STRATFORD-upon-Avon Boat Club continued their excellent run of form at the Ross Regatta last weekend, writes Emily Belcher.
The team secured event wins in the Masters’ D coxed fours and in the WJ14 girls coxed quadruple sculls, as well as Conrad Bird gaining novice status after his thrilling victory against Swansea.
These three fantastic triumphs were accompanied by a series of other impressive performances from the local boat club, with Stratford compatriots of all ages securing semi-final and final places in their various events.
Stratford Masters’ squad endeavoured to follow up the quality performance of Stratford’s juniors, firstly with the Masters F double sculls stroked by Simon Beard and expertly steered by Mike Atkins, the doyen of the Masters’ squad, a mix of power and style saw them take on the brute strength of a Runcorn crew determined to dominate from the start.
Drawn on the unfavourable outside of a long bend, Stratford found themselves down coming into the regatta enclosure where they were unable to pull back the lead of two lengths established by the Cheshire based team.
Determined to bounce back, Beard, now joined by Wallace Brown, Richard Nelson, and Thomas Doherty and expertly coxed by the outstanding Sophie Neville, took on a powerful heavyweight Evesham crew in Masters’ D coxed fours.
In a nail-biting race with neither crew giving an inch, Stratford, driven on by lung-bursting commands from Neville, managed to gain a half-length advantage and hold it to the finish for a memorable event win.
With the afternoon’s racing truncated by monsoon rain showers, Stratford’s Mixed Masters’ E double scull of Doherty, partnered with Kjersti Wooley, yet again found themselves up against their old nemesis from Derwent.
Despite a good row in the undesirable outside of the bend, they were unable to break their stranglehold over recent races losing by two lengths.
A pulsating day of racing at Ross Regatta also saw the WJ14 girls coxed quadruple sculls overcome adversity as a crew member responded badly to a wasp sting.
Medical issues permitted a crew replacement and Autumn Keil, Khloe Curnock, Jessica Wiesheu, Katie Wellstead with coxswain Mimi Hill raced on to win the event.
The WJ14 girls’ double sculls event included two Stratford crews.
Keil and Curnock resisted well in their first-round heat but were beaten by the smallest of margins.
It was a commendable result for the pairing, considering their vigorous efforts in the earlier events.
Not quite so for the superlative combination of Wiesheu and Wellstead, who fought their way to the semi-final only to be beaten by a Ross crew who were still fresh from their two previous races.
The Stratford crew on the other hand were competing in their sixth race of the day.
Tiredness for these young 14-year-olds took over and they were simply out of energy.
These young, talented rowers have a lot to be proud of after being part of the winning WJ14 girls coxed quadruple sculls earlier in the day.
Doherty, Masters’ squad vice-captain, went on to say: “It was great to see competitors of all ages from 13 to 72 racing here today. All put in excellent performances to do Stratford proud.”
Interestingly, Keil then went on to race in the boys’ J14 double sculls alongside Joseph Hodson and turned out to be a phenomenal combination, beating several all-male crews, only to be overcome by a strong pairing from Staines.
Hodson in the J14 single sculls also delivered a gritty performance dispatching a couple of opponents before losing in the semi-final.
Coach, Graham Collier, said: “A great day much enjoyed by all the participants. In a few hours time they move into the J15 category. We wish them well!”
Meanwhile, Stratford’s J13 squad were also in action and high quality sculling was in plentiful supply to bring to a close their first year of racing.
The WJ13 single scull event opened proceedings with a thrilling race contested between Neville and a rower from Staines BC.
Neville steered a precise course and led the race until a caught blade in choppy water upset her rhythm and Staines gained the advantage. Despite recovering well, the gap proved just too great for Neville to close.
In the WJ13 double sculls, Jasmine Mountney and Alice Baines kept the Stratford supporters on their feet with two solid wins against Evesham and City of Bristol before narrowly missing out on the top prize to a Liverpool Victoria team in the final.
The coxed quadruple sculls fared less well with tough opposition from the outset.
The mixed crew of Sophie Neville, Maiya James, Mili Wilcock, Nixie Brunt, Dan Cox, Alice Baines and Jasmine Mountney were drawn against City of Bristol, who went on to win both open and women’s categories.
Steve Wellstead, Stratford Boat Club’s junior coordinator said: “The event proved a great day to close the season and set the scene well for the year ahead.”
Continuing the regatta’s success and ending on a high, Conrad Bird raced a semi-final against Penarth, winning easily and then went on to race against Swansea where he won by a length in a thrilling final.
This completed an illustrious event in which saw Bird claim his well-earned novice status.
Action continued on Saturday with the launch of the combined boat and rotary club’s duck race.
More than 1,000 plastic ducks were propelled into the foaming water at the weir below Holy Trinity Church opposite Lucy’s Mill.
The event raised in the region of £5,000 for Shakespeare Hospice’s new children and young people’s services.
Sponsorship came from Care UK, who run over 100 care homes across the country including Priors House in Leamington Spa and Ambleside in Stratford-upon-Avon, providing a range of care services from respite to residential care for older people.
The weekend highlighted the sheer talent and endeavour of Stratford BC and its members as well as the popular ability to host successful charity events.