University and Schools Boat Races

The first races of the day were the semi-finals for the Senior School crews. Portora and Bann were the hot favourites and they were kept apart in the first round. Portora would race against Methodist College and Bann Rowing Club would face the RBAI boys. Portora beat MCB in their race by a comfortable margin. The second semi-final started in very rough conditions and with the added difficulty of the starters pontoon not being available, this meant that both crews would have to prepare themselves while drifting with the wind. Off the start the Inst crew (on the Down station) raced hard and managed to show good form against a much bigger Bann boat. But the advantage of the first corner and the shelter from the bank allowed Bann to slip away as they approached the Ormeau bridge. The Inst crew stuck to their task and raced the whole length of the course to finish 3 lengths down on their opponents. This meant that Inst and MCB would race in the “B” final later that afternoon.

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Shortly after the Senior race took place the Junior 8 was to feature in a time trial to see who would make the final of their event to try and win the Craig Cup for J16 crews. The boats raced one at a time, with Portora going first, followed by MCB and RBAI last. The Inst boys put in a very strong display, over the longest distance they have raced to date. The crew was a mixture of year 11 and 12 pupils and they showed a lot of composure during the race. Unfortunately, the results came through that they had come 3rd, but only a few seconds behind a very capable MCB boat. In the final Portora were comfortable winners ahead of MCB. The Junior crew should take a lot of positives from the day, especially for a crew who are still very much in the development phase of their rowing careers.

This left only the finals of the Senior event to come down the course. Again the conditions were very testing and the starters pontoon was unavailable, just to add to the difficulty. RBAI lined up on the Antrim station, with MCB on the favoured Down side. Off the start the Inst boat showed an unrivalled level of aggression and stroke by stroke pulled away from MCB. They continued to attack up to and through the Ormeau bridge, until they had clear water on their opposition, but that is where the course started to swing in favour of the Down side. The Methody crew pushed hard and as they rowed along the straight towards the Kings bridge the Inst crew hit some very rough water and strong cross-winds, as the MCB boat started to sneak up the inside. The crews were now coming together and there was once again an overlap. The next two corners, to the left and right, cancelled each other out, but coming out of the Kings bridge the Inst boat had made a big effort and once again had clear water, but there was only one bend left, in favour of Methody, which had proven to be worth at least two lengths in every other race so far that day. Both crews were racing hard and gave everything into the last corner. Methody were coming back, had an overlap and were stroke by stroke gaining on Inst. As they came out of the Governors bridge there was about half a length between the boats. The crowds on the bridge and nearby jetty were cheering on both crews for a grandstand finish. Methody were still catching and with their favoured side were continuing to eat into the Inst lead, reducing it to a quarter of a length. But that was as close as they got. In the final 200 metres the RBAI crew showed their experience and desire to win by putting in a huge effort and again opening up the gap. Methody were throwing everything they had at the boys but it wasn’t enough. As the crews passed Cutters Wharf Inst again inched away to reach the finish line first by half a length from Methodist College in the best race of the day by far. It was another epic race between the two great rivals.

Well done to both crews on the day (Junior 8 – Michael Honan, Jamie Dickson, James Emery, Tom Glynn, Harry Hetherington, Morgan Lavery, Daniel Lowry, Peter Bowman and David Patterson. Senior 8 – Rory Hulatt, Brent Whiteside, Angus Harley, Andrew Mallon, Daniel Hewitt, Nick Reid, Lucas Prodohl, Michael Gaston and Josh Hoy) for their efforts both on and off the water and to the boys who did not quite make the crews, but whose efforts as a squad helped achieve these results. A big thank you to all the coaches involved both on the day and in the preparation of the crews over the season (Mr M. Warnock, Mrs A. Honan, Miss C. Piele, Mr P. McMath, Mr C. Woods, Mr J. Hayhurst and Mr D. Roy). And finally a massive thank you to the parents and supporters of RBAI Rowing for coming down on Saturday to show your support for the Club and by being the 10th man in the boat by cheering on the crews while they raced.

The next event for the RBAI Rowing Club will be an “At Home” Regatta on Saturday 20th June. This day will feature lots of fun racing, along with the highly competitive Inter-House event, followed by a BBQ. Times and further details will follow shortly but be sure to keep the date free in your diary.

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