AS THE last of the winter frost thawed over the Warwickshire countryside, the athletes of Stratford Boat Club prepared to race (virtually) in the more temperate Kentish climes of Bewl Bridge Rowing Club.
The spinning fans of rowing machines (ergos) in garages and sheds transported the Stratford rowers back to pre-lockdown days when racing was part of their weekend routines.
Bewl Bridge Rowing Club hosted the virtual event and offered racing categories across the age and experience range with an additional running event for those without access to rowing machines.
In the 5km ergo event, Amelie Sartain scored a solid eighth place in the WJ17 category, whilst in the blue riband junior event at WJ18 Mili Wilcock and Alice Baines took seventh and eighth places respectively.
Isabelle Watts casually recorded the second fastest time in the WJ18 5km run to take silver, with Maiya James taking a creditable fifth. Knowledge of the course was clearly a factor as Bewl Bridge took gold.
The J15 athletes exchanged the very glamorous surroundings of the Stratford Boat Club rooms for the even more glamorous home gyms for this virtual ergatta, with tremendous results.
Charles Happel came first in his age group for the 5,000m run in a personal best time of 24 minutes, 21 seconds.
Amalia Richardson recorded a personal best time of 12:22.3 in the women’s J15 3,000m ergo event, beating Maddie Hall into second place by just 6.9 seconds. Uche Nwachukwa came fourth and Harriet Noyes seventh out of 12 entries.
Richardson and Hall won the WJ 15 double event, with Nwachukwa and Noyes second.
Richardson, Noyes, Hall and Nwachukwa won the WJ 15 quad event.
Steve Marsden, J15 coach, said: “These are admirable results, demonstrating athletes’ levels of fitness have been maintained throughout lockdown. We can look forward to similar successes once we are allowed to attend water-based events as lockdown is behind us.”
First up in the WJ14 5,000m running category – with two clubs battling it out for top honours with multiple entries – were Stratford and Lea Rowing Club (London E5, Hackney).
A gold medal for Stratford went to Eloise Cooper in a time of 22 minutes, 22 seconds – a full minute and 29 seconds faster than her nearest competitor from Lea.
There was a good performance from Stratford’s other J14 athlete Nancy Davis, who ran that distance for the first time in a creditable 28 minutes, 55 seconds – still five minutes faster than another Lea competitor and no doubt she would have been collecting a medal too had it not been for her brother unwittingly deleting all the music from the family iPhone!
Moving on to the rowing events, in the 3,000m Mx 4xJ14 category, with an ultra-featherweight cox, Stratford athletes Will Dalrymple-Baker (S), Jamie Wilcock, Lucy Sartain and Scarlett Richardson (B) took gold in a resplendent time of 13 minutes, 7.4 seconds.
“It was a great boys and girls collaborative effort,” said the crew afterwards, feeling very chuffed clearly. “The boys did need to talk less during the race though,” quipped bow!
Next up in the 3,000m 2x J14 event, Stratford J14 boys Jamie Wilcock and Will Dalrymple-Baker faced passionate competition from the boys from Lea, Weybridge and Bewl Bridge. In a very creditable time of 12 minutes, 45.5 seconds, Stratford took bronze and both athletes commented afterwards that a lot of energy was spent splashing each other!
Next up in the 3,000m 2xWJ14 event were Stratford J14 girls Scarlett Richardson and Lucy Sartain who translated all their land and water training experience into a superb performance which earned them the gold medal against competition from Shoreham Rowing Club in a winning time of 13 minutes, 29.3 seconds. Both athletes were very pleased with their technique and said there is a lot more to come.
In the final event for Stratford’s J14 squad – the 3,000m WJ14 singles – two medals were won against intense competition from Tideway Scullers School, Weybridge and Shoreham.
Scarlett Richardson won gold with a time of 13 minutes, 1.9 seconds, which was 16 seconds clear of her nearest competitor and Lucy Sartain won a commendable bronze.
Hugo Happel, J14 coach, said: “It was a fantastic tally of four gold and two bronze medals for our J14 athletes, showing grit and determination in difficult conditions, which bodes very well for when junior rowing restarts in the real world on the water – soon hopefully!”
Recreational weekday rower Ellie Davis was encouraged by a co-member (Mark Tailby) to enter the ergatta.
Having never tried 5km on an ergo before and with just two practice sessions before the event, she joined the ergatta from her very cold garage with only fairy lights for company and knocked 25 seconds off her best previous time.
She is now upping her training ready for more competition this season.
Report compiled with the help of Chris Best.