SEVERAL Stratford Boat Club youngsters visited Hampton Court to compete in the Hampton Small Boats Head – a processional time trial over 3,000m.
This race is recognised as the highest quality winter event for small boats and attracts more than 700 crews from famous and highly successful rowing schools and clubs.
In this extremely competitive cauldron of racing, the J17 athletes competed in two events. Joe Hodson, representing Stratford in the J17 singles and King Edward VI School in the schools event finished ninth and16th, with Molly Gill-Swift competing magnificently in the comparable but very challenging girls’ races.
Emily Browne, Katie Wellstead and Talei Dunn all sculled with great skill and determination and finished their singles’ race in 13th, 27th and 28th places respectively.
Then followed the partnerships of Talei Dunn with Katie Wellstead and Khloe Curnock with Emily Browne tackling the girls’ J17 double sculling race. They finished within three seconds of each other and only 45 seconds behind the winners to take 13th and 14th places respectively.
These are all tremendous performances by a small club in this most demanding sculling theatre.
The morning division saw the J15 doubles partnership of Amelie Sartain and Sophie Elstone finishing an outstanding fifth from a strong field of 33 and within only five seconds of a medal-winning position.
The second double crewed by Harriet Hodgson and Sienna Rawlings followed closely with an equally respectable 14th against very tough competition from the country’s top clubs.
The afternoon saw the OJ15.2x of Conar Aitchison and Will Clarke place 27th in a close division of 40, sculling confidently against fierce competition.
Spread over the morning and afternoon divisions, the WJ15.4x+ event saw the crews of Sienna Rawlings, Amelie Sartain, Sophie Elstone and Martha Usselmann coxed by Elisabeth Edwards, along with the boat crewed by Abbey Meggeson, Elisabeth Edwards, Emma Harrison and Julia Zampronio Gurden, coxed by Conar Aitchison, finish 27th and 39th respectively from a strong and large tight field of 43.
STRATFORD masters were in attendance at Evesham on Saturday supporting the senior crews, with a number of development crews and scullers looking to commence their winter racing season.
After their success at the prestigious Fours Head, Stratford’s senior men’s squad was at Evesham for the annual Masters of the Avon head races.
Racing against the stream over 4,500m, the top boat – a coxed four of Mike Hourigan, Patrick Hourigan, Finn Sprackling and Max Marcus, with local coxswain Amie Jones steering – set off first against competition from Evesham, Trafford and Worcester.
A powerful, steady row allied to Jones’ local knowledge of the stream quickly enabled them to pull clear of the pack and ended with a comprehensive 45-second win.
The morning division also featured the first outing in a Head race for the youngest member of the squad – Harvey Mole – who was up against ten other singles, all from Stowe School.
Mole got out of the blocks quickly, catching two of the Stowe scullers just after halfway and had nearly caught two more by the end of the course. He ended up finishing a very promising third.
The afternoon division featured the Hourigan brothers racing a pair for the first time and they finished a very respectable second behind an experienced pair from Worcester.
Seniors coach Bill Sullivan said: “The squad have trained hard since September and been rewarded with some good wins at Worcester, London and now Evesham. It’s a promising start to the season and bodes well for 2019.”
Racing in the morning division, first off were the men’s masters F age group quad in their first race outing of the season. The crew – Gary Clay, Neville Hand, Wallace Brown and Tom Doherty in a borrowed boat – took on local crews from Worcester, Warwick and hosts Evesham.
On a demanding 4km course with a number of tight bends requiring significant steering input, the crew settled into a solid row – rating 31 strokes per minute for the whole course to finish in a time of 17 minutes, nine seconds and finish seconds behind a much-fancied and very experienced Evesham crew who posted a time of 16 minutes, 44 seconds.
Stratford were ahead of crews from Worcester and Warwick, finishing overall tenth fastest crew of the day.
Masters rowers were further represented by Gina Fusco taking part in her first single sculling event. Up against a very experienced sculler from Exmouth Rowing Club, she produced a very creditable racing and steering performance to finish in a time of 23 minutes, 29 seconds, behind the Exmouth sculler who won in 21 minutes, three seconds.
Stratford’s masters women’s daytime rowing squad of Rona Fitzpatrick, Jackie Joesbury, Rosie Stone and Clare Nash, coxed by husband Alfie Nash, also competed in the women’s open coxed quad event and finished in a good time of 21.33 behind a significantly younger winning Evesham crew who clocked 20 minutes, 16 seconds.
In the afternoon division, Stratford masters rowers Gary Clay and Tom Doherty teamed up with their old friends from Bridgnorth to continue their success in a composite men’s masters E coxed four and record their third straight win against crews from Worcester, Warwick, and Evesham in a time of 17 minutes, 15 seconds.
Coach Helen Smith said: “It was great to see so many development crews getting some good quality race experience.”
ON SUNDAY, the masters men continued to build up their season race experience at Chester Long Distance Sculls.
Held on the picturesque River Dee in glorious winter sunshine over a 5km course, the day produced some good quality racing against strong opposition as Stratford’s masters men’s quad of Simon Beard, Richard Shepherd, Richard Nelson and Tom Doherty took on crews from Grosvenor, Runcorn and Kings Chester in the masters D event.
After a steady start and hitting some debris in the middle of the river which caused a few steering issues, Stratford were unable to hang on to a good quality Grosvenor crew racing on their own water.
Stratford found themselves in a side-by-side battle for 2.5km with a very experienced Runcorn crew who, despite closing on Stratford, could not overtake and towards the finish Stratford’s better fitness meant they were able to pull away and finish third in a time of 20 minutes, 23 seconds.