“Adversity causes some men to break and others to break records”
The 2016 Royal Rowing Crew can best be defined by the above quote. The year started off like any other with the team doing their usual training and performing well at the opening regatta. However on a number of occassions the team experienced problem after problem, each adding more pressure on the Captain and his deputy. For the next couple of months the team was unusually quiet but anyone who saw them at training knew that they were more united than ever. The crew understood that in the wake of what had happened they needed to keep their heads down and be humble.
The day of the regatta, as per tradition the team met up in the morning for breakfast. The school bus arrived to take the team to the Rowing Club. As S.Thomas’ was hosting this year they stood single file at the entrance to greet the Royal team. Tensions were high as both teams shook hands but the Opening Ceremony went as planned without incident.
The first race was called to leave the pier, the Senior Sculls with Hashen Hettigoda representing Royal against a Thomian junior who also represented S.Thomas’ College at this year’s Mini Battle. Hashen Hettigoda who was considered the best school boy sculler in the country was favoured to win and rightly so as he left his opponent by a substantial margin to win the first race and 6 points for his team with a timing of 3min 32s.
The Junior Sculls race was next, Pasindu Alwis representing Royal against Arjun Wickramanayake of S.Thomas College. The 2 point race went to S.Thomas’ College with a time of 3min 28s. As it turned out this will be the only win for the boys from the school by the sea.
From this point onwards Royal dominated the day.
The next race was the Senior Pairs. In recent years this was always a close race where a second divided the two boats. The Royal pair of Thimesha Amarasena and Praveen Hapugalle went up against the Thomian pair of Suramba Serasinghe and Saliya Gunasekara. This was Praveen Hapugalle’s third “A” pair and race, an achievement worthy of recognition. As the race was coming down both teams were confident that their crew would win, however, towards the last minute of the race it was obvious that the Royal duo were ahead and they ended winning by a little more than a boat length, with a timing of 3min 12s equaling the record.
Royal winning the “A” pair was the turning point of the regatta.
The Junior Pairs followed and freshers Charin Wijethileka and Lasindu Gamage of Royal College showed what they were made of with a great performance leaving the Thomian pair by several boat lengths to further widen the Royal lead. The score at this pont was RC 18 – 02 STC.
Lasaru Kudaligama and Hashen Hettigoda representing Royal Collge for the Senior Double Sculls race had the easiest race of the day. The two juniors representing S.Thomas’ College were completely obliterated as they were about 100m behind the winners. The Royal double managed a timing of 3min 15s. The score was extended to RC 26 – 02 STC
The next race was the most exhilarating race of the day as it came down to a gap of less than a second. The Junior Double Sculls was rowed by Jatu Rockwood and Waruna Hewamanna for Royal College against Skipper Kemil Peter and Deshitha Hennayake for S.Thomas’ College. The Thomian Double was favoured to win as they were far more experienced oarsmen. The two boats were neck to neck the whole way down the course but in the last few strokes the Royal double pulled ahead to win the race with an impressive timing of 3min 18s. This was a huge blow to the Thomian side as they never expected two freshers from Royal to defeat their most experienced double scull. The score at this point was RC 30-02 STC.
With this win Royal had secure enough points (30 out of 52) and had won the Regatta.
The Under 16 Fours comprising of Thejiya Wegodapola, Deelaka Mahale, Mayukha Gamage and Jehan Hapugalle coxed by Dinal Aluthgama eased pass their opponents with a timing of 3min 32s. Even though this race carries no points it is good sign for the future of rowing at Royal.
The Junior B Four of Royal College comprising of Isira Rambukwella, Lasindu Gamage, Pasindu Alwis and Sajaad Ajmal who’s cox was Revata Karunasundara had a close race but managed to keep the Royal winning streak intact with a timing of 3min 16s. Like the Under 16 four race this race carries no points but gives a boost of morale for the winning side.
Thimesha Amarasena, Praveen Weerakkody, Charin Wijethilake and Lasaru Kudaligama coxed by Revata Karunasundara secured the Junior Fours by about 2 boat lengths with a timing of 3min 15s. This was an 8 point event which brought the score up to 38 – 02.
The final race of the day was the historic Boat Race. This race carries 12 points and is among the oldest inter-collegiate boat races in the world. Rowed for the coverted Crossed Oars trophy, winning this race is as glorious as winning an entire regatta. As per tradition the crowd formed a guard of honour as both crews walked towards their boats. The Royal Crew comprising of Prathap Perera, Hashen Hettigoda, Kaveen Rajapaksha, Praveen Hapugalle and cox Avishka Jayaweera went up against the Thomian outfit of Shalindra Jayasekara, Deshitha Hennayake, Suramba Seresinghe, Saliya Gunasekara coxed by Meshach Peiris. Both were experienced crews rowed by the best of both schools. As the crews went up to the start the crowd filled the peir and lawn awaiting the start of an epic showdown. The race commenced and both sides started chanting for their boat to win. As the crews came closer and close it was apparent that the blue and yellow boat was ahead and pulling away, this envigerated the Royal supporters. During the final seconds of the race as it was obvious that Royal will win the rest of the Royal Crew jumped into the lake in celebration of winning the 47th Royal Thomian Regatta with a record score of 50 points to 2 points. This regatta will go down in the history books as the year with the widest margin between the two teams (48 points). The winning Boat Race Crew secured a timing of 3min 8s.
At the awards ceremony Hashen Hettigoda of Royal College was awarded the Dicki de Zoysa trophy for the most outstanding oarsman of the regatta winning a total of 26 points (Senior Sculls, Senior Double Sculls and the Boat Race).
After the ceremony both teams once again shook hands and congratulated each other on a well rowed Regatta. Both teams left any animosity between them on the waters of the Beire and ended the day like true sportsmen.