Waterford Boat Club began its 2008 regatta season on a good note with several wins away at Dublin and Limerick regattas. The Neptune Regatta, held on the Liffey at Islandbridge, is traditionally the first regatta of the year. Regattas differ in many ways from Heads of the River. The Head of the River season usually consists of time-trailing boats over longer distances, typically between 3000 and 5000 metres. Regattas, on the other hand, are raced over shorter distances, up to 2000m, but the big difference is that at regattas the competitors race of side-by-side, which makes the racing much more intensive.
The Neptune Regatta is a narrow course where only two boats can race off at a time. It consists of several rounds where the slowest boat is ejected from the competition. There are no back door systems in this event and to come second, even once during the day, is to be finished.
Most Waterford BC crews were in attendance at the regatta, including the beginner groups. Some tough racing ensued with some positive results.
The women’s junior 16 quadruple scull of Danielle Boland, Paige Parker, Fiona McGrath and Rachel Meaney, coxed by Kate Dunne, won their first three rounds, beating Shannon, Portadown, and Fermoy to make it to the final. However, they were beaten by half a length by a strong Carlow unit in the final.
The women’s junior 15 quad of Emily Maguire, Orlaith McGrath, Anna Tolson, Laura Sheridan, and cox Kate Dunne were racing above their normal age group. They had a very good race, but unfortunately Shandon got the better of them on the day.
The women’s novice quad of Laura Cullen, Aileen McGrath, Nicole Dunphy, and Fiona Fennelly, also racing above their age group, raced extremely well but were beaten by a more experienced Portadown crew.
Conor Browne raced very strongly in the two events that he was competing in, the junior and intermediate sculls, winning the first round in impressive style. However, he was ejected from the competition in the second round of each event. In the junior sculls he fell prey to a fellow national squad member from Limerick. In the intermediate sculls it was a much older rower with a lot of experience that narrowly beat Browne to second.
The women’s junior 16 single scullers of Fiona McGrath, Paige Parker, Danielle Boland and Rachel Meaney had some tough racing all the way through. Three scullers got into the two semi-finals; namely Parker, Boland and Meaney. It was an all-Waterford final with Parker and Meaney contesting, with Meaney winning the event in a close race.
Two weeks later WBC travelled to the town of OBriensbridge on the Clare-Limerick border. The weather conditions were awful, with a strong tailwind causing unfavourable rough conditions. However, the racing went on and so did the Waterford crews. The girls’ junior 16 squad was without their winning sculler of Rachel Meaney, so it was up to Fiona Fennelly to fill her shoes. Danielle, Paige and the two Fionas went out racing hard in the heat and qualified well to make the final. The three boats of WBC, Colaiste Iognaid of Galway, and the strong Carlow combination lined up for the start. When the boats blasted off the start the race could have been anybody’s but Carlow RC pushed out in front and extended their lead. WBC was unable to pull back their deficit in time to deny Carlow the victory.
The girls’ junior 15 quad of Emily Maguire, Orlaith McGrath, Anna Tolson and Laura Sheridan, coxed by Kate Dunne, entered their event with 8 other crews. The girls rowed their best race yet and finished second in their heat, which was enough to qualify them for the final. Unfortunately, due to deteriorating conditions the organisers decided to cancel the final of all junior 14 and junior 15 events in the interest of safety, so the girls never got a chance to contest the final.
Conor Browne launched in the deteriorating weather conditions to contest the junior single sculls. There were 15 entries in the event; however, the line-up was not very strong with Browne being the only national squad rower in attendance. The heat and the final was textbook, despite the worsening conditions, with Browne taking easy wins in both.
The women’s junior 16 double scull, Paige Parker and Fiona McGrath, had a strong race in the heat to make the finals. The WBC pairing contested the final against St. Michaels, Lee RC and Carlow. Once again it was the Carlow contingent that was to put a downer on the hopes of a Waterford victory.
In the women’s novice quad the crew was Laura Cullen, Aileen McGrath, Nicole Dunphy, Fiona Fennelly and cox Kate Dunne. The girls lined up against Carlow, Carrick and Lee. Unfortunately, the Waterford crew got snagged in a buoy which is used to mark out the racing lanes about 200 metres from the start and couldn’t get free to continue in the race. This was a disappointment, and hopefully they will get to prove themselves at the next event.
The women’s junior 16 single scull featured Fiona McGrath and Danielle Boland. Seventeen scullers entered in the event. Unfortunately, both girls were drawn in the same heat with only one to qualify. In a very close race, both Waterford scullers finished ahead of the Lee sculler with Danielle wining the race by a small margin over Fiona. In the final, Danielle rowed an excellent race against a Cork sculler and a Lee sculler and won the event outright by a considerable margin of 6 lengths.
Conor Doorley raced his main event, the men’s intermediate sculls, and qualified well in his heat. The final featured strong opposition from NUI Galway, Carlow and Lee Valley. The favourite in this race from NUI Galway pushed Doorley hard from the start. But with less than a third of the race gone, the student sculler got into trouble, getting snagged on the disintegrating race course due to the worsening weather conditions. Doorley was in a slight lead at the time but under pressure. The Waterford athlete went on to win the event outright being pushed by the Cork and Carlow scullers to the end.
The two Conors teamed up with two St. Michael’s junior scullers in a composite boat to contest the men’s senior quad sculls against a very experienced University of Limerick crew. The composite boat, which was basically a junior boat, fought hard against the Limerick boat but was defeated in a hard fought battle to the finish.
A long day’s racing was evident in Doorley’s last race of the day in the men’s senior sculls. The fatigue showed and he was unable to replicate the winning form of earlier and suffered defeat to the Galway sculler that never finished the earlier race. Three wins at the one event was a good yield from the day’s racing.
The men’s scullers will now head to Ghent International Regatta which is held in Belgium, where they will race for Waterford and in composite boats with rowers from Offaly, St. Michaels and Carlow. The Ghent Regatta is one of the biggest regattas in Europe and the two Conors will be hard pushed to bring back medals. A full race report will follow the regatta.
View pictures of WBC in action at www.bebo.com/waterfordboatclub.