Rowing has been a sporting option at Inst since the 1950’s and Inst remains one of only 4 schools in Northern Ireland to offer the facilities which allow boys to participate in such an activity. Training takes place at the purpose-built Boat House in Stranmillis, South Belfast. The Inst Rowing Club offers a great opportunity to participate in this fun, energetic, outdoor team sport. The Club competes at events all over Ireland and the UK, including attending the prestigious Henley Royal Regatta.

Rowing Results – Portadown Regatta

On Saturday, in a rather overcast Portadown where the threat of rain was never too far away, the RBAI Rowing Club Senior squad arrived to compete in a number of events at the annual regatta.  Due to the unpredictable weather patterns since Christmas this was the first competitive outing of 2014 for the Inst boys, due to a large number of race cancellations in recent months.

The first race of the regatta featured Nick Reid in the Junior 18 1x.  Nick is a Junior 16 but was racing in the older age category for added experience.  In the first race of the day Nick blasted off the start and never looked back against his Belfast Rowing Club opposition, winning comfortably.  This set the trend for the morning session, which saw RBAI Rowing Club win all but one heat during this period.  This run of results also featured more wins for Nick which led him to the final of the Junior 18 1x, after wins against a competitor from Bann R.C. and one from MCB.  He also made it through to the final of the Junior 16 1x after two convincing heat wins.  In the final of the Junior 16 1x he was up against an opponent from Neptune Rowing Club, Dublin.  Nick was pushed hard all the way but ultimately triumphed against the experienced sculler.  In the final of the Junior 18 1x Nick raced well against his opponent from Bann but in the end he was beaten narrowly in a close contest.  The Junior 18 final was Nick’s 7th race of the day over the 1,000metre course and showed his level of improvement over this year that he was able to win all but one of these races.

Following on from Nick’s success the rest of the Club was  able to show their strong levels of fitness and strength over the days racing.  Mark Stewart managed to comfortably make the final of the Intermediate 1x after beating a sculler from CAI, only to be beaten in the final by a strong Bann sculler.  David Roy faced the same Bann sculler in his heat and unfortunately got beaten after a strong row in the senior men’s category.

The Junior 18 2x of Brent Whiteside and Aled George were unlucky in their heat against MCB.  A strong row over the course and a brilliant wind-up was not enough to beat an experienced Methody crew in a very close finish.

The Club 4+ is a new event to Irish Regattas this year and the entry saw a straight final draw between RBAI and CAI.  This new event allowed some of the over-age athletes to compete with the Junior boys.  The crew of Louis Magowan, Lucas Prodohl, David Roy and Mark Stewart, with cox Rory Hulatt, put in a good effort down the course but come the finish-line had just dropped back slightly from their rivals and came in a very close second.

The Junior 18 4+ of Andrew Mallon, Daniel Hewitt, Michael Gaston and Josh Hoy, with cox Rory Hulatt, faced a strong MCB crew in their heat.  They made a good start in their race and pushed the Methody crew all the way in their race but ultimately came up short against a good crew.

The next event saw two RBAI 4x-‘s race in the same category but line-up in opposing semi-finals.  The crew of Louis Magowan, Brent Whiteside, Daniel Hewitt and Andrew Mallon came up against a home crew in their semi-final.  A strong start set up a comfortable row to the line and saw them easily through to the final.  In the other semi the crew of Lucas Prodohl, Josh Hoy, Michael Gaston and Aled George were up against a very capable MCB crew.  The Inst boys put in a strong start and rowed well in the middle of the course.  Coming up to the finish-line they were slightly down on their Belfast rivals and even a spirited push for the line wasn’t enough to get them in front.  The crew were disappointed not to be able to have an all Inst final but showed great form to push the Methody crew very close to the line.  In the final the RBAI 4x- put in a powerful start to open a slight advantage over Methody, who then put in a big push to try and get back in contention, but the Inst boat had the race under control and slowly pulled away over the remainder of the course to finish with a winning margin of almost two lengths.

The main event of the day for the regatta was the Junior 18 8+ event.  This was going to be a re-row of one of the tightest races of last years racing program, where the RBAI boat were beaten to the line by a couple of inches by the CAI boat in the semi-final of the Junior 8’s.  The majority of the Inst boat, Aled George, Michael Gaston, Josh Hoy, Andrew Mallon, Daniel Hewitt, Brent Whiteside, Lucas Prodohl, Louis Magowan and Rory Hulatt, were in the 8 last year and were keen for history not to be repeated.  Off the start the CAI crew took the advantage and pushed out to a very quick lead.  The RBAI boys were patient and showed great maturity as they slowly built up their speed and then let their fitness show as they reeled in the Coleraine boat to create a grandstand finish.  As both boats passed the Portadown Boat House the Belfast crew seized the initiative and put their bows in front for the first time.  It was a lead they wouldn’t relinquish and they pulled away from their opposition all the way to the line.

In the end the RBAI Rowing Club managed to come away from Portadown with three wins, in some of the most competitive categories.

Well done to all the athletes involved and to a number of the parents and friends of the Club who came out to support on the day.  A big thank you also to the coaches, Mr. M. Warnock, Mrs. A. Honan, Mr. P. McMath and Mr. C. Woods for their continued help that has brought about these strong performances on the day, as well as a special mention to Mr. R. Caruth of Lady Victoria Boat Club for towing the trailer to Portadown.  It is only with the continued support of the those around the Club that we will be able to achieve such encouraging results.  Thank you.

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The winning Junior 18 8+ team

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The winning Junior 18 4x- team

Summer of Success for RBAI Rowing Club

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.