Stratford rowers show quality at Nottingham Regatta

Stratford Boat Club's IM14+.

STRATFORD Boat Club members produced a string of solid performances at the Nottingham City Regatta in their ongoing quest to qualify for Henley at the end of June.

After a positive Easter camp and some good early season performances at Wallingford Regatta, the club’s senior men took to the water in the coxed and coxless four.

In tough headwind conditions that saw one novice four overturn their boat, the coxless boat were first into action winning their morning heat of Intermediate 2.

Unfortunately they could not replicate that result in the final, coming in fifth after struggling in the worsening conditions.

They raced again later in the day coming fourth in their heat of IM1 coxless fours, but just missed out on the final.

The highlight of the day was the performance of the coxed four who built on their solid third place at Wallingford Regatta by taking the win at Nottingham City in the final of the IM1.

The crew pulled away from their competitors in the last 1,000 metres, winning comprehensively by some nine seconds in the end. The crew, Chris Thomas, Ben Twiney, Tom Coles, Ed Lewry, and expertly coxed by Eleanor Willets always looked in control.

Sunday saw day two of the major Nottingham Masters and Club regatta held at the multi-lane National Water Sports Centre at Holme Pierrepont and a chance for the masters’ crews from Stratford to emulate the previous successful day’s racing by the seniors.

After heavy overnight rain, the weather cleared to provide a glorious sunny, albeit windy day for a full calendar of racing.

For the masters’ squad it was an opportunity to give some of their developing crews a first taste of multi-lane racing and Nottingham’s notorious windy conditions.

The day started early with a chance for the single scullers to brave the conditions.

Leading the charge for Stratford was Jane Connolly in women’s category F singles against strong opposition from Eton Excelsior and Exeter.

A strong and steady row from Connolly saw her in her first multi-lane race and choppy waters record a creditable third position behind some quality opposition.

With no masters men brave enough to take on the conditions in a single scull, it was left to another woman, Christine Goodwin, to fly the flag again for Stratford in women’s masters novice category C singles.

In a field of five rowers, the race saw Goodwin after a steady start begin to power down on her opponents.

With her strength beginning to tell in the conditions, she overtook three of her competitors and put in a great finish to push the eventual winner from Eton Excelsior very close for an excellent second.

A well earned break saw the double sculls races lead off the midday racing division with Stratford again represented by their women’s double sculling crews.

With sunny but still challenging conditions for the small boats, Vicky Ward and Sian Maher in a full field of six boats in Women’s IM3 doubles, in a combination only recently put together, delivered a high quality performance of technical skill and power to overcome the majority of their opponents to finish a close second to an experienced Exeter crew.

Following hot on the heels of this successful performance, the double scull of Kjersti Woolley and Vicky Brennan in Women’s Novice doubles saw the crew up against much younger opposition from across the country.

Although beaten into fourth place, the crew put in a gutsy performance in the conditions.

Stratford Boat Club’s masters coxless four.

With the midday division now completed, it was time for the men’s crews after their early-morning lie-in to get down to some work, and this saw the club’s developing men’s masters Novice four of Richard Field, Graham Cann, Dave Edwards, Richard Anderson and newbie cox Jane Connolly take on all comers in the men’s novice coxed fours.

This was by far their toughest event having completed only a couple of local regattas beforehand, and their first experience of multi-lane racing, so expectations were heightened throughout the squad.

With Connolly expertly taking them off from a tricky start, the crew, although significantly older than some of their opposition, were able to utilise their greater strength to stay in touch with the leading crews.

By the 750m mark with only 250m to go, they were nicely positioned to threaten second place. With two of their opponents well beaten, a crew member unfortunately had his blade caught in the water.

Despite this, a prompt recovery enabled the crew to hold onto their well earned third place to record their best-ever regatta result of their short racing careers.

With some excellent performances throughout the day, it was left to the most experience masters crew to finish proceedings. Racing in Masters’ Category C/D coxless fours, the crew of Richard Nelson, Tom Doherty, Richard Shepherd and Simon Beard saw a rematch with a very high quality Grosvenor crew.

Having raced the crew in eights earlier in the season with both crews having recorded close wins over the others, the stage was set for a close quarter race and so it proved to be.

With conditions more benign than earlier in the day, a good start by Stratford saw them lead by the halfway mark by two and a half lengths.

Grosvenor closed the gap over the second half of the race to a length approaching the final 250m, but Stratford did not panic and they were able to take the rating up to 36 strokes per minute and maintain a comfortable lead to finish a length ahead.

Men’s masters vice-captain, Tom Doherty, said: “It was very pleasing to see so many developing crews put in such good performances. Clearly having the experience of this type of event will give them encouragement for the rest of the season.”