STRATFORD Boat Club juniors faced testing conditions at the British Rowing Junior National Championships held at the National Water Sports Centre in Nottingham – the last chance of the season for youngsters to compete on the big stage.
Day one of the three-day event held on the 2,000m purpose built lake saw Stratford’s J14s taking to the water for the first chance to compete in the prestigious event.
The J14 category is different to all of the other age groups because to race in the quads, they have to do the omnium event in singles or doubles.
The omnium is made up of seven different skills to decide the best scullers in the country.
In the WJ14 singles event, Stratford had four entries in Harriet Holmes (13th), Fleur Griffiths (17th), Freya Watts (19th) and Lucy Browne (31st) who did well against the 87-strong field.
Toby Sartain competed in the equivalent open event which featured 63 competitors and he came home in 25th.
For the WJ14 doubles where there were 67 crews competing, Ruby Howells teamed up with Hermione Brewster and despite an unfortunate capsize, they recovered to cross the line in 24th place.
Honour Kell and Bella Chappelhow also competed in the same event and finished 56th.
The boys double of Tomi Wilcock and Will Beattie were the last Stratford crew to take part in the omnium and even though they managed a very impressive fourth place in the 500m race, they finished 14th overall.
The quads then took to the water and the WJ14 crew of Watts, Browne, Griffiths and Kell, coxed by Sartain, put in a strong performance in the time trial to finish 13th and take a place in the ‘C’ final.
Here they went out strong from the start and settled into a rhythm to eventually land third place.
The mixed crew finished the time trial in 20th place while the crew of Beattie, Wilcock, Chappelhow and Holmes, coxed by Amelie Sartain, finished third in the ‘D’ final.
J14 coach Abi Terry said: “There were some really great results for the J14s at their first British Championships. They will look to build on these next season.”
Day two of the championships saw the J15, J16 and J17/18 squads take to the water.
The time trial events in the morning were blighted by high winds and waves, but despite the testing conditions, the J16 squad rose to the challenge.
Fred Tyler came seventh in the singles while Alice Baines and Mya Kenny finished ninth in the double scull, with their performances taking the crews forward to the multi-lane regatta format on day three.
The first J15 representatives on Saturday were Abbey Meggeson and Emma Harrison in the double, who were unable to gain a finals place in one of the largest fields of the day.
The remaining J15 time trial events for the squad were all singles.
First up were Conor Aitchison and Will Clark who narrowly missed out on a place in the final.
The girls’ singles were next with Amelie Sartain, Elisabeth Edwards, Harriet Hodgson and Sophie Elstone.
After a slight halt to proceedings, the racing eventually continued, but Hodgson was forced to stop after her boat filled up with too much water.
Battling the heavy winds, Edwards and Elstone finished less than a minute from a place in the finals while Sartain secured a place in the ‘C’ final, missing out on the ‘A/B’ semi-finals by 12 seconds.
In her final, Sartain was up against girls from Maidenhead, Reading, Runcorn, St Andrews and Ross-on-Wye.
After a good start Sartain was pushing for the lead, however, the Maidenhead crew had a narrow lead at the halfway stage.
A late push from Reading made for an exciting finish as Sartain came home in second and 14th overall.
On day three, the top 12 crews in each event gathered at the lake to do battle once more and unlike Saturday, the conditions were much better to compete on.
A fifth-place in the semi-final saw Fred Tyler well-placed for the ‘B’ final in his single scull. What followed was one of the closest races of the day as Tyler led from the start, but was tested to the maximum by Tideway Scullers School in the last 500m.
Tyler held off the charge to win by 0.4 seconds. Mya Kenny and Alice Baines also progressed to the ‘B’ final in the J16 double sculls where they finished tenth overall.
Steve Wellstead, J16 coach and junior co-ordinator, said: “It was a great result from the J16 squad on the national stage.”
Next up were the J17 girls of Katie Wellstead, Khloe Curnock, Emily Browne and Molly Gill-Swift who were rowing competitively in a coxless four for the first time.
They displayed sheer skill and determination as they took on some of the best crews in the UK.
The crew finished seventh in the time trials to put them in the semi-final against five other crews.
After racing over 2,000m they missed out on a place in the ‘A’ final by four seconds.
However, their performance in the ‘B’ final was outstanding as the crew came home in second, just three lengths behind the Henley Rowing Club crew.
The double scull partnership of Jessica Wiesheu and Talei Dunn raced in another highly competitive event and finished 30 seconds behind the winners and secured a place in the ‘C’ final.
Due to the poor weather, the race was delayed and not rowed out.
J17/18 coach Graham Collier said: “Now it’s time for the group to have fun at local regattas before they embark on their final year of junior rowing and our own scheduled regatta on Saturday, 21st September.”