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Stratford battle it out at the Olympic Lake and Hereford

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Stratford Boat Club's J14 and J15 winners.
Stratford Boat Club's J14 and J15 winners.


STRATFORD Boat Club had a busy weekend competing at the internationally renowned Metropolitan Regatta on the Olympic Lake as well as the two-day regatta in Hereford.

Last Saturday the club's coxed four 16/17 girls returned to the Olympic Lake in Dorney Eton to take on university crews from across the UK and Ireland.

Katie Wellstead, Khloe Curnock, Emily Browne and Molly Gill-Swift, coxed by Mimi Hill, rowed well in their heat to finish in second place and qualify for the final.

The Stratford girls got off to a blistering start and at 1,200 metres they were in a medal contention, but some of the opposition edged away over the final 800 metres to leave the girls just six seconds off the win and in fifth place.

Coach Graham Collier said: "This was a bold performance against quality student opposition. Now it’s onwards to the Henley Women’s Regatta later this month."

The elite senior men’s coxless four of Michael Hourigan, Patrick Hourigan, Finn Sprackling and Tom Coleshad had some hard racing on the last day of the Metropolitan Regatta.

The crew were aiming to qualify for the Wyfold Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta, held in early July each year and the Metropolitan Regatta is a pathway to automatic qualification.

After coming fifth and being knocked out in the semi-final of the Championship Four in the morning, they raced again in the afternoon and reached the final of the Horton Cup.

The blustery wind affected the Stratford crew on the far side of the course and after a number of warnings from the umpire regarding their steering, and consistently needing to reset the boat after being blown onto the buoys, they finished fifth.

Bill Sullivan, the elite senior men's coach, said: "In the circumstances, the crew performed well and showed the benefit of the last few weeks of hard training.

"Whilst we haven’t done enough to qualify for Henley just yet, the crew can move forward with confidence to the British Championships and Marlow Regatta later this month."

Meanwhile, the J14 and J15 squads, along with the masters' double scull, travelled to Hereford for their annual two-day regatta and on Saturday athletes competed on the 1km straight course.

First up were the WJ14 doubles where Honour Keil and Bella Chappelhow competed alongside Fleur Griffiths and Harriet Holmes. Both crews faced tough opposition from City of Bristol and the races came right down to the line, but Stratford missed out on a place in the semi-finals.

More of Stratford Boat Club's J14 winners.
More of Stratford Boat Club's J14 winners.

In the afternoon Lucy Browne and Tomi Wilcock took to the water in their own respective J14 singles events. Browne was drawn against a strong sculler from City of Bristol and despite some brilliant sculling., she just missed out on a place in the semi-finals.

Wilcock faced two scullers from Hereford in the first round and in the semi-final, and he beat both convincingly to take his place in the final where he cruised to his first win in the single scull.

Last up for the day were the WJ14 squad of Harriet Holmes, Bella Chappelhow, Ruby Howells, Honour Keil and cox Toby Sartain who received a bye into the final against the crew from Bristol.

The Stratford crew tried their best, but it wasn't enough to overhaul the strong Bristol crew.

On Sunday athletes competed on the shorter 500m course and up first were the WJ14 double sculls.

This time Harriet Holmes teamed up with Honour Keil and Fleur Griffiths with Lucy Browne.

Both doubles again found themselves against two very strong Bristol crews and despite the Stratford girls putting in some very good performances, they were not strong enough to win.

Tomi Wilcock and Bella Chappelhow also teamed up in the J14 doubles to race against Bristol and despite having held the lead, the all-male Bristol crew pushed through in the last few metres to take the win.

In the afternoon the J14 coxed quad of Bella Chappelhow, Ruby Howells, Anne Mynors and Toby Sartain, coxed by Honour Keil, raced against an all-boys crew from Hereford Cathedral School where, despite a big push towards the line, they were pipped into second place.

Lucy Browne, Harriet Holmes, Fleur Griffiths and Tomi Wilcock then took to the water in their single sculls.

Browne put in a fantastic performance, but was pipped to first place by a strong Bristol sculler. Holmes raced against another Bristol sculler and unlike Browne, she managed to win her heat.

In the semi-final she faced a girl from Hereford Cathedral School who unfortunately capsized, with Fleur sculling down to take the win.

Griffiths and Wilcock sculled brilliantly in a tight semi-final, with the former just taking the lead and securing a place in the final. There she met the sculler Browne had raced earlier in the afternoon and after holding her nerve, Griffiths pushed ahead to take the event win by just two feet.

For the second day running Wilcock made his way to the final against another Bristol sculler. As the duo approached the bridge the Bristol sculler could not pass through because he was too close which allowed Wilcock to relax over the last part of the course and take the victory.

J14 coach Abi Terry said: "It was a brilliant weekend’s racing in a very relaxed environment with some fantastic sculling.

"The squad are looking forward to our next event, the Lodders Stratford-upon-Avon Boat Club home regatta, on Saturday, 15th June."

For the J15 squad, the weekend began with Amelie Sartain in the single sculls event.

In an exciting 1,000m bow ball to bow ball race, Sartain pushed ahead in the closing stages to win by one-and-a-half lengths.

The afternoon saw Sartain on the water again, this time in the double with Fleur Griffiths (J14).

Winning their semi-final easily, the girls met strong competition in the final.

After a fast start, both boats were level at the halfway point as they approached the bridge.

Keeping their line and settling into their rhythm, Griffiths and Sartain appeared in control when suddenly the opposition drifted out of their lane resulting in a blade clash.

The girls recovered well, but were now a length behind with only 250m to go.

Inspired by the support and with true determination from within, the girls accelerated past the opposition to take the win by three quarters of a length.

Sunday was the shortened 500m course for the sprint events with Martha Usselmann beginning the morning’s racing for the squad.

The J14/J15 composite double powering down the Hereford course.
The J14/J15 composite double powering down the Hereford course.

With a fast start and maintaining her strong technique throughout, Usselmann was in a good position as they passed the bridge, however, the more experienced opposition slowly drew clear to win.

A confident Sartain was then involved in another singles final, but despite a good start and powerful sprint, she was pipped in the closing strokes to finish second.

The final event for the J15s had Sartain and Usselmann competing in the doubles event.

After progressing through their heat after a close race against strong local competition, the girls faced familiar adversaries in the final.

Another strong performance led to an exciting finish as the boats passed under the bridge.

However, the finishing line came too soon for Stratford as they crossed in a close second place after a well-fought race throughout.

J15 coach Trevor Tiller said: "The high level of competition over the weekend has been of great benefit especially as the British Rowing Junior Championships in July is just over the horizon."

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