The weather couldn’t have been better for the Stratford upon Avon Boat Club regatta with only a little rain but great participation with local crews and further afield from Evesham Rowing Club, Magdalen College School Boat Club, King’s School Worcester Boat Club, Royal Grammar School Worcester Boat Club, Hereford Boat Club, Ross Rowing Club, Clifton College Boat Club, King Edward V1 as well as major entries from Stratford upon Avon Boat Club itself. The regatta this year had three divisions and one hundred and sixty three separate races starting at promptly at 08.30 and running all day through until a close at 17.30hrs! Running a regatta to time is no mean feat and is a tribute to the race organisers!
This year the Club was very heartened again by the huge turn out from local and distant clubs and the interest from the public. A massive thanks to all our hard working Stratford Boat Club members, visiting crews, umpires and officials and especially the public for supporting the event. The Club was especially honoured to have Stratford upon Avon Town Council Mayor Kate Rolfe attend the regatta and walk the course with Stratford Boat Club President, Paul Stanton.
Dan Warren, Regatta Secretary commented, “It was a long day’s racing: our tea tent was extremely busy dispensing dozens of cakes and snacks. What a magnificent day topped by great racing! We ran the regatta under very tight protocols. We were especially grateful for the help and tolerance of those operators who work and make their living on the river.”
Saturday proved to be another day of rowing success, fun times and great learning for the Stratford Boat Club’s J13 squad. Starting off with Division One, in their straight final against Hereford Rowing, the Open J13 4x+ of Rory Rowan, Seb Happel, Ed Appleton and James Greenwood, expertly coxed by Orla Linforth, rowed to a comfortable win despite catching a crab at the start.
In Division Two, the WJ13 2x of Naomi Sime & Maria Ntoukaki had a steering problem on the tricky course, which caught many an athlete out on the day and they capsized. In Division Three, making their Women’s J13 single scull event debut, Orla Linforth and Erin Appleton put on a determined performance but lost out over the 500m course to powerful scullers from Evesham and Kings School Worcester.
Also, making their debut in the Open J13 single sculls were Rory Jones, Will Shaw, Euan Richter and Noah Rutter who had eventful heats, beating Worcester Rowing Club along the way. In the all Stratford final, Shaw beat Rutter by three lengths. Said Hugo Happel, J13 Coach, “The J13 glass pot winners were very grateful to Club President Paul Stanton for his kind and gracious words at the award ceremony. Athletes, parents and coach are immensely grateful to all the volunteers who made the day a huge success.”
Saturday’s Junior Sprint Regatta was the 500m course following the Avon through the town from Holy Trinity Church through to the finish line between the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, The Tramway Bridge and the Club’s grounds.
Stratford’s J14 squad were once again out in force to take on the visiting crews on their home water. First to go were the WJ14 single sculls of Tessa Parkin, Bryony Francis and Poppy Warren. Francis harried a confident Hereford sculler down the course in a thrilling race which resulted in a disqualification for Hereford as they strayed into Stratford’s racing lane. Next up Tessa Parkin raced hard against local rivals Evesham Rowing Club with Evesham taking the win by a length. Poppy Warren delivered the performance of her rowing career to seize a win in the semi-final against her squad mate and then produced a nail biting row in the final to beat her opposition by half a length only to be disqualified after straying from her competitor’s racing lane.
In the WJ14 double sculls event, Stratford’s Becca Smith and Isla Dunn sculled confidently but were overcome by Evesham in the semi-final. On the other side of the draw, it was a different story as Josephine Cooper and Martha Baines took an easy win in their semi-final and went on to collect victory in the final with a gutsy row.
In the WJ14 coxed quadruple sculls event, the Stratford crew of Sophie Franklin, Millie Smith, Maeve Dunn, Martha Cook and Bryony Francis (coxswain) put forward a strong campaign with easy wins in the early rounds. A similarly commanding performance saw them take the win in the final against Evesham.
Saturday provided the opportunity for the J16 squad to take on local clubs and schools at Stratford Junior Sprint Regatta. First down the course was the J16 single of Will Dalrymple Baker who gained a spot in the final after winning his heats and semi finals. He was followed by Jamie Wilcock who faced tough competition from Evesham and narrowly missed out on a place in the final . Dalrymple-Baker had a fast start in the final but despite an exciting and close race, he too lost out to Evesham by just a foot.
Next down were the WJ16 single sculls. Nancy Davis rowed a tidy race and gained on her competition as she rounded the ferry bend but it wasn’t enough to win the heat. Eloise Cooper in the Band 2 final put in an excellent display of sculling and easily beat her competition, earning a well deserved and long overdue winners pot.
After a later start than expected, the first WJ16 2x of Lucy Sartain and Megan Rowan won their quarter final and steered a good course in the semi final, losing out on a place in the final by a small margin. The second double of Jess Long and Harriet Froome faced stiff competition from Evesham in their semi final who were just too strong for the Stratford girls, securing the remaining final place.
Charles Happel and Toby Sartain were the sole representatives of the J17/18 squad at this years home regatta. In the morning they raced together in the J18 doubles event, and after a convincing win in the semi-final they then took on a strong crew from Evesham in the final. Despite a fast start and a strong row, they fell just short, with the difference being only one boat length at the finish line. Happel then took on the course again in the afternoon, racing a straight final in the J18 singles event. Facing strong competition again, this time from Hereford Rowing Club, he sculled superbly and took home the win, rounding out an enjoyable day for the squad.
Henley Women’s Regatta which is one of the most prestigious events of the year run over the famous Henley course two weeks before Henley Royal and attracting crews from all over the UK and many from abroad the competition is of the highest caliber, saw Stratford upon Avon Boat Club J17 squad entered with Uche Nwachukwa, Maddy Hall, Harriet Noyes, Kate Richardson and cox Imogen Hill in the Groton School Challenge Cup for Junior Coxed Fours. The crew made a good start in their time trial qualifying in the top sixteen crews to progress to the knock out stage of the competition.
Sitting at the start of your first side by side race on the narrow Henley course as a junior rower is a thrilling moment but unfortunately the our girls were drawn against hot favourites Saint Edward’s School Oxford who had won The National Schools’ Regatta in May. Stratford went out hard and hung on to Teddies through the first third of the race but by the half way point, Teddies had established clear water between the two crews which despite Stratford’s best efforts, Saint Edwards maintained to the finish.
Commenting, J17 Coach Sam Hill said, “The girls put in a superb performance in a fast heat. They are still a young crew and will have gained a lot from the experience: I have no doubt they will progress further next year.”
On Friday the J16 Quad of Ez Elfwood (Stroke), ‘V’ Vondrak, Scarlett Richardson and Aimee Appleton (Bow) knocked out a couple of GCSE exams before also making the journey to Henley Women’s Regatta to compete in the time trial for the hotly contested Nina Padwick Trophy. First down the 1400m course in a field of twenty three of the best crews in the country, the girls kept their composure and didn’t let the occasion put them off their stride. With only the top eight finishers proceeding to the knock out stages, it was always going to be a big ask and in the end they finished a very respectful sixteenth place having enjoyed their first Henley Women’s experience.
Saturday’s busy regatta will be followed by the Club’s Fun Regatta on Saturday 08 July where the Club give crews from local companies, clubs and organisations three hours training, a boat and an experienced cox.
Paul Stanton, Stratford Boat Club’s President said, “We were blessed with good weather for the regatta and there were crowds watching the racing adding much to Stratford’s atmosphere and vitality: we were glad to showcase our sport and demonstrate our part in the success of our town! Again, we appreciate the tolerance and help from the other river users and colleagues.”
For media coverage, see Stratford Herald centre spread pages twenty four and twenty five and Stratford Observer https://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/sport/rowing-stratford-host-successful-summer-regatta
For pictures of Stratford upon Avon Boat Club Junior Sprint Regatta 2023, see Kathy and Stuart Baines’ great selection https://1drv.ms/f/s!AiW2DAyn9tg9j64qw-k_D7Glyp4TvQ?e=mfYPA8