STRATFORD-upon-Avon Boat Club’s junior rowers shone as they rubbed shoulders with the best rowers in the country at the Henley Long Distance Sculls event on Saturday.
Raced over an extended Henley Royal regatta course, the event is attended by many of the top clubs and schools in the country.
Junior athletes ranging from J14 to J18 represented Stratford over two divisions with a strong headwind early on presenting challenging conditions for competitors.
The event, a major competition on the pre-Christmas winter racing calendar attracted almost 600 entries primarily from the London and the south east areas of the country, providing very high levels of competition for Stratford crews throughout the day.
This event was a step up on anything the junior squad have done, especially for two Stratford J14 quadruple sculling crews, who enjoyed a good row and gave an excellent account of themselves.
The J14 girls’ crew of Elisabeth Edwards, Sienna Rawlings, Sophie Elstone, Abbey Meggeson coxed by Mary Walton finished sixth of 12 boats and in the Open category.
A mixed crew of Amelie Sartain, Harriet Hodgson, Will Clarke, Conar Aitchison coxed by Julia Zampronio Gurden produced a good time to finish third against four other all-boy boats.
J14 coach, Trevor Tiller, said: “It’s great to see our young athletes developing their technique and stamina to the point that they are able to come to Henley and compete with the best young rowers in the United Kingdom.”
There were some strong performances across the older age groups, with both J15 (Dan Cox and Max Griffiths) and J16 (Fred Tyler and Joe Hodson) boys’ double sculls achieving good results with each finishing sixth in fields of 16 and 17 respectively.
J16 girls also produced some excellent sculling with Emily Browne, Jessica Wiesheu and Katie Wellstead finishing fourth, eighth and ninth respectively in single sculls and Molly Gill-Swift and Khloe Curnock achieving a very good time to finish fourth in a large high quality field of 21 double sculling boats.
Stratford boats competed well in other categories, including J16 Geoffrey Flambert (24th) and WJ15 Nixie Brunt (8th) and Jasmine Mountney (10th) in single sculls and Maiya James, Mili Wilcock, Mya Kenny. Alice Baines and Naomi Sergeant in a J15 girls quadruple scull (13th) and Theo Mordaunt, Claire Teakle, Maddie Griffiths and Sofia Ward in a J18 coxless quad (10th).
Meanwhile, a change in the weather from a glorious late autumnal week of sunshine and mild temperatures to cold and continuous rain greeted Stratford’s masters’ squad as they also competed in the Henley Long Distance Sculls Head.
First up for the masters squad saw a head-to-head between Neville Hand and Gary Clay against Kjersti Woolley and Thomas Doherty in masters E double sculls.
With no mixed event, Woolley and Doherty were rowing in the men’s event, but still gave Hand and Clay a good fight before just being overtaken at the finish.
The good row by Clay and Hand saw them just fail to take the overall winners’ prize by seven seconds to Bradford-on-Avon in a time of 13 mins 38 secs with Woolley and Doherty finishing in 14 mins and 28 secs.
The afternoon division saw Tim Lunel competing in the competitive masters D single sculls event in a field including former Olympian Guy Pooley.
Lunel produced a good row to finish in a time of 13 mins and 56 secs and an overall midfield position of sixth.
It remained for Christine Goodwin to complete the masters’ entries racing in Open Women’s second level sculls.
In a strong field of eleven competitors, Goodwin put in a greatly-improved performance from last year to finish again midfield in a time of 15 mins 52 secs in seventh position.
A change of river for the masters’ squad on Sunday for Stourport Small Boats Head saw a much needed improvement in the weather.
Stratford were represented by their mixed Masters’ crew of Woolley and Doherty in masters E division who put in a much improved race from the previous day’s effort at Henley to beat a number of the men’s and women’s crews.