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18th May, 2022

ROWING - Stratford-upon-Avon Boat Club enjoy bumper weekend at Evesham and Marlow

STRATFORD-upon-Avon Boat Club enjoyed a bumper weekend at Evesham Rowing Club’s Spring Regatta.

Stratford won gold in the WJ15 4x+ event as the crew of Scarlett Richardson, Megan Rowan, Jessica Long and Harriet Froom, coxed by Nancy Davis beat a fine Evesham crew on their home waters.

And Stratford’s Mixed Masters’ double sculls pair Heather Hayton and Tom Doherty won by two lengths in the D/E 50 to 55 age category.

Hayton and Doherty took an early lead against local rivals Warwick and were three lengths up at the halfway mark before eventually coming home two lengths clear of their opposition.

In the WJ15 singles event, Eloise Cooper, Lucy Sartain and Molly Vondrak sculled well with the latter making the final, losing by a length to a formidable opponent from Bristol.

Hugo Happel, J15 Coach said: “We were very pleased with the J15 performances, all round good sculling, tremendous work ethic and some well deserved outcomes. Well done to all the athletes!”

Stratford were presented with the Victor Ludorum (latin for winner of the games) which is awarded to the club who have won the most events or accumulated the most points on the day.

The club’s men’s masters competed in both Saturday’s 1000m event and Sunday’s 500m Sprints as the Master’s E 4+ crew , (Edwards, Aitchison, Cann, Skillings, cox Francis) were up against a national championship crew from Pengwern Boat Club, Shropshire.

The race started well with Pengwern showing the benefit of many years racing and getting an early lead over Stratford.

Stratford did not let this affect them and held the gap until the halfway point where Stratford started gaining on their opposition.

And Stratford continued to gain, with cox Francis driving the crew hard in her first competitive event only for Pengwern to show the benefit of their race experience in the final 200m and put in a heroic push to secure the victory.

Sunday saw the Masters’ E 4+ crew, (Simkins, Charlesworth, Shepherd, Freeman, cox Ward) in the 500m event against a Masters’ F crew from Warwick.

The Stratford crew had a two length handicap and after an epic sprint to the clubhouse, they lost out by just half a length.

Bowman Simkins said: “Even though we lost by half a length, it was nice to be competing again!”

Stratford’s J15 squad raced in four events at the Evesham Regatta on Saturday. In J15 singles event, Jamie Wilcock sculled into the semi-final beating one of his nemeses from Evesham.

And in the WJ15 doubles event, Stratford occupied two of the four semi-final slots although neither was able to make it to the final.

Following on from the Junior Inter Regional Regatta last weekend, Stratford’s J14’s competed in both the Saturday, 1000m event and Sunday 500m Sprints.

First up on Saturday the crew of the OP J14 coxed quadruple sculls Seth Vondrak, Xavier Sissins-Rofey, James Albrighton, Theo Richter, and Ollie Rowlands (coxswain) faced a crew from the host club Evesham in a straight final: the boys dominated the race from the start resulting in an easy win to Stratford.

Following on from the boys, the WJ14 double of Lily Warren and Poppy Baines faced a crew from Bristol City: despite a close start, the girls lost out to Bristol who went on to win the overall event.

In the other side of the draw, the crew of Alice Jones and Sophie Evans were given a bye to the semi-final. Despite a delay at the start due to equipment issues with their opposition, the Stratford crew kept pace over the first quarter of the course, sadly losing out to a strong crew from AB Severn.

Joining the J13 squad on the Sunday ‘Sprint’ were Ollie Rowlands and Alexandra Francis in their debut single sculls event.

Due to the withdrawal of opposition in the semi-final, Rowlands faced a long wait for the finals of the OJ 14 singles event. Facing an old quadruple quad adversary and despite a valid attempt, Rowlands eventually lost out to the Abingdon sculler.

Francis dominated the first and semi-final rounds easily: the same could not be said of the final as Francis faced formidable opposition from AB Severn.

An exciting race ensued, both crews neck and neck for most of the course receiving vocal encouragement by the spectators on the boathouse bank. In what was a nail-biting finish, Francis took advantage of the staggered finish line and eventually won by a quarter of a length.

The J18 Club Squad were also present and competing in the afternoon division. Hannah Broome and Isabella Sandland, competing in their first regatta event, rowed a strong race beating their opponents in their first heat easily with a strong start and great teamwork but losing out to the eventual winners of the event in their semi-final event.

Racing continued with Elisabeth Edwards next to race in the W1x event. Competing against an experienced sculler from Exeter, Edwards put up a strong fight, keeping level with her opponent throughout but lost out at the finish by just one length.

Martha Usselmann was last to race against the Exeter sculler having had a bye to the final of the W1x category: a barge on the course led to the race being restarted but Usselmann had a strong start and kept level with her opposition. Steering a confident line down the course, Usselmann drew ahead halfway through the race and kept up her lead to the finish securing a win of two lengths for the event.

On Sunday, Day Two of the ever popular Evesham Regatta got underway with the ‘Sprint Edition’: half the distance of Saturday’s event but by no means any less competitive.

The 500m course ran from bridge to club through the heart of Evesham’s Abbey Park to provide the spectators with an excellent view of the racing as the action unfolded.

In their debut regatta, Stratford upon Avon Boat Club was represented by the J13 squad racing in single, double and quadruple sculls.

First up, the double scull of Martha Baines and Martha Cooke sculled smoothly into the final where they met the other Stratford pairing of Tessa Parkin and Maeve Dunn. The race did not disappoint with the crew of Martha’s (plus lucky avocado) the eventual winners!

Next up were six of the young scullers competing in the J13 single sculls event. A daunting prospect for the most seasoned oarswoman, the Stratford girls demonstrated boatmanship beyond their years.

Throughout the event, the scullers Martha Baines, Cara Berisford-Murray, Isla Dunn, Poppy Warren, Sophie Franklin and Martha Cooke tore up the Avon dealing with the competition in the process

Isla Dunn emerged from the fray victorious to collect the second win for Stratford Boat Club with a classy scull beating Avon County Rowing Club in the final by two lengths.

In the final event for the J13 squad, the coxed quadruple sculls event was closely fought against local rivals on the water, Evesham Rowing Club.

The Stratford crew of Becca Smith, Cara Berisford-Murray, Poppy Warren, Sophie Franklin and Martha Cooke (coxswain) pushed hard in their semi-final with just two lengths separating them from victory.

In the other side of the draw, the other Stratford crew of Millie Smith, Isla Dunn, Josephine Cooper, Bryony Francis and Martha Baines (coxswain) fared better to secure their place in the final by a comfortable margin.

Sadly, they were unable to convert their semi-final performance into victory and lost out to a quality Evesham outfit by just one length.

Stratford’s Junior Coordinator and J13 coach Steve Wellstead said: “These young athletes showed the strength of their already tight squad with how they supported and helped one another in their first competition.

“The two event wins were the icing on the cake that was a great day on the water!”

Stratford’s sister club King Edward Sixth School Boat Club also competed at Evesham Rowing Club’s Spring Regatta and made outstanding effort with their Performance Squad beating a muscular Clifton College in the final.

Also competing on Saturday but further south at Marlow Rowing Club’s Spring Regatta were Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s ever expanding adaptive squad.

With a win for Stratford sculler Lee Cairns, competing in his first competitive event, Lee won the fixed seat singles event.

Fixed seat racing is a pararowing competition for individuals who due to a medical condition are not able to use legs to propel the boat.

Cairns’s final was the closest and most exciting race of the adaptive day. The lead changed hands more than once: in the closing stages, by maintaining good technique, Cairns finally got the better of his opponent, Luke Payne from Sudbury, winning by a length.

The day was an unusual one for the Stratford adaptive squad: usually the squad comes away from an event with multiple wins. However, this time, the squad lost five out of six finals.

Head Adaptive Coach Mark Dewdney said: “That’s sport: today we rowed well but our opponents rowed better! Congratulations to them!”

Some of Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s alumnae including Katie Wellstead (Oxford University), Talei Dunn (Durham University), Molly Gill-Swift (Exeter University ) and Hermione Hill (Durham University) were competing at the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) Regatta 2022 at Nottingham over the weekend as well.

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