STRATFORD-upon-Avon Boat Club made a strong start to the new rowing season at Wallingford.
The club’s J14 squads made their debut at the Wallingford Long Distance Sculls, rowing on the short course, with three J15 athletes stepping up as coxswains.
Martha Baines coxed the girls’ quad of Linforth, Ntoukaki, Sime and Appleton and came fourth against crews from Headington School, beating one of the Headington quads on the way from Oxford Brookes to Oxford University boat houses.
Maeve Dunn coxed the boys’ quad of Rowan, Shaw, Appleton and Jones with Sophie Franklin coxing the crew of Happel, Richter, Greenwood and Rutter as the latter crew took the win in a time of 8 minutes and 28 seconds.
Stratford’s J14 coach, Hugo Happel, said: “A really good day for J14’s, showing good technique on this fabulous stretch of water.
“Great experience gained combined with plenty of laughs, well done to all athletes.”
Stratford’s J15 squads also began their new season last weekend with the opening event the Wallingford Long Distance Sculls.
First out for the J15 squad was the women’s coxed quadruple scull of Sophie Franklin, Maeve Dunn, Martha Baines, Millie Smith and Martha Cooke (coxswain).
The crew stormed over the 4000m course to come within touching distance of Henley Rowing Club’s two crews, finishing third by just 2.1 seconds over the 19-minute race.
Next to go, in the 1800m short course event, were the J15 double scull crews of Bryony Francis and Poppy Warren and Tessa Parkin and Josephine Cooper.
The two crews fought over the full course to achieve second and third place for the club with the Francis and Warren combination taking second place after battling their way through traffic.
Last to go for the J15 squad were the single scullers, Martha Cooke and Isla Dunn who recorded impressive fourth and sixth place finishes respectively.
In the J16 women’s coxless quad event, Tessa Parkin, Sophie Evans, Alice Jones and Poppy Baines showcased their determination and skill to finish as the former stepped in at the last minute due to illness.
The double sculls pair of Theo Richter and James Albrighton finished fifth overall after showing great speed and technique, competing against strong crews from St Pauls School, Leander, Wallingford and Lea.
Lastly, Alexandra Francis represented the J16’s in the single sculls event and endured a long wait due to issues on the course before rowing extremely well with power and stamina to finish sixth out of 34 entries.
The first J17 crew to take to the water were Lucy Sartain, Jess Long, Scarlett Richardson and Aimee Appleton in their coxless quad.
They quad showed great skill and were faster than the crew in front over the second half of the race to come home an impressive fourth.
And Charles Happel entered the open J18 single scull event, pitting his skills against 44 other scullers from some of the top rowing clubs in the country.
Setting off hard over the first half of the course, Happel found himself in 19th at the halfway point before rising to 16th at the finish after a strong final kilometre.
In the J17 single sculls event, Molly Vondrak, Ez Elfwood, Eloise Cooper and Nancy Davis all entered and finished seventh, 26th, 27th and 30th respectively.
And in the women’s single scull event, Uche Nwachukwa came 24th before sculling with Maddie Hall later in the day, placing 10th in the double sculls event.
In the same event, Scarlett Richardson and Aimee Appleton finished a strong eighth, Harriet Froom and Megan Rowan finished 11th with Jess Long and Lucy Sartain just behind in 13th.
Representing Stratford’s masters’ women’s team, Suzie Radley and Amanda Bowden made the most of favourable conditions to overtake several crews.
However, after some fantastic steering through the bends, an error cost the crew 30 seconds of time to knock them out of the competition,
Radley said: “This race was to be a warm up for the Pairs’ Head of the River in London next weekend.
“The race has provided much needed feedback, with some key points to work on to improve the competitive edge.
“This has certainly sparked a fire for next weekend.”
Also sculling at Wallingford were Paul Collins and Mike Adkins who were the only entry in the Masters’ H double category.
Steered by Collins, the duo managed to restrict their bank contact on the way to the start in their first event together, and were satisfied with the result, managing to hold off a good Guildford double.
Elsewhere, at the Runcorn Autumn Head, Stratford’s adaptive squad impressed as Andy Morris won his race in a time of 18 mins 13 secs.
Morris took part in his first race without floats and borrowed a boat from Runcorn.
Morris said: “I was pleased with my row and the course tested my steering skills. This was my first head in a single without floats and it went well.”