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Stratford Boat Club squads show they cane compete with the best




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STRATFORD Boat Club’s junior, masters and adaptive athletes proved they were more than capable of competing with the very best at the weekend.

Stratford's J18 performance squad relaxing after tough race at the Henley Town & Visitors Regatta.
Stratford's J18 performance squad relaxing after tough race at the Henley Town & Visitors Regatta.

For the junior and masters squads, they headed down to the hallowed waters of Henley-on-Thames and as they rolled into the historic town the weather conditions could not have been any better.

The Henley Town & Visitors Regatta provided high-quality side-by-side racing over 800m on the Henley Royal Regatta course.

With the warm-up complete, the masters’ double scull of Tom Doherty and Heather Hayton took to the water and made light work of their Guildford Rowing Club competition in the first round.

Steeling themselves for the final, Hayton and Doherty lined up against a quality crew from Poole and Warwick boat clubs. Victory was to be denied by a tight margin as the Poole-Warwick composite claimed victory.

Stratford masters’ double of Heather Hayton and Tom Doherty powering down the Henley Royal course during Henley Town & Visitors Regatta.
Stratford masters’ double of Heather Hayton and Tom Doherty powering down the Henley Royal course during Henley Town & Visitors Regatta.

Then the rain hit and with a huge downpour in full effect, the WJ18 quadruple scull of Jasmine Mountney, Isabelle Watts, Alice Baines and Mili Wilcock lined up for the senior women’s event.

The quartet were in for a difficult race, though, as they found themselves up against a group consisting of Irish and Estonian national team members.

Unfazed, Stratford’s J18 crew went off and held the Twickenham-Thames-Neptune composite to no more than half a length for the first half of the race.

Experience won out in the end, though, and the composite took the race win before going on to be crowned overall event winners.

Stratford's J18 performance squad in action at the Henley Town & Visitors Regatta.
Stratford's J18 performance squad in action at the Henley Town & Visitors Regatta.

Steve Wellstead, junior co-ordinator and J18 performance squad coach, said; “That’s racing and, indeed, the luck of the draw. Onwards and upwards to the Stourport Boat Club regatta next Saturday.”

Meanwhile, Stratford’s ever-increasing adaptive squad competed at the Maidenhead RC regatta on Saturday.

Xander Van Der Poll won his debut event in his single and in the final he defeated a sculler from Northern Ireland by a considerable margin.

Van Der Poll, a former King Edward VI School pupil, is in the Great Britain Paralympic pathway system and hopes to represent Great Britain in the Paris Paralympics in 2024. He is one of two such athletes being developed by the club’s adaptive section and can be seen on the Avon early most mornings training when not at Bristol University studying for his medical degree.

Victorious Xander Van Der Poll with Stratford’s head adaptive coach Mark Dewdney.
Victorious Xander Van Der Poll with Stratford’s head adaptive coach Mark Dewdney.

Gillian Middleton also made her first competitive appearance after only a few months rowing and an impressive one it was. She and her crewmate Joe Moore were only overhauled by a strong Marlow crew in the last few strokes of the final.

Paola and Ian Ward were similarly overtaken close to the finish line in their final by an all-male Guildford crew. Meanwhile, Dan Godefroy and Jake Blatcher were beaten by a technically excellent City of Oxford crew.

Stratford’s head adaptive coach Mark Dewdney said: “Due to many last-minute changes, some Stratford rowers were put in races against much faster opposition.

“On this occasion, this reduced our chances of multiple wins that we have had in most regattas in the last few years.

“Nonetheless, well done to all the rowers and helpers. We were very pleased with the general level of performance.

“Xander will face tougher opposition in the future so his training and steps along the GB Paralympic pathway will continue in earnest.

“Gillian’s performance was the star of the day. Stratford’s adaptive section is interested in everyone rowing as well as they can and we are happy as long as everyone rows well.

“The squad’s next outing is at Oxford on 21st August in an event just for adaptive/disabled rowers.”



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