THERE were some encouraging performances from Stratford Boat Club members at the Hampton Small Boats Head, whilst victories were secured closer to home at Evesham on the same weekend.
The Middlesex event attracts the finest young athletes from rowing schools and clubs throughout the south east and further afield and this year was no exception as more than 770 crews competed on the Thames.
In the women’s junior 15 double sculls event there was an excellent performance from Stratford’s Nixie Brunt and Mili Wilcock to earn ninth place, whilst Mya Kenny and Maiya James were also in the mix with 19th in the 33-strong field.
In the women’s junior 16 double sculls, Molly Gill-Swift and Emily Browne were 12th fastest and an equally impressive combination of Mimi Hill and Talei Dunn were 16th across the line. The latter performance was notable with Talei still in her early years of rowing and Mimi more usually seen in the coxswain’s seat.
The single sculls is often seen as the gladiatorial event at any sculling competition as athletes pitch their technical skill and physical fitness against one another and, in the autumnal sun of East Molesey, the battle raged.
In the women’s junior 15 single sculls, Alice Baines registered a superb 11th position, biting at the heels of a good number of junior 16 scullers.
In the junior 16 single sculls Khloe Curnock, Katie Wellstead and Jess Weisheu showed their class with 18th, 21st and 24th places respectively in a high quality 50-strong entry list.
Steve Wellstead, Stratford BC’s junior co-ordinator, said: “The result of the day went to Emily Browne who once more opened the taps and unleashed her formidable power to take second place in the junior 16 single sculls. An extremely good result indeed!”
MEANWHILE, at the nearby Avon Masters & Evesham Senior Head, Stratford’s women’s novice 4x+ had a pleasing win on a sunny, cold morning but otherwise perfect conditions for the 4km course.
Stratford’s opponents were Ross and Evesham. Stratford finished two minutes ahead of Ross ladies and a satisfying four minutes ahead of Evesham on their own home water.
Stratford’s crew were cox Alfie Nash, Clare Nash, Helen Helliwell, Rona Fitzpatrick and Rosie Stone.
Stone commented: “It was a solid performance maintained over the distance and excellently coxed throughout by Alfie Nash.”
Stratford men’s coxless four also brought home some silverware after winning the race for IM1 crews. The crew contained three new rowers to the club plus Stratford’s Captain of Boats Oli Smith who stroked the winning boat.
Max Marcus, Mark Tarrant, Patrick Hourigan and Smith won their race by more than a minute from a crew from Bewdley and ended up as the third quickest crew of the day.
Bill Sullivan, Stratford’s men’s squad coach, said: “Stratford men’s squad has grown rapidly this autumn with the addition of eight new rowers and the squad will spend the next few months getting in some hard training before next summer’s regatta season and hoped-for entries for Henley Royal Regatta.”
ON SATURDAY Stratford’s masters squad made the short trip to Evesham RC for the Avon Masters and Evesham Autumn Head.
The event held on the picturesque River Avon over 4km made for some challenging steering on a meandering and in places narrow course. A beautifully sunny but very cold day saw a number of crews braving the weather in coxed and coxless fours and quad, double and single sculls.
Stratford were led off in division one by the masters D coxed four crew of Richard Field, Richard Anderson, Graham Cann, Dave Edwards and cox Jane Connolly.
The crew, competing in their first ever long distance head race, were looking for a steady performance and, although unsuccessful in terms of winning, recorded a very respectable time of 20 minutes, 33 seconds.
Closely following on their heels were the masters E crew of Richard Shepherd, Richard Nelson, Simon Beard, Tom Doherty and cox Lucy Breakwell.
Maintaining a steady rate of 32 strokes per minute, they were able to make up ground on the preceding event crews from Worcester, Warwick and Stratford.
Despite being held up on a very narrow section of the course by a slower crew, they were still able to record a very good time of 17 minutes, 40 seconds to win their event by almost two minutes over Warwick Boat Club – a time which would also have won the masters D younger age group event.
Division one racing now moved to the small boats and Stratford were represented by the mixed masters E double of Gina Fusco and Phil Marshall. The crew were up against a very good National Championship medal-winning crew from Derwent but nonetheless put in a very good performance to finish second in their event in 20 minutes, 42 seconds.
Bringing up the division were the single sculling races. The competitors, who had been waiting in the very cold conditions for some considerable time, were eager to race and thaw out.
First off for Stratford was Stephen Haighton competing in masters F/G single sculls. Haighton, in his first single sculling event, produced a very creditable performance to win in a time of 20 minutes, 43 seconds over competitors from Ross, Pengwern and Bristol.
Last but not least was the women’s masters E single scull of Kjersti Woolley. Starting at the rear of the field after a long wait on the start, she soon made time up on the field in front of her to finish in a very respectable 24 minutes, ten seconds which clinched second place.
With most competitors deciding to thaw out in the afternoon, the second division contained only one Stratford crew. Sian Maher and Tom Doherty in a last-minute partnership competed in an IM3 mixed double scull.
Despite never having been in a boat together before the race, they recorded a very respectable time of 19 minutes, 19 seconds to finish just over a minute behind the winners from Warwick Boat Club.
Tom Doherty, masters vice-captain, said: “It was great to see a range of masters, senior and junior crews braving the winter chill to compete and record some very impressive results.”