The rivalry that forged a whitewash


Six oarswomen, four institutions, four dominant wins, one team and one memorable championship whitewash.

Seven times MotoGP World Champion Valentine Rossi once said,

“The great fights with your strongest rivals are always the biggest motivation. When you win easily it’s not the same taste.” – Valentino Rossi

The Colombo Rowing Club is a sanctum to some of the best oarsmen and oarswomen of Sri Lanka. It is where during or after their school career they come to further their affair with the sport. With it the rivalry that was brewed during many a competition becomes an even stronger partnership that produces championships. Your strongest rivals, when brought together, inspire you and the team to greatness.

That was attained when a University of Moratuwa Undergraduate, two Museaus-ites, two LC-ites and a Visakhian combined to produce a whitewash, two in a row for The Colombo Rowing Club.

The Colombo Rowing Club, coached by Hiran Doranegama and captained by Sanjay Mendis, won the women’s championship with a whitewash, for the 2nd consecutive year, at the 74th ARAE – FEARA Rowing Championships organized by the Amateur Rowing Association of the East (ARAE) and Far East Amateur Rowing Association (FEARA).

The tournament featured approximately 118 participants from rowing clubs in India, Sri Lanka, Dubai, Indonesia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Pakistan. The CRC had done extremely well in the past tournaments with a number of championships. They won the overall men’s championship in 2014 while the women replicated the feat in 2015 with a remarkable whitewash.

“We took the best out of CRC. It wasn’t easy but we were hoping for an overall because our girls’ team was good even though we weren’t sure of a couple of events,” captain Sanjay added on his thoughts going into the tournament.

“We rode with the best from India. Last year too we had a whitewash and to do it again with a new crew is always great,” he mentioned with pride.

“They were at their peak when we rode against, because they had their Nationals two weeks after the ARAE but we were better,” Janethri Marapana added on their tough task against the foreign opponents.

Janethri who was in her 3rd ARAE tournament won the Double Skull event with Samaakhya Gajanayake, a veteran of the tournament, with a timing of 4:03.71 mins.

 Photo Album – Girls Overall Champions – 74th ARAE Regatta 

The Musaeusite-Visakhian pair of Janethri and Samaakhya had already developed a good understanding.

“We both had rowed together before in 4 or 5 regattas and won them all, we were confident. We had a proper race plan and the moment we got ahead we pushed on”

“It is mostly the understanding we had. Rode as opponents for a long time and now got to row with each other.” Janethri mentioned about the understanding that gave them the three second win.

Another duo that rowed in the Double Skull event was Sasanda Chandraratna and Amani Tissera. Though they unfortunately missed out on a third place finish in that event, they managed to win the Pair with a timing of 4:22.13 mins, two seconds clear of the challengers.

Sasanda’s journey in the sport is a success story in itself. While almost all rowers start their career in school, she started her’s after she entered the University of Moratuwa, while Amani who started with Ladies’ College has been part of CRC for 6 years.

“We have a crew there so I joined them. Not many girls rowing at Uni and since I was tall I got the chance,” Sasanda, brought back memories of the start of her rowing career.

Since then she has not looked back, winning and being a threatening force in the Skull and Pair events at both National and other tournaments.

“We had to work hard to get a pair going. We learnt a lot and the experience was great. We were confident and was hoping for the best,” Amani, who was in her 3rd ARAE, added on working together with Sasanda for the first time.

“The pair of Amani and Sasanda, they took the challenge well, because unlike the others they hadn’t rode for long and to come out and win the Pair was quite heartening,” Sanjay mentioned with a glint in his eye.

Dilki Wijeyesekera

Ishara Abbey

The Skull event was won by the baby of the team but a dominant force in Sri Lanka and now in South Asia, Ishara Abbey. The Ladies’ College oarswoman powered her way to victory in 4:21.69 mins, to win by 2.80 seconds.

“Skull is always nerve wrecking. I usually do my own thing, there was no special plan as such,” Ishara added, who was participating in her first International tournament and was surprised by the level of competition.

The biggest challenge for the team was the Four event, where they had many challenges to overcome. It tested their character, team chemistry, sacrifice and adaptability. Furthermore, being led by the unknown Ishara Abbey, the challenge was compounded even before they took to the waters.

“I knew Samaakhya and Janethri but we didn’t know Ishara that well, only through competition, and it was awkward at first. However we got to know her really well and in quick time. We went out all the time and came really close,” former Musaeus College rowing Captain Dilki Wijeyesekera added on their first meeting with Ishara and how they forged a strong bond.

“It was really interesting. I bonded with a lot of people I never thought I’d really bond with because before this we were always in constant competition, the rivalry was there. I never thought I’d be stroking a Four with such amazing oarswomen,” the ever exuberant Ishara waxed eloquent on her senior oarswomen.

While they got along with each other, the quartet still had the task of filling each position and to get in rhythm in a short span of time.

“Ishara was on Stroke. She and Dilki got the same positions they were used to. Janethri went in at 2 while I was Bow. This was the first time we four rowed together and it was hard at first, especially for me to follow Ishara, because I was not used to it,” Samaakhya elaborated on the initial difficulties.

“It was intense training every day and it helped us become a whole. I wouldn’t say we were perfect but the communication and the understanding we had proved vital in the race,” Samaakhya, who comes from a rowing family, added on how they overcame the difficulties.

The end result was, a complete domination, finishing 8 seconds ahead of the rest of the competition in 3:56.81 mins.

“I think this is the biggest advantage the Club has. End of the day Club brings them together to work with each other. Whether it’s Royal or S.Thomas’, Ladies’ or Musaeus or any other school, over the years everyone has come together for a common goal,” the proud Colombo Rowing Club Captain Sanjay Mendis finally mentioned.