THE NATIONAL Schools’ Regatta was a testing occasion for Stratford Boat Club’s juniors but as usual they rose to the challenge.
The J14 squad, competing in their first National Schools’ Regatta, were first up and the crew featured Will Beattie, Tomi Wilcock, Bella Chappelhow, Harriet Holmes and cox Owen Perkins.
As the only mixed crew in an open event, racing against all-boys crews, the Stratford combination put in a fantastic performance as they overtook a crew from the Windsor Boys’ School on their way to a very respectable 25th place out of 41 crews.
The J14 girls’ crew of Freya Watts, Lucy Browne, Fleur Griffiths and Honour Keil, expertly coxed by Toby Sartain, performed well in the time trial to place 16th, just 30 seconds off first place and gain themselves a place in the C final.
In their side-by-side final, they raced against some strong crews. They put in a quick start and found themselves leading the race away from the stake boats.
As they settled into their mid-race pace, they found themselves in a tussle with a crew from the Grange School, Hartford. The two crews battled their way down the course neck and neck until the Stratford crew pushed away as they hit the last 250m to take fifth place.
J14 coach Abi Terry said: “It was a very encouraging day’s racing from the J14 squad, showing there is plenty more to come. We’re all looking forward to the British Junior Championships in July.”
For the J15 squad, Friday was the first day of a thrilling weekend’s racing at Dorney Lake.
The J15 girls’ quad of Abbey Meggeson, Amelie Sartain, Emma Harrison and Sophie Elstone, coxed by Mary Walton, were the first crew from Stratford to time trial the 1,900m for places in the finals later in the day.
J15 coach Trevor Tiller said: “Despite a good strong row in the field of 68 crews, only 11 seconds was between them and a finals placing, however the experience of the event bodes well for the remaining regatta season.”
The Stratford J16 squad fielded two crews as the regatta continued into its third day. First down the course was the combination of Jasmine Mountney, Maiya James, Mya Kenny and Alice Baines in the women’s coxless quadruple sculls event.
Always a highly competitive event in junior sculling, the girls finished the day with 16th place overall, leaving some quality competition in their wake.
Next up was Fred Tyler who raced in the championship single sculls event. Steve Wellstead, J16 coach and junior co-ordinator, said: “Competing against boys two years his senior, his 27th place overall belies the quality of his performance and over the middle 1,000m of the race he was safely in the top ten fastest scullers. A superb performance from a promising young talent.”
Stratford’s J17 girls’ coxed four – Katie Wellstead, Khloe Curnock and Emily Browne, coxed by Mimi Hill – stunned many of the crews from the big schools and clubs with their solid performance.
Nineteen crews from England, Wales and Scotland entered the time trial event with only the quickest dozen progressing to semi-finals raced over 2,000m. The girls were sixth fastest in the time trial followed by a fifth place in their semi-final which put them into the non-medal final against five other crews.
J17/18 coach Dr Graham Collier said: “This was one of the most exciting races in which Stratford raced neck and neck with their closest opponent who train on the Thames at Marlow.
“After 1,850m only six seconds separated all the crews but Stratford put in an incredibly powerful spurt to overtake the Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School crew and win by the race by half a length.”