In the fading amber of the evening sky, the Royal College oarsmen mustered all their strength to win the final boat race by just half a boat length and made it 4 consecutive wins at the 49th Royal Thomian Regatta. The Thomians on the other side rowed their hearts out despite losing 38 points to 14.
The much anticipated Royal Thomian regatta for the T. N. Fernando Trophy was held at the Colombo Rowing Club with the Lotus Tower in sight over the murky waters of the Beira Lake. The sunny conditions may have been quite harsh on the boys of both schools but that didn’t sap away the determination to win.
The first encounter to start was the A skull event and STC went one up in the points tally 6-0.
Ashika Rathnaweera(STC) clocked 3 minutes 46 seconds beating Gamindu Tennakoon(RC) in a close race. Next up was the B skull race and this time, Royalist Yumin Perera handsomely won with a timing of 3 minutes 47 seconds as he beat Avinash Rajaguru to reduce the deficit 6-2.
The A pair event had a turn of events. Thomian oarsmen Randev Wannakuwatte and Dharaka Peiris were initially in the lead but the Royalist duo Abdulla Hassen and Sajjad Ajmal managed to overtake halfway and the points tally with 6-10, with a timing of 3 minutes 36 seconds.
The B pair made it 3 wins in a row for Royal College as the captain/vice captain duo Charin Wijethilake and Lasindu Gamage beat Shanara Senaratne and Niran Wirawita by a very long lead with a timing of 3 minutes 47 seconds. The scores read 6 points to 14.
The Thomians got back into the act as they equalized the scores to 14 all in the A double skull event. This time STC oarsmen Ramesh Nithushan and Dhaharath Senanayake beat Maliq Hassen and Dinal Aluthgama with a timing of 3 minutes 33 seconds.
The B double skull race was a mere one second difference as the Royalist duo Gamindu Tennakoon and Jehan Hapugalle whiskered past Abhishek Nanayakkara and Chahel Samarasinghe with a timing of 3 minutes 45 seconds.
With the points reading 14-18, the Thomian rowing crew had to give it their best in the final two races if they were to break their 3 year losing streak.
The next few events didn’t affect the overall points tally but showed what rowing really meant. The youngest oarsmen of both schools battled it out in the U16 four race and Royal College won by a huge margin. The traditional Old Boys four race was an absolute nail biter but yet again it was the Royalists who got the better out of the Thomians as they beat them by 2 seconds. The C four was also another close encounter as Royal College won with a timing of 3 minutes 36 seconds.
The winds started to get stronger and it probably might have bothered the Thomians in the B four race as they were thumped by 2 boat lengths. The crew consisting of Chaniru Hewamanne, Jatu Rockwood, Maliq Hassen, Mayukha Gamage and Deelaka Mahale finished with a timing of 3 minutes 28 seconds as they beat the Thomian crew which consisted of Meshach Peiris, Abhishek Nanayakkara, Chahel Samarasinghe, Shanara Senaratne and Niran Warawita.
It all came down to the final race, the A four, which happens to be the 59th boat race as this is the oldest event in the series. The points read 26-14 in favour of Royal College and it was do or die for STC as winning the boat race was the only chance to draw the regatta. Speaking to us the Thomian captain, Meshach Peiris had this to say.
“We have trained really hard up to now. We didn’t have the best seasons from the start but our boys have trained much harder.”
STC has won the boat race in 26 occasions and Royal College has won 22 times. The Royal College A four consisted of Revata Karunasurendra, Charin Wijethilake, Lasindu Gamage, Abdulla Hassen and Sajjad Ajmal while the Thomian crew consisted of Ashan Walpola, Dharaka Peiris, Ramesh Nithushan, Dhaharath Senanayake and Randev Wannakuwatte. All the months of hard training came down to this and the spectators of both schools were at the edge of the Pier.
Stroke after stroke, it was a matter of just one boat length. The Royalists were in the lead but the Thomians showed immense grit as they were closing that gap until the final meters. The light was fading quickly and the breeze got stronger. It was so intense that the gap became just half a boat length and the final stroke over the finishing line meant that Royal College won the boat race and the regatta as the crew plunged in to celebrate their 4th consecutive win.
The T. N. Fernando Trophy was presented to the rowing crew of Royal College and the best oarsmen award was presented to both Sajjad Ajmal and Abdulla Hassen of Royal College. Jubilant captain Charin Wijethilake had this to say. “I’m speechless. We went through a lot but all I got to say is we let the oars speak this year and got the job done.”
Thepapare congratulates Royal College over their victory and also the Thomian rowing crew for showing immense spirit at this encounter as Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “No member of a crew is praised for his rugged individuality. ”