Rowing: Belfast Sprints Regatta

Last Saturday, 16th May, saw the RBAI Rowing Club take to their home stretch of water to compete in the Belfast Sprints Regatta. The event featured two-lane, side-by-side racing over 500 metres, guaranteeing close racing and some nervous finishes.

Inst was competing in a total of 13 events, ranging from novice to club and in boats from singles to quads. The racing was frantic and the timetable was tight over the whole day with a number of boys having to race in one boat, come straight off the water and jump into another boat immediately to make the start of their next event. It was a credit to the skill, strength and fitness of the boys that they were able to do such quick turn-a-rounds over the day.

The Junior 16 4x+ (Jamie Dickson, James Emery, Tom Glynn, Harry Hetherington and Michael Honan) came up against a strong Methodist College outfit, whose typical high-rating style managed to get them down the course a length ahead of the RBAI crew.

The Club 2x (Lucas Prodohl and Andrew Mallon) faced a well-drilled Belfast Rowing Club crew, who showed that their time in the boat had been preparing for this event as they managed to win their heat by 2 lengths.

The Novice 4x+’s (A boat – Darragh Patterson, Peter Bowman, Daniel Lowry, David Patterson and Rory Hulatt, B boat – James Emery, Jamie Dickson, Morgan Lavery, Conor Craig and Michael Honan) both were up against some tough opposition in terms of MCB and Belfast Boat Club, respectively. In the end both crews raced well but just missed out on places in the final.

The J18 2x (Angus Harley and Brent Whiteside) were in a very close race with the Belfast Rowing Club 2x all the way down the course, but at the line just slipped back to a narrow defeat. The two J16 2x’s (Jamie Dickson and Harry Hetherington and Tom Glynn and Morgan Lavery) unfortunately had similar results in their races.

One of the most entertaining races of the day came in the Novice 2x event, where the “A” boat of James Emery and Angus Harley seemed to have the measure of the “B” boat in the heat, as they settled into a comfortable lead. But anything can happen in these events and in the final 100 metres a momentary loss of their line cost the “A” boat as they clipped the bank. They were unable to get recovered in time and the “B” crew of Daniel Lowry and David Patterson came through to take their rightful place in the final. Unfortunately they weren’t able to repeat their heroics in the final but put in a good showing against a considerably bigger and more experienced Belfast Boat Club crew.

The J18 1x (Nick Reid) was a straight final against BRC. In the race Nick got off to his customary fast start and was able to counteract all the moves made by his opponent down the course. This brought Nick home in first place, a well-deserved win, backing up his victory in the same category in Portadown Regatta.

Nick also featured in the Club 1x. This is an open event, so he faced opposition from Clubs all over Northern Ireland. In his heat he managed to again move into a commanding position off the start and settle into a strong rhythm. In the final couple of hundred metres Nick pulled away from his Lagan Scullers’ opposition to cruise into the final. In the final he faced an experienced sculler from City of Derry. The two scullers attacked off the start and were side-by-side up to the mid-point of the race, when Nick raised his finishing sprint which took him clear and brought him his third sculling title of the year.

The next event was the Club 4+ (Michael Gaston, Josh Hoy, Conor Craig, Darragh Patterson and Rory Hulatt) where Inst raced their neighbours BRC in a straight final. This new combination did not gel too well off the start as they were dropped by their more experienced rivals. But as the race progressed the stronger rhythm by the schoolboys brought them back into contention and then took them level and then took them clear. By the line they had turned an initial slow start into a dominant victory.

The victory in the Club 4+ was made all the better as Darragh Patterson had just jumped out of his Novice single and straight into the 4. Darragh had progressed through his heat with a strong row against a tough BBC sculler and in the final faced another single from the same club. Darragh had come close to taking a win in Portadown a fortnight ago and went about putting things right in the final. He put in a good start and kept the pressure up on his experienced opposition to slowly take a lead over the course and then start to pull away as the line got close. By the end Darragh had shown great composure in only his second sculling event to take a well-earned win.

Over the day Harry Hetherington had faced some good MCB crews in the J16 4x+ and J16 2x events, and in the final of the J16 1x he faced another one. He had already cruised to final with a comfortable row ahead of Portora, but faced much stiffer opposition from the MCB sculler, who had beaten him at Queen’s Regatta just one week ago. Harry was set on evening up the score and left nothing in reserve as he pushed off the start. By half-way both scullers were level, but from there it was all RBAI. Harry made a decisive break and the MCB sculler couldn’t respond. Both boys lifted their rate and boat speed in the dash for the line but Harry held on by a length to take a very hard fought win.

The next event featured another MCB-RBAI show-down, this time in the J18 4x- (Nick Reid, Angus Harley, Brent Whiteside and Michael Gaston). This has been the Inst flagship boat for 3 seasons now and has seen them dominate the Ulster circuit, even through many line-up changes. But this has only served to galvanize the determination of the opposition to try and take away the coveted throne of the fastest crew at the regatta. These two boats faced each other in a very close race two weeks ago and the crowds watching were expecting another close one. Off the start both crews were level, neither side giving an inch, but as the race unfolded the Inst boys got an opportunity to show their strength and maximum boat speed. They did this with great composure and sculled away in the latter stages of the race to leave no-one in any doubt as to the fastest crew of the day.

The final event for Inst was the J15 1x of Tom Glynn. Tom has only started rowing with Inst within the last few months but has had a very positive impact in a short time. He has shown himself to have a very smooth style and strong rhythm and he needed both in the final against MCB. After a solid start Tom found himself slightly down on his opposition with 100 metres to go, but his strong sculling had allowed him to save something for the finishing sprint, which he raised fantastically to come from behind and take victory on the line.

Well done to all the boys who competed over the day and especially to those who achieved victories. Well done also to Instonian Simon Hamilton who, rowing for Bann Rowing Club, managed to win the Masters 1x event. This meant that RBAI rowers won all the men’s singles events at the regatta, taking 5 victories for the Club (and 1 for the Old Boys).

The final tally of victories came to 7 for the day, also making RBAI the most successful club within the men’s section. This is a tremendous achievement and highlights the efforts and dedication of the boys, but also the coaches (Mr M. Warnock, Miss C. Piele, Mrs A. Honan, Mr P. McMath, Mr R. Hulatt, Mr C. Woods and Mrs J. Corrigan) and supporters of the Club, without whom racing would not be possible.

A big thank you to everyone involved on the day and behind the scenes throughout the recent months. The next event for the RBAI Rowing Club will be at the University Boat Race on 6th June. More details will follow closer to the time.

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