Olympian Peter Chambers crowns Bann’s Boxing Day Races.

Olympian Peter Chambers crowns Bann’s Boxing Day Races.

Olympian Peter Chambers crowns Bann’s Boxing Day Races.

With Olympian rowing star Peter Chambers returning to Bann for the Boxing Day scratch races the stage was set for a memorable conclusion to 2012.  Surprises for both Peter, and for Bann Rowing Club would follow, but not until the main business of the day was over.. namely the rowing!

Club President Bobbie Platt MBE, now a mere ninety years young, kept his watchful eye on proceedings to ensure the all the crews were selected at random. Apologies were received from Olympians, big Alan Campbell and Richard Chambers, so now the path to victory lay wide open to the 72 hardy participants. With Bann stalwarts Geoffrey Bones and Jeremy Johnston competing alongside and against Bann’s Irish Internationals, Chris Alcorn, Sarah Allen, Brook Edgar, Chris Black and Emily Hutchinson, and Bann’s Irish Champions James McAfee, Matthew Wray and Conor Logan the 2012 races were set to be the most competitive ever.

In nice, flat rowing conditions the early races showed that the standard of rowing and the competitive club spirit at the club had not diminished.  With big Seamus Reynolds accompanied as umpire by Bann’s Junior Olympian rower Joel Cassells, and Olympian silver medallist Peter Chambers, a noticeable pattern began to emerge. Scratch crews that could race together, without making a single mistake, were beating stronger, faster crews who made just that one fatal error over the 500m sprint course. The pressure mounted as, in this “sudden death” format, everyone began to realise that one little mistake meant, race over.

So, after three knock-out stages, into the final swept three excellent crews with quite contrasting styles. Two of the best, strongest rowers that Bann has ever produced, “Big” Matthew Wray and Chris Black, were in opposing boats, and the third boat had the serious power of Bann’s International Chris Alcorn and the amazing rhythm, technique and length, from International stroke Sarah Allan.

But, then again, Chris’s boat had two excellent sisters, Fiona and Susan Chestnutt, and the emerging Rory Stuart at stroke. Matthew’s boat again had two excellent girls, Hannah Scott and Alex Montgomery, plus former Irish Champion James Johnston at stroke so this looked nearly impossible to predict. Sarah’s boat had the prodigious talent of thirteen year old Aaron Christie and the very impressive Breda Mullan at bow.  Now, which crew would have the speed, and could race without a single mistake, to claim the victory?

At the start Chris Black’s boat streaked off and in twelve strokes already had a massive one length lead, but this wasn’t sustained and Sarah’s boat became locked in a very tight, dramatic duel with big Matthew’s crew. Cox Julie Campbell steered a perfect straight inside line and Sarah’s relentless stroking saw her boat sweep smoothly over the line where Olympian Peter awaited to enthusiastically congratulate her, and her victorious crewmates.

Bann Captain Keith Leighton then formally congratulated all participants and supporters. Keith then asked Peter Chambers and Bobbie Platt MBE to unveil a fabulous Bann boat, named the “PETER CHAMBERS” in recognition of this tremendous Bann man. Thunderous applause greeted this. Peter then presented his club with a sensational, completely unique, mounted, London Olympic rowing vest, which had been autographed by Bann’s three Olympian medallists. When that rapturous applause had subsided, Bann Coach Seamus Reynolds presented the Club with a framed photo and the rowing records of Bann’s greatest ever pair, Joel Cassells and Christopher Black. The cheers and applause now almost bought the house down to crown a fabulous rowing year for Bann, Coleraine and the whole of Northern Ireland.

December 28th, 2012

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