Over the summer months the RBAI Rowing Club was very busy, travelling to a number of local events across Ireland.
The Senior Squad attended two regattas during August, one in Belfast and one a little further away in Carrick-on-Shannon. At Carrick-on-Shannon the two crews competing both progressed to their respective finals. In the Junior 18 Coxed Four event the crew of Rory Hulatt, Josh Hoy, Andrew Mallon, Louis Magowan and Aled George, lost narrowly to a strong crew from Bann after leading the race until the final 50 metres. In the Novice Coxed Quad event the same line-up went one better by defeating the home favourites from Carrick-on-Shannon and a crew from Sligo by three-quarters of a length in a fine display of sculling.
The boys then raced in Belfast over the August bank holiday weekend in a number of doubles and the competitive quads event. The doubles event saw Brent Whiteside and Aled George progress to the final, where they met a very strong unit from Portadown. In a very close race the Inst pairing led from the start and was only overtaken in the final two strokes of the race to lose by an agonising verdict of one foot. However, the boys picked themselves up from this defeat to record another win in the Novice Coxed Quad. This time the crew of Rory Hulatt, Josh Hoy, Brent Whiteseide, Andrew Mallon and Aled George won by one length over City of Derry, to remain unbeaten for the season, a very impressive feat in an incredibly competitive boat class.
Travelling a little further this Summer was Gareth McKillen. Over the course of the year Gareth had been involved with the Rowing Ireland Development squad. He had trained relentlessly all year alongside his A-level studies to get selected to row for Ireland and be in a strong position for the Irish National Championships, held in Inniscarra, just outside Cork.
Gareth attended the National Championships on the back of a strong season on the indoor rowing machine, and was ranked 10th in the junior single at final trials. At the Championships he was primarily focussing on the single scull and after a number of weeks of dedicated work he was rewarded with a significant increase in boat speed that saw him comfortably through his heat and semi in Cork. The junior single is an unbelievably competitive event with two members of the Irish Junior Worlds team, along with a number of other Irish-capped oarsmen, lining up beside Gareth in the final. In the race Gareth put in his customary fast start that put him strongly in contention with the leaders. Through the middle 1,000 metres he came under repeated attacks from the other scullers as they tried to keep up with the pace-setters. In the final few hundred metres the two leaders slipped away but Gareth had done enough to hold onto his bronze medal, the first medal for RBAI Rowing Club at the Irish Championships for over 10 years.
Two days later Gareth teamed up with Instonian Adam Boreham to race the Intermediate Double Sculls, a significant step-up in standard from junior. The double raced hard in their semi and after a spirited display in the final they had to settle for a third place finish, which was a fantastic result for a young crew against much more seasoned opposition.
Following on from the Irish Championships Gareth’s selection to compete at the Coupe de la Jeunnesse (European Junior Championships) in Lucerne, Switzerland, the undisputed home of international rowing, led to a further spell of training before jetting away to compete in the single scull.
Racing at the Coupe took place over two days, with each event being raced on both days. The Men’s Single was one of the most hotly contested events at the Regatta, with 12 entries in total. Gareth’s heat on day one was a very close race but his customary quick start allowed him to get in with the leaders from Spain and Hungary and stick with them over the course. With the top three only to qualify Gareth was content to hold his position and make the final in reasonable comfort.
In the final he decided to give everything at the start. He pushed as hard as he could over the first half of the race and held a lead over the rest of the field at half-way, but as the finish line neared so did the other crews and as Gareth tired the rest of the field attacked and he came home in 5th place.
On the second day of racing Gareth was dealt a tough blow by drawing an incredibly competitive heat. He was pushed all the way and only just made it into the final in a last gasp sprint for the line, which knocked out the Polish competitor who had beaten him the previous day. The strains of the heat were telling, as all three qualifiers from Gareth’s heat came in at the back of the final, with Gareth placing 6th after another quick start.
These performances were very impressive for someone so inexperienced on the international stage and were further enhanced when it was revealed that Gareth was the only member of the Rowing Ireland team to qualify for the finals on both days.
During the event Gareth also competed in the Men’s 8 event, the first time in a significant number of years that Ireland has been represented Internationally in an 8.
A further mention should go to Old Boy’s Chris Beck and Matthew McKibben who competed for Queen’s University at the Irish Championships and came 2nd in the Blue Riband event, the Men’s Senior 8’s.
The RBAI Rowing Club would like to wish Gareth, along with all the other boys who finished Inst this summer all the best with their ventures beyond the School and hope that their time with the Rowing Club has developed the skills they will find useful in the future.
Finally, a big thank you to all the coaches, parents and helpers who have made the 2012/13 season the most successful for RBAI Rowing Club in well over a decade. It is only due to the hard work and dedication of these individuals that the Rowing Club continues to move forward and make steady progress to becoming a consistently competitive club on the Irish Rowing scene.