THE National Schools’ Regatta at Dorney Lake proved to be a tough testing ground for Stratford Boat Club’s juniors – but they did not let that dampen their spirits.
The J14 squad, competing in their first National Schools’ Regatta, also took part on Friday and first up were the crew of 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.
They overtook a crew from the Windsor Boys School on their way to a very respectable 25th place out of the 41 crews taking part.
The J14 girls’ crew of Freya Watts, Lucy Browne, Fleur Griffiths and Honour Keil, coxed by Toby Sartain, performed well in the time trial to finish 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 that 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 and the quad crew of Abbey Meggeson, Amelie Sartain, Emma Harrison and Sophie Elstone, coxed by Mary Walton were the first 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 place in the final, 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 16th 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 of Katie Wellstead, Khloe Curnock, Emily Browne and cox 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 12 progressing to semi-finals raced over 2,000 metres.
The girls were sixth fastest in the time trial followed by a fifth place in their semi-final. This put them into the non-medal final against five other crews.
J17/18 coach 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 1,850 metres only six seconds separated all the crews, but Stratford put in an incredibly powerful spurt to overtake the Sir William Borlases Grammar School crew and win the race by half a length.”