STRATFORD-upon-Avon Boat Club’s Masters’ coxed four (‘The Dads’ Four’) supported their crew member, former Marine Graham Cann and Falklands Veteran, in a commemorative row to mark the 40th anniversary of the Falklands War.
Dave Edwards, Richard, Eric and cox Pippa (ex Army AGC-ETS) rowed with Cann to support The Royal Marines (RM) Charity – Falklands 40 campaign during this last weekend.
Hundreds of Royal Marine supporters, serving and Royal Marine veterans ran, walked or cycled (or rowed) 5.6 miles (9.2km) between June 10 to 14.
The 5.6 miles represents the 56-mile yomp (march) that 45 Commando Royal Marines did during the Falklands war to then go into combat at Two Sisters in the Falklands.
Cann accomplished the 5.6 miles and more with a row in memory of those who did not come home, were injured and for those veterans that live with the memory every day.
Cann, former Colour Sergeant in the Royal Marines, said: “They are all always remembered.”
Meanwhile, Stratford Boat Club’s Adaptive Squad competed in Ireland and took part in the inaugural Mixed Ability International Regatta in Cork.
‘Mixed Ability’ sport allows able-bodied and disabled athletes to compete together as Stratford were joined by teams from Turin (Italy) and Bradford in this new event.
Head Adaptive Coach Mark Dewdney said: “We had a great time which was the main purpose. We made lots of new friends, these events are the way to go.
“We are experimenting with an integrated approach at the club and this kind of event, the first of its kind, justifies that initiative.”
The regatta itself consisted of a number of club against club races but culminated in several races where rowers from each of the clubs, disabled and able-bodied, were mixed in boats together which proved to be the highlight of the day.
Stratford’s adaptive athlete Gillian Middleton, in her first sculling race, competed in a double with Ellen Buttrick, a paralympic Gold Medal winner.
The oldest rower was a sprightly 87 year old from Bradford.
Dewdney added: “That rather incapsulates the day, everybody having fun and not worrying too much about which club was the winner.
“We won a number of events but enjoyment for all was the order of the day. This was the first of its type and there are lessons to be learned and changes to made for bigger events in the future.
“We hope that this is just the beginning. The event took place alongside an established similar rugby tournament involving twenty four teams from twelve countries.
“Let’s hope we can grow mixed ability rowing to those kind of numbers.”
The event attracted the attention of various sporting bodies with representatives from British Rowing and the CEO of Rowing Ireland in attendance.
Stratford’s Adaptive Squad consisted of Paola and Ian Ward, Dan Godefroy, Gillian Middleton, Rob Pedley, Neville Hand, Paul Harrold and Dewdney.
Unfortunately, three other members were unable to travel due to illness and Covid.
Also on the water last weekend were rowers from Stratford Boat Club’s Masters who headed to Nottingham for the British Rowing Masters Championships taking place at the national water sports centre at Holme Pierrepoint.
Held over a six-lane 1000m course, the premier Masters’ rowing competition of the season attracts top crews from all parts of the British Isles.
A very strong head wind provided choppy conditions and large waves on the Saturday which resulted in several crews capsizing and delays and difficulties in getting crews onto the tethered start boats for the beginning of events.
Stratford’s first event saw Heather Hayton and Tom Doherty form part of a mixed Masters’ quadruple sculls crew with Tabatha and Julian Scrivener from Upton Rowing Club to compete in the championship quadruple sculls.
The crew which has had a successful season was looking to make amends for narrowly missing out on the National Winter Fours Head competition and started smoothly in rough conditions.
They were able to settle into a good rhythm setting a comfortable 34 strokes per minute race pace.
With technique at a premium to cope with waves on the course, the crew were able to pull away from their rival crews from Portora Rowing Club in Northern Ireland and came home to win Stratford’s first National Championship Gold medal.
Doherty said: “This was very pleasing to see Heather win her first national championship given the immense commitment she has put in since taking up the sport.
“With all the very early morning winter training sessions in the dark and cold paying off, and to do it with our friends from Upton was particularly satisfying.”
Saturday’s racing was not over for Stratford with Kjersti Woolley and Gary Clay competing in the championship mixed double sculls.
With conditions getting more severe and in a small double it was going to be very challenging for all the crews in the event and this provide to be the case.
With the national champions from Bewl Bridge Rowing Club in the same race it was always going to be tough and despite a hard-fought race unfortunately they just missed out on qualifying for the final by less than a second.
Sunday saw Stratford back on the course with conditions slightly less blustery but with a cross wind which favoured crews in lanes five and six.
First off for Stratford was Hayton and Doherty, this time in their mixed double scull as difficulties persisted in getting crews onto the start boats with the cross wind blowing boats around.
Eventually with crews reasonably straight the race commenced with a full field of six boats from Bewl Bridge [2 crews], Hereford, Molesey and Maidstone Invicta.
After a very good start, Stratford led out to the 500m halfway mark with about two lengths separating all six crews whilst in the second half of the race, Hereford, Molesey and Stratford began to pull away from the other crews.
Stratford, in lane one, were at a disadvantage with the cross wind requiring continual steering corrections but they still managed to pull into second position towards the last 250 metres with the fight on with Molesey for gold.
With Molesey having the wind advantage of lane six, they were able to pull ahead to win by a length of clear water with Stratford in second place.
Hayton said: “We had a great start and were able to keep a relaxed rhythm in the swell and chop and keep the boat running and are extremely pleased to have given Molesey one of the top crews in the country a very close race.”
Later in the day saw a much anticipated first appearance at a national championship for Stratford’s Gina Fusco and Christine Goodwin in their women’s double sculls event.
The ladies, whose rowing journey has developed over the last year, came into the event with no expectations and were looking only for a competent performance in an event with six competitors from as far afield as Exeter, Sudbury, Ardingly, Twickenham, York and Kingston.
The race settled into a close fought battle between Ardingly and Stratford with the other crews nowhere to be seen.
Stratford’s extra power and much better technique saw them put a much more experienced Ardingly crew under pressure for the whole race.
Coming into the last 250 metres and cheered on by Stratford supporters, there was only a length between the crews with Ardingly just managing to hang on for the win leaving Stratford in a hugely creditable second place.
Goodwin said: “We came here with no expectations and to put in a very good performance in tough conditions was so pleasing and testament to our commitment over the season.
“A huge thanks to Colin, Danni and Rob for all their coaching, help and support. This will spur us on to return next year.”
Another proud moment for Stratford came when one of the club’s alumna rowers won gold.
Former member and King Edward VI School Boat Club rower Esme Booth kicked off the 2022 international rowing regatta season at the World Rowing Cup 1 event held on Lake Sava in Belgrade, Serbia with gold in the final of the Women’s Pair (W2-) event.
Booth was rowing with her partner Emily Ford in their first race together, are both Leander Club rowers and members of the current Great Britain Women’s Senior squad.
The World Rowing Cup 1 event was the first in a series of three international rowing regattas held over the summer months, which attract the top elite rowers and para-rowers from around the world.
Recent racing saw Booth and Ford rowing in the first of two heats with the winners from each progressing straight through to the A final whilst the remaining crews would race in two additional repechage races to establish the crews for the A and B finals.
Racing in lane one in their heat, the pair quickly established a slight lead over the Czech, Dutch and Croatian pairs.
They continued to increase their lead throughout the race, finishing the 2000-metre course nine seconds ahead of the Croatian pair with the Czech pair in third place.
As heat winners and the fastest pair over the two heats, this gave the British pair a middle lane draw in the A final, to be held the next day.
The A final saw the British duo up against pairs from Croatia, Chile and three from the Netherlands as the pair from Chile took an early lead with Booth and Ford back in third place.
However, by the 1000-metre mark, the British pair had turned the slight deficit into a 1.5 second lead.
And they managed to extend their lead, controlling the race to finish in the gold medal position in a time of seven minutes and four seconds, two point five seconds ahead of the second placed pair from Chile with the Dutch pair placed in third place.
It was a very successful weekend for the GB squad, topping the medal table with a total of fourteen medals with eight gold, two silver and four bronze.
Stratford upon Avon Boat Club looks forward to another action packed weekend with their Stratford Self Store Boat Club Regatta this Saturday, June 18 with racing from 8.30am through to 5.30pm.