a hard fought race, by a length and a half. His semi-final against a young sculler from Liverpool Victoria Rowing Club proved a more straightforward affair. Pulling away consistently, he won easily.

This win set up Jake for a final against a very good sculler from Falcon Rowing Club (Oxford). The tall rower from Falcon set up an early lead. In the last few hundred metres, Jake’s improved technique started to tell and he began to close quickly on his rival. Unfortunately, he was not able to quite catch up before the finish line. Mark Dewdney, Head Adaptive Coach commented, “This was another sign of progress in an encouraging season. I’m pleased with the performance”.

For media coverage, please see Stratford Observer online https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-stratford-boat-club-juniors-take-on-peterborough-junior-championships and Stratford Herald page fifty two

For more great pictures of Peterborough Junior Championships, please see Kathy and Stuart Baines’ excellent selection https://1drv.ms/f/s!AiW2DAyn9tg9j69o2xUB_tV0JoX2OQ?e=1HikGG

Stratford’s Juniors Rack Up Points For West Midlands

The Stratford upon Avon Boat Club regatta season started in style with five crews selected to represent West Midlands at the Junior Inter Regional Regatta. The opening national level regatta of the season as the twelve UK regional teams competed for the much coveted Victor Ludorum prize.  First down the 1500m course was the WJ14 coxed quadruple scull of Bryony Francis, Maeve Dunn, Becca Smith, Tessa Parkin and Poppy Warren (coxswain). They dominated their heat, leading from the front for the full race crossing the line twelve seconds ahead of a tidy North Western crew. This earned them a place in the A Final where once again the crew went out hard, dicing for third place at the halfway marker and eventually being placed sixth and collecting valuable points for the West Midlands squad

Theo Richter, Ollie Rowlands, Seth Vondrak, James Albrighton and cox Meg Nuttall were selected to represent the West Midlands in the junior 15 coxed quad event. Despite an early morning chill, the sun broke through the overcast skies resulting in calm conditions at the National Water sports Centre in Nottingham. In typical fashion for the venue the competitors soon found themselves facing strong headwinds, challenging the most experienced coxes

The boys were drawn in the second heat facing opposition from Yorkshire, North West, East Midlands, Northern, West and Wales Wiltshire, Avon, Gloucester and Somerset. Despite a strong start, the boys race did not progress as planned which resulted in them finishing in fifth place in their heat progressing to the B final. Undeterred, the boys and Meg revised their race plan executed their race as to the plan, pressurising strong opposition from Yorkshire and closed the gap to within 2.5 seconds, placing them second in the B final and eight overall

Stratford Boat Club’s WJ16 squad competed for the region in both the double scull and coxless quadruple scull categories. Lucy Sartain and Eloise Cooper rowed a well paced race to finish fourth in their double scull heat, also securing fourth position in the B final. The coxless quad crew of Esme Elfwood, Molly Vondrak, Scarlett Richardson and Aimee Appleton rowed a strong heat finishing in second place to a dominant Thames Upriver boat and making the A final, ultimately claiming fifth place overall for the region

Isaac Clarkson from Stratford’s adaptive squad, competing in his first race, represented the region with distinction in the adaptive single sculls. Aged only thirteen, Isaac performed well against his three opponents who were all several years his senior. Commenting, Mark Dewdney, Head Adaptive Coach said, “Isaac showed once again that Stratford is the leading adaptive/para squad in the West Midlands”

In the final analysis, the West Midlands squad was placed fourth overall of the twelve regions, a superb result from all the athletes from the region. Commenting on the result, West Midlands Team Manager (and Stratford J17/18 Performance squad coach) Abi Terry said, “Well done to everyone in the squad! A big improvement on placing from last year and a real testament to the hard work from all the coaches!”

For media coverage, please see Stratford Herald page fifty two and Stratford Observer back sports page https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/editions/view/?/Stratford/2023/04/28&pages=032

For more great pictures of JIRR, see Dave Parkin’s excellent selection https://1drv.ms/f/s!AtAyGCrPvAupqho6bP6AymvayZMM?e=s72mPb

Stratford’s Juniors Out In Force At West Midlands Junior Championships

Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s junior squad went in force to Stourport for British Rowing’s West Midlands Junior Championships. Making their debut in rowing competition, the eight boys and four girls who make up Stratford’s J13 squad came home with at least one medal each. The J13’s rowed the 1800m downstream course cheered on at the midway point at Stourport Boat Club and showed everybody how focused and determined they are. It was smiles all-round on the day for the J13s. The gold medal time was 8 minutes and 45 seconds. J13 Coach Hugo Happel said,” I’m so proud of these boys and girls. They have great spirit, attitude, belief and are just a joy to coach. They have a terrific bond with each other and that showed again today. What a super bunch! Thanks to the parents for helping out, it is much appreciated!”

The winter head season continued at the weekend for Stratford’s J14 squad at the West Midlands Junior Championships. The event presented the opportunity for the region’s junior rowers to be selected to represent West Midlands at the Junior Inter Regional Regatta in April. As a result, the spectators lining the banks of the Severn were treated to an excellent display of rowing and sculling. First to go for the J14 squad was the girls coxed quadruple scull of Bryony Francis, Maeve Dunn, Becca Smith, Tessa Parkin and Poppy Warren (coxswain). The crew demolished the course to win the event by forty five seconds and gain West Midlands jerseys in the process. Next to go were the three J14 girls double sculls of Isla Dunn and Sophie Franklin, Martha Baines and Mille Smith and Martha Cooke and Josephine Cooper. It was a nip and tuck affair as the crews raced under Stourport Bridge with the majestic Victorian arch willing crews onwards. Commenting, Steve Wellstead, J14 Coach and Junior Co-ordinator said, “In the final analysis, the Stratford Boat Club crews were placed second, third and fifth with a cigarette paper between them: accomplished rows from all!”

The day started early in Stourport for the J16 squad at the qualifying event for the chance to represent the West Midlands at the prestigious Junior Inter-Regional Regatta. The WJ16 doubles headed down the course first, facing strong competition from high level clubs in the region. All three boats rowed elegantly, with the pairing of Nancy Davis and Jess Long coming home in fifth, Harriet Froom and Eloise Cooper in fourth and Megan Rowan and Lucy Sartain in second, meaning they qualified to represent the West Midlands. Next up was Jamie Wilcock in the J16 singles who put in a well composed performance to finish sixth in a field of tough competition. On the heels of the WJ16’s were Lily Warren and Poppy Baines in the WJ15 double and Xavier Sissins-Rofey in the single sculls events. Although not qualifying to represent the West Midlands, both crews delivered an excellent performance, bronze medals for Warren and Baines and silver for Sissins-Rofey

After a strong start in the morning, first crew down the course for division two was the WJ16 coxless quad of Ez Elfwood, Molly Vondrak, Scarlett Richardson and Aimee Appleton. A clean start and some tidy sculling, they pushed on to win with a sub seven minute time, eleven seconds ahead of the home Stourport crew and well ahead of the trailing Kings School Worcester and Pengwern boats to qualify to represent West Midlands at the inter regional regatta. Following the quad was the J16 double of Jamie Wilcock and Will Dalrymple Baker who just missed out on a podium position after delivering a skilful performance. Up next representing the J15’s was the coxed quad of Theo Richter, Seth Vondrak, James Albrighton, Ollie Rowlands coxed by Meg Nuttall. Following on from their previous success at Stourport’s own head race, the J15 boys did not disappoint finishing one second against their nearest rivals and now move onto the Inter Regional Regatta. In hot pursuit was Alexandra Francis competing in the single sculls. Francis was competing against a formidable opponent from AB Severn who last year was awarded a gold medal at the British Rowing Championships. Francis finished just three seconds behind her opponent in silver medal position, a result which shows promise for the year ahead.

Finishing the day with a final singles race, Molly Vondrak, Lucy Sartain and Eloise Cooper went back out for one more run. Chasing each other, they pushed hard and finished with some strong times, Molly finishing fourth, Lucy just behind in sixth, and Eloise in eighth positions in a highly competitive field of eleven boats. Following on was the WJ15 quad with Poppy Baines, Lily Warren trying to repeat their previous placing along with Sophie Evans, Alice Jones and cox Lucy Yang. Despite every effort and up against stiff opposition the girls finished in fifth place.

Two members of the J17/18 squad also took on the familiar course at Stourport-on-Severn. Whilst they were not eligible for qualification for the Inter-Regional Regatta, Charles Happel and Toby Sartain competed in the J17 and J18 singles events respectively. Happel sculled superbly to bring home a confident win in his class, whilst Sartain also put up a good performance to finish third. In the afternoon division, they then combined to compete in the J18 doubles events, where in a field of strong crews they recorded a third place finish, rounding out a successful day.

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald page forty five and Stratford Observer online https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-boat-club-juniors-impress-at-west-midlands-junior-championships

For a selection of photographs see Kathy and Stuart Baines’ amazing album WMJRRC 2023

Canal or River: Stratford Deliver!

An early, crisp start welcomed Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s J14 squad as they arrived to do battle on the 2.5km course held on the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal in the Wycliffe Small Boats Head on Saturday. First down the course was the WJ14 coxed quadruple scull of Isla Dunn, Cara Berisford-Murray, Martha Baines, Martha Cooke and Bryony Francis (coxswain). A plucky row saw them in the mix with the Bristol Rowing Club and luminaries of the junior rowing scene Henley Rowing Club. The crew eventually placed fourth and within touching distance of the crews ahead. Next up where the three Stratford WJ14 double scull crews of Bryony Francis and Sophie Franklin, Millie Smith and Tessa Parkin and Becca Smith with Poppy Warren. In a hard fought event, the Stratford crews placed third, fourth and fifth with the Parkin/Smith crew picking up the bronze medal. Finally, the WJ14 single sculls took the water with Maeve Dunn and Josephine Cooper representing Stratford. Both girls put their hard training to work and sculled tremendously to be placed third and fifth with Maeve Dunn collecting the bronze in emphatic style.

Representing the Junior 15 squad in their inaugural single sculls rowing head were Alexandra Francis and Xavier Sissins-Rofey. Francis, racing against fourteen crews faced her double scull rival from City of Bristol. Francis starting behind the Bristol sculler, she closed the staggered start gap and crossed the finish line in first place. Given Sissons-Rofey only started rowing a year ago, he managed to cross the line in seventh place out of a field of fifteen crews. Representing the girls in the quadruple sculling event were Sophie Evans, Poppy Baines, Lily Warren, Lucy Yang and Alice Jones (coxswain) finishing sixth out of fifteen crews. Finally, in diminishing light and low temperature conditions, the boys quadruple scull of Theo Richter, Seth Vondrak, Ollie Rowlands, James Albrighton and Meg Nuttall (coxswain) took to the water finishing fifth out of fifteen crews.

With exams impacting the availability for racing this weekend, the J16 squad took just five athletes to Wycliffe Small Boats Head. First up in Division 1 was the J16 women’s coxless quad of Jess Long (stroke), Molly Vondrak, Scarlett Richardson and Aimee Appleton (bow).  After a strong start out of the bridge, they managed to pass local rivals Kings School Worcester and then with open water ahead of them, continued to work hard for the rest of the race finishing in gold medal position, seventeen seconds ahead of Thames Scullers and twenty six seconds ahead of the Kings School Worcester boat.

In Division 2 Vondrak and Richardson doubled up to race again in the WJ16 2x. Pushing hard throughout the race, they pulled away from a chasing Thames Scullers’ crew to secure a bronze medal, only narrowly missing out on silver by 0.2 seconds. Following them was Will Dalrymple-Baker in the open J16 1x. In a strong field of thirteen athletes, he rowed hard and consistently to gain a respectable fifth place.

Last up in Division 3 was Appleton in the women’s J16 1x for her second race of the day. Rowing a tidy race and pushing hard in the last 500m, she secured seventh in a competitive field.

The J17/18 squad started the day on a high note as the WJ18 4+ of Kate Richardson, Harriet Noyes, Maddie Hall, Amalia Richardson and cox Poppy Baines set off for their race in the first division. Despite Baines being a last minute substitute, they rowed strongly to win their event posting a time of 9:49.2. The two J18 doubles of Will Beattie and Tomi Wilcock, and Charles Happel and Toby Sartain were next to race for the squad in the second division. Beattie and Wilcock set off first and sculled superbly to come home in first place, ahead of fifteen other boats. Happel and Sartain followed them down the 2.5km course, and came over the line in joint seventh place, setting an identical time to the crew from The King’s School Worcester. Division three saw Beattie, Wilcock, Happel and Sartain race as one crew in the Open J18 4+ event, again with a late substitute cox who was kind to step in despite being from the RGS Worcester squad. They rowed confidently, despite being an inexperienced combination, however they were unfortunate to be outpaced by strong crews from Winchester College and King Edward The Sixth School and finished fourth overall.

Also competing at Wycliffe Small Boats Head was Stratford’s sister club, King Edward The Sixth School: the first race of the season for KES saw a quad and four competing. With a last minute substitution due to illness, the quad was up first in a strong field of J18 quads. Ed Rose, Rafa MacDonald, Tom Wheeler and Will Dalrymple-Baker had a good scull, completing the course in 8:53, putting them in sixth place within six seconds of a medal. In the afternoon, again with last minute substitution, the same crew went out in the coxed four with Poppy Baines from Stratford coxing. They had another decent row finishing in bronze medal position behind two strong crews from Winchester College.

Not to be left out, Stratford’s Masters’ squad travelled to Monmouth on Sunday to compete on the River Wye. The women’s new masters eight of Amanda Bowden, Suzie Radley, Charlotte Jones, Heather Hayton, Jane Cryer, Kjersti Rogneflaten Woolley, Ellie Davis and Ruth Poulten won Monmouth Head over a 2.5 km course. Not only that, but they were the pennant winners for the fastest women’s eight for the day at 6.55 minutes! This is a superb achievement to this newly formed eight in their first race and it shows the strength of women in the Club. Said Charlotte Jones, crew members, “Despite the cold, damp conditions, the women were determined and, with Amanda at stroke, we set a good rate. Women’s rowing at Stratford Boat Club is just getting better and better!

Not satisfied with just one win, Stratford’s women’s’ masters quad of Heather Hayton, Amanda Bowden, Ruth Poulten and Suzie Radley raced for a second time to win in a time of 7 minutes19 seconds! Suzie steered a great course keeping hold of the stream.

Also at Monmouth on Sunday, a Stratford Masters 8+ debuted at the Winter Head, competing in the Mixed Masters D/E/F category. The crew, with an age range of 45 to 76 years old, raced the 2500m downstream in cold but thankfully calm weather, guided confidently by their experienced cox Isobel Moore who has been coxing for Stratford since she was a junior and more recently, coxing for University of Edinburgh Boat Club.

In their first 500m, the crew pushed firm, finding their pace for the 2000m still to come. With their opposition from Avon County Rowing Club ahead of them, the enthusiastic Stratford crew were ready to battle for a win in their very first race as a crew. Entering their last 500m, the crew dug deep to find those last strokes, their energy restored and spirits lifted by shouts of encouragement from the bank as they crossed the finish line.

Having only come together as a crew this autumn and with just a few weeks of training to prepare, the group was pleased with the result of their hard work, even if they missed out on a win. No doubt the presence of two Level 2 coaches in the crew was a blessing, with both Joe Moore and Alfie Nash bestowing their years of rowing expertise to the crew. Another mention must go to Alfie for completing his first race as a rower, having only coxed in previous races, as well as to David Day for his racing debut at 76 years old! The crew are already back to training and looking ahead to plan their next race in the new year. The crew consisted of Christine Deacon, Clare Booth, David Day, Joe Moore, Simon Moore, Alfie Noakes, Paola Ward, Rona Fitzpatrick and Isobel Moore (cox).

For media coverage, please see Stratford Herald https://www.stratford-herald.com/sport/junior-squads-make-waves-9288103 and page forty four and Stratford Observer https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-success-for-stratford-juniors-at-wycliffe-small-boats-head and also back sports page https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/editions/view/?/Stratford/2022/12/09&pages=024

For more great pictures of Wycliffe Small Boats Head, see Stuart Baines’ excellent selection https://1drv.ms/u/s!AiW2DAyn9tg9j6BfI3pyu0CSN51jdA?e=18GHXv

Stratford’s J14 and J15’s Put Down A Marker at Evesham!

Hot on the heels of Wallingford Long Distance Sculls last weekend, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s J14 and J15 squads were back in competitive action a few miles downstream on the Avon for Evesham Junior Head. Perfect conditions greeted the athletes as they warmed up for a day of against the clock racing over 1900m.

First to go were the WJ14 double scull crews of Isla Dunn with Millie Smith and Josephine Cooper with Martha Baines. With competition hot, the Dunn/Smith combination recorded fifth place with the Baines/Cooper outfit close behind in sixth place. Next were the WJ14 single sculls where Becca Smith and Tessa Parkin represented the Club. With nothing left on the course, the scullers recorded exactly the same time to finish equal third – quite something over a ten minute race. Last to take the water was the WJ14 coxed quadruple scull of Bryony Francis, Maeve Dunn, Sophie Franklin, Martha Cooke and Tessa Parkin (coxswain). The crew tore up the course leaving quality clubs such Headington School and Hinksey Sculling School in their wake to take the win in emphatic style with classy sculling on show.

First down the course for the J15 squad were the coxed quad of Theo Richter, Xavier Sissins-Rofey, Seth Vandrok, Ollie Rowlands, and Meg Nuttall (coxswain): despite a valiant effort, the boys could not close the gap between themselves and Hinksey Sculling School finishing in second place. Representing the girls were the WJ15 double sculls of Alice Jones with Poppy Baines finishing in fourth place and Sophie Evans with Alexandra Francis. Despite an untimely nosebleed and a clash with a slower boys’ crew from Royal Grammar School Worcester the Evans/Francis combination finished in second, missing out on the medals by just four seconds.

For media coverage, see Stratford Observer online https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-junior-rowers-lay-down-a-marker-in-evesham and back sports page https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/editions/view/?/Stratford/2022/10/14&pages=024 and also Stratford Herald page fifty one

For more great pictures of Stratford Juniors at Evesham Rowing Club Junior Head, see Kathy Baines’ excellent selection https://1drv.ms/u/s!AgY7EiDB2lCOhbJnPzqq34Axw27Z_g?e=hFrKXg

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 Show Real Mettle at Ironbridge!

On Saturday 25 June, Stratford upon Avon juniors set off early and racing side by side over 1000m with the stream, upstream from the pretty town of Ironbridge, opposite the former cooling towers, Will Dalrymple-Baker beat a Grosvenor sculler and two City of Bristol Scullers to take the win in the J15 1x Band 1 event. Jamie Wilcock crashed whilst in the lead, recovered well but ran out of time.

The Stratford WJ15 doubles of Nancy Davis/Jessica Long and Harriet Froom/Esmerelda Elfwood sculled with fine technique against powerful opponents from Grange School and Huntingdon, with a win for Nancy and Jessica. The latter duo came just short in the Final.

Following on from the J15’s was Theo Richter, Xavier Sissins-Rofey, Seth Vondrak , Ollie Rowlands in the OpJ14 coxed quad. The boys were determined to make up for their equipment failure at Stratford regatta last weekend. A very strong start enabled the boys to pull ahead within the first quarter of the course. Their cox Meg Nuttall steered a perfect line and pushed the boys to further increase their lead, winning the final against Grange School by a convincing four boat lengths.

Up next was Poppy Baines who faced a very strong sculler Daisy O’Reilly from City of Bristol and despite a strong start where both girls were neck and neck, Daisy managed to pull away crossing the line fist. The City of Bristol sculler went on to win the finals of the WJ14 single event.

In Division Two, Jamie Wilcock and Will Dalrymple-Baker raced twice to win the J15 2x Band 2 event, beating crews from Grange and City of Bristol. In the WJ15 1x events, all three Stratford scullers Aimee Appleton, Molly Vondrak and Eloise Cooper raced very well but came just short against tough opponents from Grange and Liverpool Victoria.

The WJ15 4x+ event saw very close racing and the Stratford girls, Scarlett Richardson, Megan Rowan, Jessica Long and Harriet Froom, coxed by Nancy Davis, beat City of Bristol by two feet and then Grange by half a length to take the event win.

Also in Division Two, Alexandra Francis, Sophie Evans, Alice Jones, and Lily Yang competed in the WJ 14 coxed quad verses Grange School. Grange School were a little too eager to make for their boys’ loss earlier in the day. Grange were quick of the start but were unable to sustain their fast pace. Once again Meg Nuttall, the Stratford cox, stuck to her race plan. Not fazed by her opposition she successfully coxed the girls to a win of one length.

Commenting on the day Hugo Happel, Stratford’s J15 coach said, ”It was a very special atmosphere all day with the crowds gathered in front of the Ironbridge Boathouse being very lively and engaged which made for a great experience for competitors and spectators alike. The J15 athletes did so well, much improved pre-race preparation and fantastic sculling with great determination, well done all!”

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald online https://www.stratford-herald.com/sport/juniors-show-their-mettle-9261155 and page sixty and also Stratford Observer online https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-stratford-upon-boat-club-juniors-on-form-at-ironbridge

Stratford’s Bumper Weekend at Evesham and Marlow!

This weekend saw Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s Men’s masters competing in both Saturday’s 1000m event and Sunday’s 500m Sprints at Evesham Rowing Club’s Spring Regatta. On Saturday, the Master’s E 4+ crew , (Edwards, Aitchison, Cann, Skillings, cox Francis) were up against a national championship crew from Pengwern Boat Club, Shropshire.  The race started well with Pengwern showing the benefit of many years racing and getting an early lead over Stratford. Stratford did not let this affect them and held the gap until the halfway point where Stratford started gaining on their opposition. Stratford continued to gain, with cox Francis driving the crew hard in her first competitive event. However, in the final 200m Pengwern once again showed the benefit of race experience and put in an heroic push to secure a win over Stratford. After the event, Pengwern’s crew said, “You certainly gave us a good run for our money, we’ve looking forward to the next time!”

Sunday saw the Masters’ E 4+ crew, (Simkins, Charlesworth, Shepherd, Freeman, cox Ward) in the 500m event against a Masters’ F crew from Warwick. The Stratford crew had a two length handicap and after an epic sprint to the clubhouse, they lost out by just half a length! Bowman Simkins said, “Even though we lost by half a length, it was nice to be competing again!”

Also racing at Evesham Regatta were Stratford’s Mixed Masters’ double sculls of Heather Hayton and Tom Doherty and they led off the Stratford Masters’ participation in the afternoon division racing in the D/E [50 to 55] age category.

A good clean start saw Hayton and Doherty take an early racing lead against local rivals Warwick into the first of two large bends on the course. A push on the straight after the bend saw Stratford slightly increase their lead to about three lengths up to the 500 metre halfway mark. Warwick were not to be outdone however and approaching the second large bend, put in a strong push on the inside favourable side of the river to close back on Stratford reducing the lead to about a length and a half with 300 metres to go. Stratford did not panic and maintained a smooth rhythm and rating of 34 strokes per minute to extend their lead over the last two hundred meters to win by two lengths!

Stratford’s J15 squad raced in four events at the Evesham Regatta on Saturday. In the WJ15 4x+ event, Nancy Davis cox Scarlett Richardson, Megan Rowan, Jessica Long and Harriet Froom to Gold success, beating a fine Evesham crew in the final on their home waters. In J15 singles event, Jamie Wilcock sculled into the semi-final beating one of his nemeses from Evesham. In the WJ15 singles event, Eloise Cooper, Lucy Sartain and Molly Vondrak sculled very well with the latter making the final, losing by a length to a formidable opponent from Bristol. In the WJ15 doubles event, Stratford occupied two of the four semi-final slots, sadly with neither making it to the final. Commenting, Hugo Happel, J15 Coach said, “We were very pleased with the J15 performances, all round good sculling, tremendous work ethic and some well deserved outcomes. Well done to all the athletes!”

A highly successful days racing at Evesham at the weekend accumulating in Stratford Boat Club being awarded the Victor Ludorum, “the winner of the games” on Saturday. The trophy is presented to the club who have won the most events or accumulated the most points on the day. Following on from the Junior Inter Regional Regatta last weekend, Stratford’s J14’s competed in both the Saturday, 1000m event and Sunday 500m Sprints.

First up on Saturday the crew of the OP J14 coxed quadruple sculls Seth Vondrak, Xavier Sissins-Rofey, James Albrighton, Theo Richter, and Ollie Rowlands (coxswain) faced a crew from the host club Evesham in a straight final: the boys dominated the race from the start resulting in an easy win to Stratford.

Following on from the boys, the WJ14 double of Lily Warren and Poppy Baines faced a crew from Bristol City: despite a close start, the girls lost out to Bristol who went on to win the overall event. In the other side of the draw were the crew of Alice Jones and Sophie Evans who were given a bye to the semi-final. Despite a delay at the start due to equipment issues with their opposition, the Stratford crew kept pace over the first quarter of the course, sadly losing out to a strong crew from AB Severn.

Joining the J13 squad on the Sunday “Sprint “were Ollie Rowlands and Alexandra Francis in their debut single sculls event. Due to the withdrawal of opposition in the semi-final, Rowlands faced a long wait for the finals of the OJ 14 singles event. Facing an old quadruple quad adversary and despite a valid attempt, Rowlands eventually lost out to the Abingdon sculler.

Francis dominated the first and semi-final rounds easily: the same could not be said of the final as Francis faced formidable opposition from AB Severn. An exciting race ensued, both crews neck and neck for most of the course receiving vocal encouragement by the spectators on the boathouse bank. In what was a nail-biting finish, Francis took advantage of the staggered finish line and eventually won by a quarter of a length.

The J18 Club Squad were also present and competing in the afternoon division. Hannah Broome and Isabella Sandland, competing in their first regatta event, rowed a strong race beating their opponents in their first heat easily with a strong start and great teamwork but losing out to the eventual winners of the event in their semi-final event. Racing continued with Elisabeth Edwards next to race in the W1x event. Competing against an experienced sculler from Exeter, Edwards put up a strong fight, keeping level with her opponent throughout but lost out at the finish by just one length.

Martha Usselmann was last to race against the Exeter sculler having had a bye to the final of the W1x category: a barge on the course led to the race being restarted but Usselmann had a strong start and kept level with her opposition. Steering a confident line down the course, Usselmann drew ahead halfway through the race and kept up her lead to the finish securing a win of two lengths for the event.

On Sunday, Day Two of the ever popular Evesham Regatta got underway with the “Sprint Edition”: half the distance of Saturday’s event but by no means any less competitive. The 500m course ran from bridge to club through the heart of Evesham’s Abbey Park to provide the spectators with an excellent view of the racing as the action unfolded.

In their debut regatta, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club was represented by the J13 squad racing in single, double and quadruple sculls.  First up, the double scull of Martha Baines and Martha Cooke sculled smoothly into the final where they met the other Stratford pairing of Tessa Parkin and Maeve Dunn.  The race did not disappoint with the crew of Marathas (plus lucky avocado) the eventual winners!

Next up were six of the young scullers competing in the J13 single sculls event. A daunting prospect for the most seasoned oarswoman, the Stratford girls demonstrated boatmanship beyond their years. Throughout the event, the scullers Martha Baines, Cara Berisford-Murray, Isla Dunn, Poppy Warren, Sophie Franklin and Martha Cooke tore up the Avon dealing with the competition in the process. Isla Dunn emerged from the fray victorious to collect the second win for Stratford Boat Club with a classy scull beating Avon County Rowing Club in the final by two lengths.

In the final event for the J13 squad, the coxed quadruple sculls event was closely fought against local rivals on the water, Evesham Rowing Club. The Stratford crew of Becca Smith, Cara Berisford-Murray, Poppy Warren, Sophie Franklin and Martha Cooke (coxswain) pushed hard in their semi-final with just two lengths separating them from victory. In the other side of the draw, the other Stratford crew of Millie Smith, Isla Dunn, Josephine Cooper, Bryony Francis and Martha Baines (coxswain) fared better to secure their place in the final by a comfortable margin. Sadly, they were unable to convert their semi-final performance into victory and lost out to a quality Evesham outfit by just one length.

Commenting on the day’s racing, Stratford’s Junior Coordinator and J13 coach Steve Wellstead said, “These young athletes showed the strength of their already tight squad with how they supported and helped one another in their first competition. The two event wins were the icing on the cake that was a great day on the water!”

The J16 squad faced a busy bank holiday weekend competing in two regattas. The first at Evesham on Saturday was held on a tight 1,000 meter course with a tricky bend after the start. Charles Happel boated first in his single scull taking a confident win to progress to the final where he met Worcester Rowing Club. Charles made a flying start only to clip a submerged log with his oar ending his race in spectacular fashion. Amalia Richardson, Harriet Noyes, Maddie Hall and Kate Richardson had no competition in the WJ16 category so they entered their quad in the women’s event. They took a convincing win in the semi final against Exeter to meet Stourport in the final. Despite a top class performance from the Stratford girls the Stourport women had the power to take the win. To round off the afternoon for the J16s Charlotte Isbell and Grace Beason, racing for the first time together in their double scull, met Royal Grammar School Worcester in the final. They sculled very well, but were beaten by a more experienced crew.

Stratford’s sister club King Edward Sixth School Boat Club also competed at Evesham Rowing Club’s Spring Regatta and made outstanding effort with their Performance Squad beating a muscular Clifton College in the final. Great preparation for next week’s Ball Cup!

Also competing on Saturday but further south at Marlow Rowing Club’s Spring Regatta were Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s ever expanding adaptive squad. With a win for Stratford sculler Lee Cairns, competing in his first competitive event, Lee won the fixed seat singles event. Fixed seat racing is a pararowing competition for individuals who due to a medical condition are not able to use legs to propel the boat. Lee’s final was the closest and most exciting race of the adaptive day. The lead changed hands more than once: in the closing stages, by maintaining good technique, Lee finally got the better of his opponent, Luke Payne from Sudbury, winning by a length.

The day was an unusual one for the Stratford adaptive squad: usually the squad comes away from an event with multiple wins. However, this time, the squad lost five out of six finals. Head Adaptive Coach Mark Dewdney commented, “That’s sport: today we rowed well but our opponents rowed better! Congratulations to them!”

Some of Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s alumnae including Katie Wellstead (Oxford University), Talei Dunn (Durham University), Molly Gill-Swift (Exeter University ) and Hermione Hill (Durham University) were competing at the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) Regatta 2022 at Nottingham over the weekend as well.

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald page fifty one and Stratford Observer online https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-stratford-upon-avon-boat-club-enjoy-bumper-weekend-at-evesham-and-marlow and on back sports page https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/editions/view/?/Stratford/2022/05/06&pages=024

For more great pictures of Evesham regatta, see Kathy and Stuart Baines’ selections at https://1drv.ms/u/s!AgY7EiDB2lCOhY5uHPyivDC7tTkc7Q?e=F0KGmw and https://1drv.ms/f/s!AiW2DAyn9tg9j45NUoENU9m4AbAATw

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