A COLD but beautifully sunny day awaited rowers on the resumption of the competitive head racing season as Stratford Boat Club headed to Northampton for some much-needed competition.
After several months of flooded rivers and cancellations, the Northampton Head of the Nene was eagerly anticipated and the event was split into four divisions throughout the day to enable a number of races for each crew.
For the early birds in Division One, the 9.15am race start saw Stratford take on much-fancied Derwent in Mixed Masters D (50-55 average age category) double sculls.
Derwent, the current National Championship silver medallists, were always going to be a tough challenge but a good solid race by Stratford saw them hold Derwent for the majority of the course until poor steering towards the finish by a Leicester quad crew being overtaken led to an entanglement of blades and forced both crews to stop.
Once Stratford got going again they pulled away on a closing Derwent crew but the stoppage eventually proved too much and they finished ten seconds behind Derwent in 8.19 minutes.
In Division Two, Stratford’s Heather Hayton was in action in her first ever single scull head race. With her competitors racing over three divisions, it was left to Hayton to focus on her own performance which saw her pull away from the scullers behind her to finish strongly in a time of 9.19 minutes.
Overall in her event racing category C, minimum age 43, she was just pipped by the younger age group sculler from Oundle (age category B, minimum age 36), who finished in a time of 9.16 minutes, but the medal went to the youngest competitor from Milton Keynes (age category A, minimum age 27 years) in a time of 8.48 seconds.
With the third division reserved for recovery and cake, Division Four saw the Stratford Masters’ mixed double of Hayton and Tom Doherty racing in the younger age category event of A,B,C – taking on younger age category competitors from Peterborough (age category A) and Sudbury (age category B).
A good start saw some overtaking of slower doubles, resulting in a solid finish time of 8.02 minutes, with Sudbury finishing in 7.56 minutes, but Peterborough were clearly the strongest in a very fast time of 7.24 minutes.
The junior squad was also represented in Division Four, with Jake Blatcher racing in the J17 single sculls event. This was his first head race having only been rowing for a year.
Head racing is different to the rowing events normally seen, as rowers set off in procession and race purely against the clock with the other competitors around you not necessarily in the same event.
After a good start, negotiating the corner well, Blatcher set off strongly, settled well and soon caught the double ahead of him. Despite having to criss-cross the river in order to overtake, he soon regained his rhythm, keeping distance from a senior boat chasing him and finishing fifth in a time of 9:29 minutes.
Coach Trevor Tiller said: “This is a great start to the season for Jake, especially now water training can continue after months of local flooding.”