Stratford Rounds Off Season at Ross

Experiencing the Ross on Wye Sunday 550m Sprint course in the morning division for the first time, the J13 doubles of Seb Happel/Rory Rowan and Ed Appleton/ James Greenwood showed excellent steersmanship however the crews of City of Bristol and Queens Park High proved a tad too strong in the semi finals.

In the afternoon division, the WJ13 doubles of Maria Ntoukaki/Naomi Sime and Orla Linforth/Erin Appleton proved equally adept at steering the tricky course, but were narrowly beaten by a powerful Hereford double by half a length. Also in the afternoon, the same four J13 boys took to the quad and, expertly coxed by Rory Jones, took victory in the OJ13 4x+ event by 1.5L against Hereford Rowing Club. Commenting, Hugo Happel, J13 Coach said. Overall it was a brilliant day for the J13s, their last competition before they transition to J14, armed with even more learning and desire to develop and have fun!”

The traditional end of season event for Stratford upon Avon Boat Club arrived over the Bank Holiday weekend with thirty nine crews travelling to Ross Regatta. The event is considered a classic on the club racing calendar with two days of racing on the beautiful River Wye. The Sprint Regatta on Day One saw J13, J14, Masters and Adaptive athletes compete over the 550m course.

In the Masters G single sculls, Stratford’s Julian Foster took an early scalp with a solid win in the first round against Thames Tradesmen. Ross Regatta attracts competitors from far afield and in the final Stratford’s Foster lined up against the bronze medallist from the British Championships. Undeterred, Foster gave chase to the Star Club athlete but was unable to cause the much hoped for upset and finished second.

The Stratford’s J14 squad were out in force at Ross with entries across all categories in their age group. First to go were the single scullers entered in both Band One and Band Two events.  An all Stratford final was assured in Band Two as Tessa Parkin romped past Queens Park High School and Millie Smith recorded a narrow win against her squad mate Poppy Warren. The Band Two final did not disappoint with Tessa and Millie battling it out and Millie Smith the eventual winner. The Band One final was less dramatic and Stratford’s Sophie Franklin left the City of Bristol Sculler in her wake to record the win.

Next to go was the Stratford’s Sophie Franklin (coxswain) who executed a superb race to take the win against Queens Park High School. With the morning’s excitement barely receding, the afternoon racing got underway with the Stratford’s J14 girls coxed quadruple scull of Martha Cooke, Tessa Parkin, Millie Smith, Poppy Warren and Sophie Franklin (coxswain) took to the water to race against Liverpool Victoria in the boys event. Another great race saw the girls delight the crowd by chasing the boys hard down the course and just a quarter of a length margin put the Liverpool boys through to the next round. Finally, in the WJ14 double sculls event, Stratford fielded crews of Martha Baines/Isla Dunn and Josephine Cooper/Bryony Francis. The crews swept their competition aside in the semifinals to deliver another all Stratford final. Commenting, Steve Wellstead, J14 Coach and Junior Coordinator, said. “And what a final! The two crews passed the assembled crowd bow ball to bow ball, the Wye boiling with heat of competition! In the final analysis, some classy steering from Dunn saw the Dunn/Baines combination take the win and round off a pot-tastic day for the squad! 

First on the water were the open J15 doubles: despite having issues with their start, the double of Seth Vondrak and Xavier Sissins-Roffey managed to close the initial gap between them and their opposition from Queens Park High, missing out on a place in the final by only a metre to the eventual winners of the event. Also competing in this event, the double of Oliver Rowlands and James Albrighton comfortably won their semi final but unfortunately lost in their final against Queens Park High.

Competing in the junior 15 women’s coxed quad was the quad of Lily Warren, Poppy Baines, Sophie Evans and Alice Jones, cox Lucy Yang, who in a close race against yet another Queens Park High crew, unfortunately lost by less than a boat length. In the junior 15 women’s singles event, Alexandra Francis raced against a strong sculler from A B Severn and after establishing a lead relatively early on, went on to win the event.

In the afternoon, the doubles of Alice Jones and Lily Warren and Sophie Evans and Poppy Baines competed in the women’s J15 double sculls. Jones and Warren raced well in their heat but unfortunately were beaten by a double from Queens Park High. The double of Evans and Baines won their heat by a comfortable margin but in their semi final against an Evesham double, lost out by a small margin after some very close racing.

In the open junior 15 singles Xavier Sissins-Roffey raced a very experienced sculler from Black Sheep Rowing Club and despite being very close for the majority of the race, unfortunately clipped a buoy before the finish line allowing his opposition to pull away and take the win. In the open J15 coxed quads, the quad of James Albrighton, Oliver Rowlands, Seth Vondrak and Alexandra Francis, coxed by Lucy Yang, raced a quad from Queens Park High and quickly established a considerable lead over their opposition, winning the event by five lengths.

The J16’s were represented in the Sunday sprint event by Jess Long, Harriet Froom and Will Dalrymple-Baker in the single sculls along with Aimee Appleton and Lucy Sartain in the double sculls event. Both Jess and Harriet put on great displays of sculling and stayed in contention through to the finish, but were unable to overhaul their opponents despite big efforts from both girls.

Dalrymple-Baker faced a familiar opponent from Evesham in his semi final and having never beaten him was determined to ring in the changes. Quick off the start and gaining the advantage, Dalrymple-Baker maintained a high stroke rate and held off the advancing Evesham sculler to secure a place in the final by two feet. Despite the gargantuan efforts of the semi final, Dalrymple-Baker picked himself up to face an even bigger opponent from Monmouth but despite deploying the same race strategy, narrowly missed out on the win by just two feet.

The afternoon division saw the Appleton/Sartain double square up against Staines in a semi final. Rounding the bend the girls were just over a length down and sculling well together before the Staines crew used their physical advantage to push on and counter the attack from the Stratford girls, denying them a place in the final.

On Monday Jess Long and Harriet Froom came together in the double sculls event on the longer regatta course. Facing local rivals Evesham in the semi-final, the girls displayed the same levels of determination from their singles event the previous day to take a convincing win and secure a place in the final against Liverpool Victoria. Feeling buoyed by their win the girls put in another gutsy performance but ultimately the Liverpool crew were too strong and took the win.

Amélie and Lucy Sartain were first up on Sunday, racing in the senior women’s doubles event. They sculled strongly despite minimal practice but fell to a close defeat in their first round. Freya Watts was next on the course in the WJ18 singles event, and rowed a brilliant race to come home just short of a win against a previous National Champion from Evesham. The OJ18 double of Charles Happel and Toby Sartain then took on a straight final against a crew from Evesham Rowing Club in what would be their last of many races as a pairing this season and they cruised home to take the win by a margin of four lengths.

Next up was the WJ18 coxed four of Kate Richardson, Maddie Hall, Uchenna Nwachukwu, Harriet Noyes and cox Imogen Hill. Despite proficient rowing. they were unfortunate to fall short to a crew from Black Sheep Rowing Club in their first round. Will Beattie followed in the senior men’s singles category and, after taking a superb win in his first round by four lengths to a sculler from Liverpool Victoria, he then fell to an extremely close loss in the final by only one quarter of a boat length. Beattie was soon to race again though, this time alongside Toby and Amélie Sartain and Freya Watts in the senior mixed quads event. In another straight final against a crew from Queen’s Park High School, the four scullers put in an immense performance with no prior training in the boat to turn the race around in the last one hundred metres, coming from behind to take an unexpected and special win. Finally, Charles Happel took to the water one last time in the J18 singles event, and rounded off a victorious day for the squad with an effortless win in his final. J18 Coach Abi Terry commented. “As the final race for the J18’s as juniors, it was a great way to end the season!”

Stratford J16s and J17s also combined forces to enter an VIII in the Senior Women’s event. Megan Rowan, Aimee Appleton, Ez Elmwood, V, Harriet Noyes, Maddie Hall, Uche Nwachukwa, Kate Richardson and coxswain Imogen Hill drew a strong crew from Warwick in the semi-final but displayed better technique and soon pulled out a convincing lead to progress to the final. Despite a quality row and holding a high rate for the entire 750 metre course, Stratford could not hang on to a very experienced and powerful composite crew from Black Sheep Rowing Club in the final. J16 Coach Sam Hill said, “The girls have put in a superb performance, punching way above their weight with very little time training together: so it bodes well for next season when they ‘graduate’ to J17/18’s this September.”

Ross Rowing Club has recently started a Mixed Ability section which follows Stratford Boat Club’s example: Mixed Ability seeks to integrate adaptive rowers with able bodied club members. A Mixed Ability event took place at Ross Regatta between ladies’ doubles from each club with Stratford’s more experience crew of adaptive athlete Gillian Middleton and buddy rower Jackie Joesbury winning the day by four lengths.

For media coverage, see Stratford Observer online https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-boat-club-round-off-season-at-ross

Stratford Clean Up at Oxford

Sunday 20 August saw Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s J13 and adaptive crews take on the 500m Sprint course at City of Oxford Regatta with stakeboat start by Jesus and Keble College boat house. In the morning division, competing in the WJ13 2x event, the doubles of Orla Linforth/Erin Appleton and Maria Ntoukaki/Naomi Sime steered a good course but were beaten by very competent crews from Oxford City and Thames Scullers (eventual winners).

In the afternoon division, competing in the J13 1x event, Rory Rowan, Euan Richer, Seb Happel, Noah Rutter and Ed Appleton sculled very well too but were beaten by more experienced scullers from Falcon Boat Club and Oxford City, rowing on their home waters. Said Hugo Happel, J13 Coach, “Overall, the J13s bagged some worthwhile experience on the Thames, taking away many positive learning points.”

First on the water was the women’s J15 double of Lily Warren and Alexandra Francis who won their first round against a crew from Upton: however, they then lost their semi final to a strong Wallingford crew by three quarters of a length after a close race and a commendable sprint finish.

In the open J15 doubles, Xavier Sissins-Roffey and Theo Richter raced a formidable Falcon crew who had the advantage as they were on home water and despite a strong racing start which gave the Stratford crew an initial lead, lost to the eventual winners of the category. Also in the open J15 doubles was the mixed double of Poppy Baines and James Albrighton, who, despite never having rowed together before, gave an impressive performance but were beaten by tough opposition from a Wallingford crew.

In the afternoon division, Seth Vondrak won his initial race against a Falcon single by a comfortable four lengths. Progressing on to the next race he showed great sportsmanship in requesting to race his opposition from Wallingford in the semi final, despite the fact the Wallingford single had been initially disqualified which would have secured him a spot in the final. After a closely battled race, Seth narrowly missed out on his spot in the final. Also competing in the singles events, Alexandra Francis competed against a strong single from Wallingford in her semi-final and, after a very close race from start to finish, she won by just two feet which meant she progressed through to the final where she met another Wallingford single who she also beat to win the women’s J15 singles event.

Stratford’s J16 squad entered two crews, the first being a WJ16 quad with Aimee Appleton, Eloise Cooper, Esme Elfwood and Lucy Sartain: rowing up against seniors due to lack of competition in their age group, the quad lost narrowly to a strong Abingdon crew. The Stratford boat finished strongly gaining with every stroke but Abingdon held on to cross the line just a quarter of a boat length ahead.

In the same division Molly ‘V’ Vondrak enjoyed success in the WJ16 single sculling category. Following a confident row and comfortable win over Wallingford in the semi finals, Vondrak went on to the final against a sculler from Exeter Rowing Club. It was nip and tuck over the first half of the race but the Exeter sculler was unable to maintain the pace with Vondrak taking the win by a comfortable margin and collecting a medal.

Stratford’s senior women’s squad of Amelie Sartain and Alice Baines, racing together as a combination for the first time in over two years, had a strong first race against Bentham Boat Club in which they found their rhythm halfway through to power away to a four length lead over the finish line. In the final they drew a strong crew from Reading Rowing Club who jumped out to a length lead off the start but the Stratford double stuck to their plan and rowed through the competition on the inside of the bend and winning the event in style!

Stratford Boat Club’s adaptive section also joined the Club’s J13 squad on a sunny Sunday for the Oxford Sprint Regatta. The morning saw all the adaptive single scull races. There were several really good performances from Stratford’s adaptive section: Andy Morris, who has remained undefeated for most of the summer, again won his event overcoming his final opponent from the local City of Oxford Club by several lengths. Stratford’s adaptive thirteen year old Isaac Clarkson then had a very convincing win against an adult opponent from Marlow. Rob Pedley competed in two events and suffered a narrow defeat in the first race but winning his second final very convincingly over a Sudbury sculler.

Jess Dowdeswell had the hardest task of the day competing against a Paralympian from Kenya. Although Jess was beaten, this was the best performance of this her first summer of racing. Both coach and Jess were very pleased!

All the adaptive double races took place after the lunch break. These events saw another three Stratford Boat Club adaptive wins. Andy Morris and Isaac Clarkson, teaming up to defeat Guildford by a few lengths and then Daniel Browne and his support rower, Neville Hand, won their event in the most exciting final of the day, defeating a plucky crew from Marlow by a mere two feet! The last win was in an all Stratford final between James Bastin/Neville Hand and Phil Startin/Andy Morris. Phil winning his first ever event by a couple of lengths commented, ”My first regatta: what a fantastic day! Thank you Mark, Andy and everyone!”

Mark Dewdney, Stratford’s Head Adaptive Coach commented further, “With the exception of a few races on the Bank Holiday, this wraps up another very successful regatta season for Stratford Boat Club’s adaptive squad. We will be visiting Turin for an international event in early October and we have many exciting projects in hand to bring rowing to a wider audience of adaptive rowers.”

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald page forty one and online https://www.stratford-herald.com/sport/winning-ways-for-crews-at-oxford-9327338 an and also Stratford Observer online https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-boat-club-scullers-clean-up-at-oxford

For more great pictures of City of Oxford regatta, see Kathy Baines’ excellent selection https://onedrive.live.com/?authkey=%21APoYhH8AIy0FjnU&id=8E50DAC120123B06%21100237&cid=8E50DAC120123B06

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

Stratford’s Juniors Conquer The Severn!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 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 Move On Up at Gloucester!

As the country remains in the grip of the hot weather, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s traditional end of season plans had to change. Ross-on-Wye Regatta was forced to be cancelled due to insufficient water in the Wye so Stratford’s rowers instead headed across to Gloucester to compete over the bank holiday weekend.

An early riser, Julian Foster, a massively experienced sculler from Stratford Masters’ squad was first on the course taking a convincing win in the semi final against the mighty Exeter Rowing Club sculler. A classy row in the final made Foster’s competitor work hard but the Gloucester sculler took the win on home water. Commenting on the race, Foster said, “This is a great marker from which to build my 2023 season campaign, I’ll be back!”

Stratford’s junior squad were in action on the 650m course on the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal in the heart of Gloucester’s industrial docklands. In the WJ14 single sculls, Alexandra Francis put on a typically strong display but fell victim to the luck of the draw and lost out to the event winner from Gloucester Rowing club (a former indoor rowing champion). Seth Vondrak then took to the water to represent Stratford in the OpJ14 single sculls. Sculling hard over the course, Seth chased a young sculler from Exeter to just miss out on proceeding in the competition.

In the Seth Vondrak set about working through the field with comfortable wins against Gloucester and Ross rowing clubs taking her through to the final where she narrowly lost out to another quality sculler from Ross-on-Wye. Moving to double sculls, the duo of Xavier Sissins-Roffey and Theo Richter represented the club in the OpJ14 category. In a straight final the boys took the fight to Gloucester on their home water just losing out by four lengths in the final analysis.

Next to go was the WJ13 double scull combination of Maeve Dunn and Isla Dunn in their debut racing together. Lack of competition meant the girls raced in the open category and demonstrated their power to take the event win against the boys of Hereford Rowing Club. Lack of competition again meant the WJ13 coxed quadruple scull of Bryony Francis, Martha Baines, Millie Smith, Sophie Franklin and Poppy Warren (coxswain) rowed up to WJ14 level and cued up the race of the day. To reach the final, the girls raced a quality crew from Ross Rowing Club and took an early win which meant it was an all Stratford final with competition from Stratford’s Lucy Yang, Lily Warren, Alice Jones, Poppy Baines and Meg Nuttall (coxswain). The race proved more intense than the summer sun with the crews being neck and neck across the length of the course and an eerie silence fell with the finish bell, neither crew knowing who crossed the line first. By the slimmest margin, the crew of Francis, Baines, Smith, Franklin and Warren took the victory with the sport rowing being true victor in an amazing race. Serving up dessert in the smorgasbord junior rowing was the WJ13 single scull competition where Martha Baines, Poppy Warren and Josephine Cooper set to work. It was not to be their day however as strong competition from Thames Scullers and Evesham Rowing Club finished the Stratford girls’ day early after some quality racing from all.

A busy weekend for the J17/18 squad began on Saturday with a single sculls event for Toby Sartain who came up against a formidable opponent from City of Bristol Rowing Club. Unfortunately, the race was lost by a small margin for Sartain, despite the strong technique shown. Next, the WJ18 double sculls events took place where a duo of Ruby Howells and Martha Usselmann fell short against an impressive crew from Wycliffe Junior Rowing Club, located on the same canal as Gloucester. Amélie Sartain and Freya Watts also came up against a crew from Wycliffe, and, helped by an unfortunate mishap off the start line for the opposition, they triumphed by a margin of ‘easily’. They then raced for the prize against the same crew that had beaten out Howells and Usselmann, but they also fell short of the win.

Division One ended with an exciting performance by Lucy Sartain who, entered in the WJ15 single sculls, beat out a Ross Rowing Club sculler and then another from the host club Gloucester Rowing Club before losing out in the final to another Ross sculler by only two lengths. The afternoon saw three entries in the WJ18 single sculls from A. Sartain, Watts, and Elisabeth Edwards. However, none were able to progress beyond the quarter finals after stiff competition from both Wycliffe Junior Rowing Club and Worcester Rowing Club prevented a win.

On Sunday, racing started with a father-son combination of Nick and Toby Sartain who raced in the Open double sculls event. Having never rowed together before, an impressive race was fought before Carmarthen Rowing Club took the win. Following this, the WJ18 girls raced up in the senior category of Women’s double sculls. Ruby Howells and Freya Watts started off with a win over a City of Bristol crew but then faltered against a slick duo from Hereford Rowing Club. Amélie Sartain and Martha Usselmann had a bye to the semi-finals after a crew from Ross scratched their entry, and they were victorious after a close race against City of Bristol, winning by a third of a length. In the final, they met the same Hereford crew that Howells and Watts had lost to in the semi-final and, after a tight battle, they lost out on the win by just one length, the same margin that their teammates had lost to them by.

The weekend ended with an exciting entry from brother and sister T. and A. Sartain in the Mixed double sculls event. A highly anticipated race was unfortunately lost by the Stratford crew against senior rowers from Bristol Ariel Rowing Club but thoroughly enjoyed. Said Abi Terry, J17/J18 Performance Squad Coach, “The weekend was a fantastic opportunity for the Stratford rowers to show their hard work from the 2021-2022 season, and a chance to end the marvellous junior rowing careers of Amélie Sartain and Martha Usselmann on a high as they move up to Senior Category in a few days’ time!”

For media coverage, please see Stratford Herald online https://www.stratford-herald.com/sport/stratfords-end-of-season-plans-change-as-regatta-cancelled-9271441 and page forty five and Stratford Observer online https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-stratford-upon-avon-boat-club-produce-strong-showing-in-gloucester

For great pictures of Gloucester regatta, see Stuart Baines’ selection https://1drv.ms/u/s!AiW2DAyn9tg9j50qgkt5dAoWjQCXPA?e=YjhPvX

 

Some footnotes from Julian Foster on returning to competitive rowing after twenty four years:-

“This was my first regatta for at least twenty four years and I felt more nervous than I was at my first regatta back in the 70’s! I had to give a five second handicap to semi final opponent from Exeter. I was able to reel back his lead after about thirty strokes and then rowed though to about a two length lead which I sustained to the finish.

The modern division format came as a shock to the system as I was looking forward to a nice rest and a cup of tea to recover before the final. No such luck: sent straight back to the start for the final. Other finalist was local Gloucester sculler. No handicap this time so went off start together.

Gloucester sculler established small lead off start be we remained overlapped. I was feeling much more relaxed and was starting to get more control of my sculling – and nerves. I was able to execute a race plan and got even with opponent after around thirty five strokes.

I had established a bow ball lead and was trying to get into a steady rhythm when my current levels of endurance gave out and there was not a lot left in the tank. My opponent was clearly the fitter and stronger sculler on the day and it transpired he won the silver medal at this year’s Nat champs. He went on to win the final fairly easily.

Overall I was very pleased with how my return to racing is going. Basic boat speed and technique was reasonable. I can justify a winter of strength and endurance training and I know what is needed to be on par with the leading scullers in my class.”