On a reasonably bright Saturday morning almost 200 crews took to the Lagan for the first competitive Head Race of the season. Heads are long-distance rowing races, usually in excess of 2,500 metres, and are run in a time-trial fashion. Lagan Head was split into two races. The first was a 2,700m course from the Albert Bridge to the boathouses in Stranmillis. The second was a gruelling 4,200m course starting in the bouncy waters of the channels by the Odyseey arena, again finishing at the boathouses.
The first race was predominantly smaller boats and featured in excess of 100 crews competing. In this race was an RBAI Club 4x+ of Josh Hoy, Lucas Prodohl, Andrew Mallon, Brent Whiteside and Michael Honan. The boys were up against Commercial from Dublin, a very seasoned crew with much more experience to draw upon. The boys started solidly and over the race distance not only caught, but also passed the Dublin opposition. They also caught up to a number of other crews and posted the 10th fastest time overall. Well done to the boys, with a special mention going to Michael, who in his first race showed excellent composure when under pressure from other boats and steered a fantastic line.
The novice 4+ of Daragh Patterson, Bailie Thompson, PJ Bowman, James Emery and Rory Hulatt also featured in the first race. They put in a very commendable race and managed to finish 11 positions above their starting place. In the process they also managed to beat a number of more experienced crews. A very good result for an improving group of athletes.
The other boats racing over the short course were the Junior singles of Nick Reid and Harry Hetherington and the Junior 2x of Michael Gaston and Angus Harley. The 2x had a difficult race, with a collision with some debris causing problems for them in terms of steering and pace. The singles performed slightly better, with Nick Reid being within 35 seconds of the fastest sculler. This is a big improvement and a sign of the progress being made by Nick. Harry also put in a strong showing, coming home just over 20 seconds behind Nick and within a minute of the fastest competitor. This is even more encouraging given that he was racing an age category above where he should be. Well done to both boys.
The second race featured 50 crews composed mainly of 8’s with only a handful of 4’s venturing down to the unpleasant conditions that lie beyond the Lagan Weir. The wide expanse of water made specifically for allowing access to large vessels also allowed the wind to create some very testing conditions, which neither crew felt totally at home in. The senior 4x- of Josh Hoy, Lucas Prodohl, Brent Whiteside and Andrew Mallon got a nice high starting position, but this simply meant they were rowing in the wake of the biggest and fastest boats. After a difficult race of two halves they came home in 29th position, a commendable result given the first four-man boat to brave the race. They also came home as the third fastest four, another positive given the only two crews ahead of them were from Trinity College Dublin.
The final Inst boat in the main race was the Junior 18 8+ of Nick Reid, Angus Harley, Michael Gaston, Bailie Thompson, Conor Craig, James Emery, Daragh Patterson, Harry Hetherington and Rory Hulatt. This was a very difficult task for the young and inexperienced crew. The conditions and water were very new to the boys and after 7 out of the crew had already raced that morning it was going to be hard race either way. With that in mind the crew set off with a positive mind-set, eager to prove themselves against the much more experienced crews from Bann, Portora, Methody and Coleraine Inst. The Portora and Bann crews were showing their Championship standard status and put in some good performances to beat most of the senior crews. But behind them there was a good fight going on for third. In the end Methody took the honours by 10 seconds, with CAI an agonising 3 seconds ahead of the RBAI crew after over 4,000 metres of racing and just about 500 strokes.
Well done to all crews and coaches for their efforts on the day and a big thank you to all the supporters, in terms of parents, friends and old boys who came out to cheer on the boys.
The next outing for the Club will be in Enniskillen for the Erne Head of the River on March 28th.