STRATFORD-UPON-AVON Boat Club rowers Heather Hayton and Thomas Doherty were denied a medal in the National Veteran Fours head of the river race in London by just 0.2 seconds.
The event held over the varsity boat race championship course on the Thames but in the reverse direction from Mortlake to Putney, a distance of 4.25 miles. It attracted a full field of 227 entries from across the country with competitors from 27 years of age up to 70.
Stratford pair Hayton and Doherty teamed up with colleagues Tabatha and Julian Scrivener from Upton Rowing Club in a mixed quad (two blades each) in the Masters’ E age group category (55 to 60 years).
The crew which has been training together over the past two months came to the Tideway on the back of a good win at Gloucester Head and were eagerly looking forward to the challenge of racing some of the best mixed quads in the country.
With two past winners in their age group event from Maidenhead and Bewel Bridge/Tideway scullers and a quality Molesey crew making up the field the race was going to be a serious challenge.
In unusual benign conditions for the Tideway, all 237 crews raced off at 10 second intervals to race the clock.
in a fast start for Upton/Stratford, the crew settled into a consistent 32/33 strokes per minute for the whole 4.5 mile course in an effort to keep their immediate competitors who were starting behind at a safe distance.
The Thames is never without its challenges and some blustery conditions around Barnes Bridge tested the technique of all racing crews. Settling into a fast hard rhythm, the Upton/Stratford crew began to pull away from Bewel/Tideway Scullers and Maidenhead and then had to focus on overtaking a number of men’s boats ahead of them as they proceeded down the course.
Lungs were burning by the time the crew reached Hammersmith Bridge but still more effort was required. Chasing a very fast and ultimate younger age group event winner from Bridgnorth in a mixed quad just ahead of them helped the crew to maintain the pace and effort all the way to a very welcome finish line by Putney Bridge.
The results when they came were both a pleasure and a pain for Stratford/Upton who finished 67th overall out of 237 entries in a time of 22mins 2.3secs and beating both previous age group winners Bewel Bridge/Tideway Scullers (23mins 27.4sec) and Maidenhead (22mins 33.9sec).
In a cruel twist of fate, Stratford/Upton were pipped for a medal by Molesey who finished in a time of 22mins.2secs.
“We had an absolutely superb race and we couldn’t have done any more and the crew were superb,” said Doherty.
“The boat has been getting faster and faster as the weeks have progressed and we will put our disappointment behind us and look ahead to further races with confidence!”