STRATFORD Boat Club secured a fine second place at the national Pairs Head of the River Race in London on Sunday.
The annual event, organised by Barnes Bridge Ladies’ Rowing Club, brings together the best two-person double sculls (two blades each) and pairs (single blade each) crews from all over the country for a spectacular time trial event on the River Thames.
More than 460 entries raced over the majority of the Boat Race course – a distance of 4.5km.
Stratford BC was represented in the Mixed Masters D Double Sculls category (average crew group age 50 to 55) by Heather Hayton and Tom Doherty.
On a day which forecast heavy rain and bad weather, the competitors were pleasantly surprised to be greeted by sunshine and a moderate wind to provide unusually reasonable calm conditions, most unlike normal Tideway events.
Starting in 195th position gave Stratford a chance to watch the race spectacle unfold with some of the country’s top national rowers competing for honours and leading off the field.
Stratford, up against a good Ardingly crew and surrounded by other boats containing ex-internationals, were in for a tough race but made a good start and, although in a heavy boat, held off some quality crews from Bewl Bridge and Upton for the majority of the course.
Stratford were able to close on Bristol, their direct competitors, and a close battle ensured for the majority of the course with less than a length separating both crews for the last two kilometres.
With Hammersmith Bridge fast approaching and the finish in sight, a final push saw Stratford just pip Bristol over the finish line to complete the event in 15 minutes, 51 seconds to beat Bristol overall by 19 seconds.
Unfortunately, this was not enough to win their category, with Ardingly finishing 23 seconds ahead and Stratford having to settle for second.
As with most major Thames races, a degree of steering was required to avoid both slower crews and charging faster boats, leading to some very close encounters.
With conditions being reasonably favourable, all crews were set on fast times and aiming to take advantage of the stream, leading to close side-by-side racing for much of the course.
Stratford’s masters’ vice-captain Doherty said: “This was Heather’s first visit to a major Tideway event and only her third ever head race. It was great to see her put in a big performance against some very good opposition.”