COMPETITORS from Stratford Boat Club and King Edward VI Grammar School braved miserable conditions to enjoy a successful day at the Northampton Head of the Nene raced over a 1.8km course.
Stratford’s junior squad came home with several winners’ pots and medals, including WJ18 rowers Theo Mordaunt, Claire Teakle and Sofia Ward who secured victories in both the coxless quad and coxed fours events.
With fourth crew member Lauren Willis, they recorded a ten-second win over a strong Wallingford crew in the quad and went on to win the coxed four category with Isobel Marsden switching into the stroke seat and Charlie Waters steering an intelligent course against a strong stream.
Lauren Willis and Issy Clarke also secured winners’ medal in the WJ18 double sculls despite suffering with the extremely cold conditions.
The boys’ J18 (Howard Gould-Yates and Dominic Furey) and J16 (Geoffrey Flambert and Joe Hodson) double sculling crews both put in strong performances. Despite an excellent time, Geoffrey and Joe narrowly lost out by eight seconds to Wallingford.
Joe Hodson later went on to claim victory wearing King Edward VI colours in the J16 single sculling event with an impressive time.
Stratford’s J14 squad had an excellent day, achieving wins through the WJ14 coxed quad of Julia Zampronio Gurden, Martha Usselmann, Elisabeth Edwards and Sienna Rawlings with cox Mary Walton and in the WJ14 double sculls of Sophie Elstone and Harriet Hodgson.
Amelie Sartain and William Clarke teamed up to row in the J14 open double sculls category and impressived to win by 14 seconds from the quickest of two all-boys crews from Falcon Rowing Club.
STRATFORD’S masters squad joined up with the junior squads to add a wealth of experience to the Northampton Head of the Nene. The event is renowned for its cold character-building weather conditions and lived up to expectations with steady continuous rainfall only alleviated by showers of sleet to test even the toughest competitor.
Stratford masters led the event off at the start of the day with the first two crews in Division One. Leading off from the start was the masters D/E/F (age groups 50-60) mixed eight of Dave Edwards, Richard Field, Richard Anderson, Helen Helliwell, Linda Hansen, Hugo Happel, Dave Howe, Graham Cann and cox Elida Fidler, closely followed by the coxless masters E (age 55-60) crew of Simon Beard, Gary Clay, Richard Nelson and Tom Doherty.
An inter-club battle ensued to determine who would be the first crew of the day over the finish line, which was won by the coxless four in a time of six minutes, 27 seconds, with the eight finishing in a time of seven minutes, 33 seconds.
Another early riser to compete in the morning division was Tim Lunel in the masters C/D (age 50-55) single sculls. Lunel almost stole bragging rights over the eight, completing the course in a time of seven minutes, 32 seconds to finish a close third in his event.
In a quiet Division Two, Kjersti Woolley raced in a composite crew with Derbyshire club Derwent in a quad scull, finishing in a time of six minutes, 40 seconds – a mere five seconds behind the winners from east of England club Oundle Town.
In worsening weather with heavy sleet now falling, Simon Beard and Richard Nelson braved the conditions to race their masters E (age 50-55) coxless pair against old adversaries Milton Keynes.
In a closely fought race, they completed the course in seven minutes, 23 seconds, only to be pipped to victory by six seconds.
Division Four was incident-packed, not least for Stratford’s masters D/E/F second eight of Richard Nelson, Simon Beard, Tim Lunel, Stephen Haighton, Neville Hand, Gary Clay, Tom Doherty, Wallace Brown and cox Elida Fidler who scrambled around for a replacement boat following a collision in a previous race which left a large hull hole and their eight unusable.
With hosts Northampton coming to the rescue, the crew were able to race and, despite being held up by a slow Milton Keynes eight, recorded the fourth fastest time of the day to finish in six minutes, one second.
However, this was not enough to prevail as the top honours went to Oundle Town who completed the 1.8km course in a wafer thin faster time of five minutes, 59 seconds.
With no wins to date for the Stratford masters squad, it fell to Kjersti Woolley in her single scull to claim glory in her women’s masters E event with a well deserved win in a time of nine minutes, 13 seconds.
Late on, the two women’s double sculls of Christine Goodwin and Naomi Macdonald and Becky Smith and Lucy Kelleher finish their respective events in creditable times of nine minutes, 13 seconds and eight minutes, 50 seconds respectively.
Stratford masters’ men’s vice-captain Tom Doherty said: “It was great to see competitors from across the club ranging in age and ability coming together to put in some creditable race performances.”
Meanwhile, back at Stratford and keeping no warmer were the remainder of the club as the elite senior men underwent ‘seat racing’ for their places in crews for Royal Henley Regatta.
Senior squad coach Bill Sullivan said: “Seat racing is a gruelling process but it ensures the best selection of athletes in the ideal crew combinations. The following day’s circuit training rounded off a hard weekend!”
WHILST the J14 and J17/18 crews were battling it out at Northampton, the J15 crews went upstream with guest coach Camilla Hadland (2010 World Rowing Junior Championships gold medal winner and Stratford Boat Club member) and Will Horrocks (former HSCT coach with Scottish Rowing).
Junior co-ordinator Steve Wellstead added: “We welcome experienced guest coaches from other clubs as it often brings a different perspective to the coaching and sometimes highlights areas for improvement.”