STRATFORD Boat Club and sister club King Edward VI School began their 2019 competitive racing year with a series of head races at Northampton on Saturday.
The event extremely well hosted by Northampton Rowing Club and raced upstream on the River Nene in cold but unusually dry conditions, giving all a good chance to work off any remaining post-Christmas indulgences.
Northampton Head of the Nene was divided into four divisions with individual events competed over all divisions during the day. This also gave the majority of competitors the chance to enter several events.
The course, being reasonably straight and only 1,800m long, attracts beginners crews and those seeking to expand their racing experience for tougher tests later in the year and as such both Stratford and King Edward VI School brought a number of novice crews seeking their first experience of competitive racing.
An early start saw crews rowing off at 8am for the first division of racing. The first event for Stratford saw two crews competing in the Masters’ coxless quad sculls and first off in division one was Richard Nelson, Wallace Brown, Kjersti Woolley and Tom Doherty.
Woolley, racing in a men’s event as a late substitute, put in a sterling performance to help the crew finish in a creditable time of 6mins, 22secs, some 20 seconds behind a high-quality Oundle all-men’s crew in the same race and faster than a Milton Keynes men’s crew.
Later in the day Stratford’s second crew of Gary Clay, Wallace Brown, Neville Hand and Tom Doherty put in an improved effort to record a time of 5mins, 56secs to earn a very creditable second place behind a high-quality crew from Hollowell Scullers.
Stratford men’s masters were in action again later in the day with Clay and Hand in the double sculls event against crews from Oundle and Cantabrian boat clubs and they were able to record a deserved victory in a creditable time of 7.05secs.
Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated event for Stratford was the debut of their new women’s masters crew of Naomi Knowles, Ruth ‘Kings Heath’ Poulton, Dee Wevill and Heather Hayton.
This crew, which had been training hard over the autumn, was racing in a quad coxless sculling race requiring good race management and steering ability.
Racing more experienced opponents from Oundle Rowing Club, the crew put in an excellent performance to finish just under six seconds behind the winners in a time of 7mins, 29secs.
It was then the turn of the small boats crews with a mixed masters all-Stratford showdown as Helen Helliwell and Hugo Happel took on the more experienced crew of Christine Goodwin and Tim Lunel.
A very competent performance by Helliwell and Happel in their first race saw them post a creditable time of 8mins, 17secs, but it was not enough to beat the experience of Goodwin and Lunel.
Woolley, in addition to her men’s quad race earlier in the day, raced for Derwent Rowing Club and recorded a win in their mixed masters quad four and a good performance in their women’s masters coxed four.
This left the small boat racers of Gina Fusco and Lunel competing in single sculls. Fusco, in her first season of competitive racing, recorded two very good times of 8mins, 34secs and 8mins, 48secs, displaying some very consistent sculling and is sure to be closing on her first competitive win.
Lunel, competing in his third event of the day in masters single sculls, was unable to match his success in the double but put in a solid performance.
King Edward VI School had a range of both novice and experienced scullers and rowers competing in the junior section of the competition and all produced consistently good performances.
The outstanding result of the day for the juniors was the success of the junior boys’ J17 coxed four crew who won their first ever event to record one of the fastest rowing coxed four times of the day.
The girls were not to be outdone with a high quality double scull recording a very impressive victory in their event to match the boys. Other quality performances were recorded in girls’ coxed fours, double sculls and boys’ single sculls.
Stratford BC masters vice-captain Tom Doherty said: “This was an excellent day’s racing for both clubs with creditable performances across all crews.
“The event was well organised and ran to time, providing a good experience both on and off the water. Our collective thanks goes to John Vedy for organising the boat transport without which we could not have enjoyed the day.
“My overriding memory of the event, however, will be removing a selection of hot water bottles, hand warmers, food hampers and a selection of soft furnishings from our masters women’s crew about to embark on their first ever race!”