WHILST the majority of the rowing community enjoys a break from competition, the Stratford Boat Club junior squad was racing hard at Chester Virtual Regatta over the weekend.
Usually held on the River Dee in the Cheshire county town (south of the Goyt), the 750m course was this year translated to an equally gruelling rowing machine trial with more than 600 entries from across the globe.
As the sun rose on the still waters of the Dee, the Stratford athletes set off for sheds, garages and back bedrooms to do battle with their rowing machine. Others pulled on the training shoes and plotted a route for the 2km run also offered as part of the event.
The J13 squad opened the racing with the 2km run in which Eloise Cooper placed fourth out of 20 juniors across the age group in the novice category and Scarlett Richardson picked up a second place in the experienced category.
Following swiftly on, the J13 rowing machine event was hotly-contested. Molly Vondrak and Scarlett Richardson made their mark on the event with second and fifth places respectively and Lucy Sartain, Harriet Froom, Will Dalrymple-Baker and Jamie Wilcock did not disappoint either with confident rows.
At J14, Amalia Richardson raced hard to place fourth in a strong field of 25 athletes and in the process earned bragging rights over her father, Brian Richardson, who represented the J13 parents with a sixth-placed performance.
At J18 and making her debut competing at senior lightweight level, Katie Wellstead ranked a very strong second place, as just 0.6 seconds separated her from the silverware. Victory will wait for another day!
With warmdowns completed and the sun setting over Chester, the athletes of Stratford Boat Club resumed their training for the next race in the virtual race calendar.
Steve Welstead, J13 coach and junior co-ordinator, said: “Our thanks go to the team at Chester Regatta organising team for putting on such a great event which kept our rowing community connected whilst being physically distant.”
The J15 squad also took part in force with all of them competing in at least one of the 750m ergo or the 2km run, with four of the 12 athletes taking part in both disciplines.
The first results for the J15s came from the runners as Hermione Brewster was crowned fastest experienced junior female in a time of just eight minutes, eight seconds – placing her second female overall – 15 seconds behind first place.
Freya Watts, Bella Chappelhow, Tomi Wilcock, Owen Perkins, Will Beattie and Toby Sartain also put in some good performances in the running event.
In the ergo event, athletes competed in the individual event as well as the doubles, quads and octos (sculling eight). In the individual event, Ruby Howells took fifth place, with Fleur Griffiths taking ninth pace, Watts 13th and Honour Keil and Harriet Holmes 16th and 17th respectively.
The boys also put in excellent performances as Tomi Wilcock, Owen Perkins and Toby Sartain finished 13th, 31st and 35th respectively.
The double of Watts and Griffiths finished in joint fifth place, with Holmes and Keil taking ninth place. Tomi Wilcock and Perkins were tenth in the open event, with Howells and Toby Sartain 14th.
The open quad of Perkins, Keil, Toby Sartain and Tomi Wilcock came in seventh place, whilst the women’s crew of Watts, Griffiths, Howells and Holmes finishing in second place, just 0.3 seconds behind first place.
Abi Terry, J15 coach, said: “All eight J15 rowers took part in the Octo event and finished in third place in the open category – the fastest mixed junior crew in the regatta!”
Meanwhile over the weekend, Trevor Tiller, assistant J15 and adaptive coach, officially completed a half marathon (21,097m) on the erg in 1hr, 39mins.