FOUR Stratford-upon-Avon Boat Club rowers produced a hugely encouraging performances to begin the winter eights competition season.
In their first competitive race outing at Worcester on Sunday with the Head of the Severn, Stratford rowers Gary Clay, Richard Nelson, Simon Beard and Tom Doherty were part of a composite crew which took first place in their race over the six-kilometre course.
Organised by Worcester University and predominantly aimed at senior and university crews, the event also attracted a good quality Masters entry eager to try out new combinations for the upcoming season with an eye on the 2019 Vesta Veterans’ International Eights Head of the River Race event in London in March.
The Stratford quartet teamed up with Jon Martin from Warwick and Paul Wallis, Rob Graham and Tim Grimsdale from Bridgnorth and faced good opposition from Pengwern, with two fancied crews, including last year’s winners, and Worcester, who were aiming to put down a season marker with a big experienced crew.
Setting off second in their event behind Worcester, the Stratford composite crew stroked by Wallis made a powerful start rating 34 strokes per minute to close down Worcester over the first kilometre.
However, Stratford’s real race turned out to be against last year’s winners Pengwern following behind them.
The Stratford composite crew, settling into a rating of 32 strokes per minute, managed to gain a small advantage at the nine minute timing point of just three seconds over Pengwern.
The next section proved the best of the race for Stratford who managed to increase their lead at the 15-minute timing point to eight seconds.
Pengwern increased their effort in the final quarter and Stratford had to work hard to maintain their rhythm and pushed right up to the line.
In an extremely close finish, the Stratford/Bridgnorth/Warwick crew won in a time of 20 minutes 32 seconds, just four seconds ahead of Pengwern.
“This was a very satisfying race for a crew that has only had three outings this year together,” said Tom Doherty, Masters’ vice captain.
“The race was against very good opposition and a perfect springboard to push on with training for the tougher races to come.”