STRATFORD Boat Club masters members had plenty to smile about following their efforts at the 2017 World Rowing Masters Regatta.
The event was the club’s most ambitious overseas competition yet, featuring a 1,500-mile trip to Bled in Slovenia. It was the biggest rowing regatta ever held, attracting 4,588 competitors from 862 clubs worldwide.
Event entries were huge, with more than 1,200 entries each in men’s single sculls and double sculls age categories.
The large entry meant organisers added an extra day’s racing to the five-day competition and Great Britain led the list of competing athletes with 852 as 46 countries were represented.
The event demanded a large logistical operation to plan equipment requirements, transport, protect boats and associated equipment and organise accommodation for the 1,500-mile journey through Germany and France to the regatta course in Slovenia.
The journey was planned over several months between Stratford and Bridgnorth rowing clubs and included transporting boats from Worcester, Ironbridge, Hollowell Scullers and Pengwern. Towing duties were ably led and planned by Shan Stokes, safety advisor from Stratford BC, who along with daughter Becky and colleagues from Bridgnorth undertook the three-day journey.
A fantastic sight of fields of boats greeted the competitors on arrival at the stunning Lake Bled venue in Slovenia, overlooked by the imposing Bled Castle and picturesque church-topped Bled Island and the international regatta course.
Day one featured a packed schedule on the 1,000m course, setting off at 500m intervals which meant three races using the course at any one time all day.
First to race for Stratford was Tim Lunel and Tom Doherty in masters D double sculls in a borrowed boat. They were seventh in their heat in a time of three minutes, 58 seconds, placing 127th out of 145.
Becky Stokes was next to compete, coxing a Bridgnorth eight to a fine fifth position in a time of three minutes, 28 seconds in masters B eights.
A bright day two brought an increase in Stratford competitors with Tim Lunel in the heavily competitive men’s single sculls masters D event. Rowing in a borrowed boat, Tim nevertheless put in an excellent row to finish fourth in a time of four minutes, eight seconds in his heat and 122nd of 180 competitors overall.
Later in the day the composite eights crew from Stratford and Bridgnorth clubs featured Stratford rowers Simon Beard, Richard Shepherd, Tim Lunel,Tom Doherty and cox Becky Stokes who finished fifth in their heat in three minutes, 14 seconds in masters D eights and 37th of 47th overall.
Day three signalled an early start in changeable conditions for the Stratford masters D coxed four of Simon Beard, Richard Shepherd, Tim Lunel, Tom Doherty and cox Becky Stokes. A solid row produced a fifth placed finish in three minutes, 38 seconds for an overall position of 21st of 36 competitors.
Stratford women entered the competition next with Kjersti Woolley racing in a composite crew with Bridgnorth in the women’s masters E double sculls, finishing fifth in a time of four minutes, 32 seconds, 68th out of 77 overall.
Becky Stokes continued her coxing during the day with fourth place in a heat of masters A coxed four in a time of three minutes, 25 seconds with Bridgnorth to finish 12th of 17 overall.
The final Stratford race of the day saw Simon Beard and Richard Shepherd in masters D pairs finish fifth in their heat in a time of three minutes, 54 seconds for an overall position of 37th of 48.
Tim Lunel, however, not content with his two previous races took to the water again in an international masters E coxless four with a combined crew from Gorge Narrows in Canada and Bridgnorth to record a time of three minutes, 48 seconds.
On day four conditions had changed from hot and sunny to wind and rain and first up for Stratford was a combined international masters E eight featuring Simon Beard, Richard Shepherd, Tim Lunel, Tom Doherty and cox Becky Stokes, assisted by Bridgnorth rowers and Egyptian rower and Bled medal winner Hany Anwar to record a time of three minutes, 21 seconds for an overall position of 21st of 37.
In worsening conditions the Stratford masters D coxless four of Simon Beard, Richard Shepherd, Tim Lunel and Tom Doherty recorded another fifth finish in three minutes, 33 seconds for an overall event position of 40 of 59.
The women were next to take to the water in by now choppy conditions in masters C double sculls and Kjersti Woolley and Victoria Brennan recorded a creditable time of four minutes, 43 seconds.
The final Stratford race saw a combined Bridgnorth/Stratford crew of Paul Wallis and Tom Doherty competing in by now rough conditions in masters E double sculls to record three minutes, 53 seconds and an overall finish of 106 of 156.
Day five brought a rapid deterioration of the weather as heavy winds and rain forced a number of withdrawals from the scheduled competitions. Stratford braved a mixed masters E double sculls race in which Tom Doherty and Kjersti Woolley were forced to battle the elements down the course for seventh place.
Tom Doherty, Stratford’s men’s masters vice-captain, said: “This was an huge undertaking to organise and safely transport boats across Europe and huge credit and thanks must go to Shan and Becky Stokes for their organisation and efforts in achieving this.
“It was also great to have a number of Stratford crews competing at such a high standard regatta packed with former international rowers in such a stunning location.”