It was an early start and an overcast day on Saturday on the Boat House straight, where the annual Belfast Sprints Regatta, hosted by Belfast Rowing Club, took place. A long day of 500 metre sprint racing stood ahead of the RBAI boys, with lots of jumping in and out of boats to assess how their recent training was paying off.
The second race of the day brought about the first appearance of an Inst boat at the regatta, with the newly formed pairing of Louis Magowan and Brent Whiteside competing in the Junior 18 2x. They were racing against BRC’s top boat and after a close encounter down the length of the course the Inst crew pulled away in the last couple of strokes to win by a very narrow margin of just three feet. This meant they progressed to the semi-finals, where they met a very strong double from MCB. In the end the boys put up a good fight, but their lack of time together showed up and they were defeated by a good pairing from their Belfast rivals.
In the same event, but on the other side of the draw was the Junior 18 2x of Michael Gaston and Aled George. Again, this was a new combination being tried out for the event. Like the other boat Michael and Aled made it through their first heat by defeating an experienced CAI crew. In their semi-final, however, they were drawn against a quick Portadown outfit, who had received a bye in their first round. The Inst duo put up a good fight, but sadly were beaten over the course.
The next event for RBAI was the final of the Men’s Senior 1x. This was one of only two Senior level events being run at the regatta and the final featured Mark Stewart. He was up against Instonian Johnny Curran, now racing for Belfast Boat Club. Curran used all his experience to get the early jump, but he didn’t get away. Mark kept up the pressure and by the end of the course was little more than a length down on his much more experienced opponent. This was a very good result for Mark and a good warm-up for his usual boat of the double.
The Inst Junior 18 4x- was up next. This boat class has gone unbeaten all season, even though it has seen a number of crew line-up changes. They were dominant in Portadown Regatta, but with Lucas Prodohl and Josh Hoy being brought in to partner regulars Louis Magowan and Andrew Mallon, how would the new crew get on?? In their heat they were up against CAI, who showed themselves to be a well-drilled crew by keeping up the pace in the early strokes. But as the race unfolded the boys in black and yellow let their fitness, power, technique and training show through to ease into the lead and take victory. In the final they faced a home crew form BRC. The Inst boys made no mistakes by putting in another dominant performance to leave no-one with any doubt as to who the best Junior 4x- is in Ulster this year.
Next race on the schedule was the Men’s Lightweight 1x, with David Roy getting his first outing of the day. David has been showing some excellent pace in training in recent weeks and was keen to display this on race day. He rocketed out to a very quick start over his Portadown opponent and maintained a lead down the course. As the finish-line drew near, David started to suffer with the amount of lactic acid that had built-up in his muscles. The Portadown sculler attacked and David had no reply and was rowed down just metres form the line. It was a cruel end to a good race, but one David will definitely learn from.
The very next race was to be one of the racing highlights of the day. The hotly anticipated showdown between Inst and MCB in the Junior 18 8+. Having defeated CAI at Portadown to take the title there, the RBAI boys of Rory Hulatt, Louis Magowan, Lucas Prodohl, Brent Whiteside, Daniel Hewitt, Andrew Mallon, Josh Hoy, Michael Gaston and Aled George, were confident, but knew that the Methody crew would be quick. As both crews attacked every stroke down the length of the course it became clear to all watching that this would go right to the line. The two contrasting styles of Methody’s punchy pace versus Inst’s powerful rhythm meant that the winner was anyone’s guess. As they neared the line the crews were neck-and-neck. As they crossed the line the spectators waited for the official verdict. It was adjudged to be an Inst win by a bow-ball, which is about two inches. It was a fantastic result for RBAI, but a great effort by both crews.
Nick Reid was involved in three singles events at the Regatta. The first of which was the Junior 18 event. Nick was drawn against an MCB sculler in his heat. Using his trademark fast start he was able to comfortably make it down the course in first place, which took him into a semi-final clash with a BRC sculler. Nick again made short work of his opponent to set up a final draw with Murray from Belfast Boat Club. Nick was also draw in the final of the Club 2 1x against Murray. In the end both finals went the same way. Nick got a good start but just slipped back over the length of the course to finish a close second and give the Boat Club and Irish Development sculler a good race on both occasions. Nick’s other event was the Junior 16 1x, his actual category. Nick won this event at Portadown and had no difficulty replicating the same result at home. A consistent pace down the course brought him home comfortably in first. Well done to Nick for another good day’s racing, meaning he has now raced ten times in the single in two Regattas and only lost three of these races.
The next crew out was the Intermediate 4+ of Rory Hulatt, Louis Magowan, Mark Stewart, Brent Whiteside and Josh Hoy. They were up against a BRC home crew in the heat and after a very close race managed to over-haul their much bigger and more experienced opponents in the last hundred metres of the race. In the final they met another BRC crew, who got a bye to the final. After a strong row the Inst boys were unfortunately defeated by another experienced open club boat.
The Junior 18 4+ of Rory Hulatt, Andrew Mallon, Lucas Prodohl, Michael Gaston and Josh Hoy took to the water next to race in their heat against a very slick CAI boat. Their rivals from Coleraine made a good start and were able to slowly open up the gap over the length of the course, bringing them home 1 ½ lengths ahead of the RBAI boat at the line.
The last few races of the day brought about a flurry of activity for the Inst boys. First up was the Intermediate 2x of David Roy and Mark Stewart. Back in their more comfortable boat, but racing against over-age athletes the boys were keen to put everything into this straight final. Racing against Portadown, which continued the lightweight sculler who beat David earlier in the day, the boys were keen not to make any mistakes. A powerful performance over the length of the course brought about a comfortable victory at the line as the RBAI boat cruised home three lengths up on their opponents.
The last two events of the day were back-to-back races. The Inst boys were to race a Club 4+ then jump straight into their 8 and race up to the start for the Club 8+ final. In each event they were going to be lining up against BRC, who were able to field a completely different crew for each event. First up was the 4+ of Rory Hulatt, Louis Magowan, Mark Stewart, Brent Whiteside and Daniel Hewitt. The crew were obviously keen to get the race over and get into the 8, as they make a very quick start and didn’t relent over the 500 metres. They came home comfortably ahead of their Belfast neighbours and showed good form to win an open event.
The last race of the day was the Club 8+ of Rory Hulatt, Andrew Mallon, Lucas Prodohl, Brent Whiteside, Mark Stewart, Louis Magowan, Josh Hoy, David Roy and Aled George. Jumping straight out of another boat and racing up to the start was never going to be ideal preparation but the RBAI crew showed their composure as they raced fast all the way down the course and pushed their BRC opponents all the way to the line, only losing out in the last hundred metres. It was a good effort after a very long day of racing.
Well done to all the boys for their efforts on the day. And a big thank you to all the coaches, Mr M. Warnock, Mr P. McMath and Mrs A. Honan, for their continued assistance. Thank you also to all the parents and friends of RBAI Rowing Club who turned up to show their support on Saturday.
The next outing for the Club will be at the annual Queen’s University Boat Race event, which takes place this year from the Queen’s PEC to Ravenhill Reach on Saturday 7th June. For further details please check back to the School website closer to the time.