STRATFORD Boat Club sent a strong masters squad to Northampton for the Head of the Nene and they performed impressively to secure a number of victories and win the Victor Ludorum Trophy as the most successful club at the event.
The Stratford team featured a large number of development rowers for whom it was a first experience of competition rowing and they rose to the challenge impressively.
Early starters in Division One battled against a very cold and foggy course and first off for Stratford was the men’s masters squad of Charlie Evans, Tom Doherty, Richard Shephard and Simon Beard, rowing up status at IM1 level in a coxless four.
After a frenetic start, the crew settled into a high-tempo race at 37 strokes per minute which they maintained for the whole race to finish in a time of 6 minutes, 32 seconds.
This would have been significantly faster except for an unfortunate collision close to the end of the course which cost the crew some time, forcing them to settle for second place to Northampton University who finished 40 seconds clear in the fastest time of the day.
Also braving the cold conditions in the morning division was Mike Adkins who resumed his competition with fellow club member and training partner Chris Straw, who was racing later in the day in Masters F single sculls.
Unfortunately both Stratford scullers had to settle for minor places behind the Granta and Hollowell clubs as Mike took club bragging rights from Chris in a time of 9 minutes, 14 seconds.
The morning division also saw the debut of a mixed masters novice four in the shape of Richard Anderson, Richard Field, Lin Hanson and Dave Edwards.
In their first ever race the crew, which has been training for several months, put in a sterling performance against a strong field from Northampton and sister club King Edward VI Grammar School to finish in a time of 7 minutes, 53 seconds.
Also debuting in his first sculling race was Tim Lunel in masters D single sculls. Racing in a high quality field, Tim was not overawed by some quality opposition and finished a creditable third in 7 minutes, 24 seconds, only six seconds behind the high quality Rudkin of Hollowell Scullers.
Stratford ladies were not to be outdone despite the conditions and club-mates Lucy Rouse and Christine Goodwin went head-to-head in women’s novice sculls.
With Swindon Rowing Club playing a supporting role, Christine recorded her first ever win for Stratford in a time of 8 minutes, 33 seconds and her first victory over Lucy.
Christine said: “A massive credit to Helen Smith as my coach. I am only here due to her encouragement and help all the way!”
With weather conditions improving and the fog lifting, racing became more competitive in the midday divisions and Stratford’s masters D coxed four of Charlie Evans, Tom Doherty, Richard Shephard and Simon Beard, expertly coxed by Becky Stokes, recorded an event win over Derwent in a time of 6 minutes, 33 seconds.
The debutant novice four were back in action in the midday divisions and Lin Hanson made way for Mike Cordner, making his racing debut with Richard Anderson, Richard Field and Dave Edwards racing up status in IM3 coxed fours. They finished second to an experienced Oundle crew in a time of 8 minutes, 15 seconds.
Stratford’s mixed masters E double scull of Kjersti Woolley and Tom Doherty were unable to do the double over a much-fancied Derwent crew and were pipped to second place by three seconds by Milton Keynes.
In the same event the Stratford second boat of Phil Marshall and Gina Fusco put in a very creditable performance in what was Gina’s first competitive race for the club.
Next it was the turn of Helen Smith to make her racing debut, this time as a cox in the mixed coxed four event with Charlie Edwards, Mike Cordiner, Harriet Smith and Sian Maher.
The crew, racing for the first time with event debutant Mike Cordner in the engine room, recorded a well deserved win over fancied Oundle Town in a time of 7 minutes, 16 seconds.
Finally, the masters squad rounded off an excellent day’s racing with Tim Lunel and Tom Doherty winning the masters’ E double sculls in a time of 6 minutes, 50 seconds over crews from Oundle, Derwent and Hollowell.
Masters vice-captain Tom Doherty said: “What was so pleasing was to see so many debutants racing in Stratford colours for the first time, acquitting themselves so well and really enjoying the experience.”
Stratford’s women’s masters also did well in their E/F category sculling race.
Meanwhile, Stratford’s junior section braved the cold weather to compete at the Head of the Nene held over 1,800m and race wins were in plentiful supply across the age groups.
The junior 17/18 squad of Libby Dwyer, Lara Davies, Maddie Griffiths, Lauren Willis, Theodora Mordaunt, Claire Teakle, Sofia Ward, Isobel Marsden, Eleanor Gray, Madeline Winsper and Robin Connolly triumphed in Novice IM3, J16 and J18 categories in their coxless quadruple scull and coxed fours.
In the J15 age group Joe Hodson sculled masterfully to a win in his single scull and then went on to notch up a further victory in the double sculls event with Fred Tyler.
The J14 squad added to the trophy haul with wins for Mili Wilcock and Daniel Cox in their single sculls whilst the coxed quadruple scull of Jasmine Mountney, Mya Kenny, Nixie Brunt, Alice Baines and Simran Gill (cox) produced a superb performance to not only win their event but also beat all crews in the next age group.
Victory in the double sculls category went to Max Griffiths and Dan Cox in the boys’ event and Jasmine Mountney and Alice Baines in the women’s event to round off a fantastic day’s racing.
With outstanding performances across the board in junior, senior and masters events, the club also secured the Victor Ludorum Trophy as the most successful club at the event which was a truly marvellous way to start the year.