Itchen Imperial as a club have had a fantastic season and dominated the Hants & Dorset once again, winning 6 Hants & Dorset Championships and were runners up in 3.
Off the back of the successful Hants & Dorset season the club qualified 4 boats for the Championship events at the South Coast Championships, which this year was hosted by the Hants & Dorset at Dorney Lake, home of the rowing at the London 2012 Olympics.
The crews that qualified were the Mens’ Senior Four, who would be competing for the prestigious ‘Bideford Bowl’ trophy, which has only been won once before by the club back in 2013, Mark Wardell and Luke Williams were in the crew back then and would be going for their second win. The Mens’ Junior Four were also hot contenders for the South Coast Junior Championship, after only losing the first two regattas of the season and showing some very good speed throughout the year. The Ladies Junior Four were also selected by the Hants & Dorset to represent the association off the back of a win at our home regatta earlier in the year and consistent 2nd place finishes to eventual Hants & Dorset Champions Ryde R.C. The Men’s Masters Four were the 4th Itchen crew to be selected to represent the club and association for the third year in a row and were going for a hat-trick of wins.
The first race Itchen Imperial contested was the Men’s Masters Championship, the first race of the day. The crew was made up of (Bow) Dave Hodges, (2) Lee Rayment, (3) Steve Taylor, (Stroke) Ian Barnaby and (Cox) Owen Barnaby. It would be fair to say the crew weren’t on-point like they have been in previous years, however their skill and natural abilities showed throughout as they claimed 3rd place behind Folkestone in 1st place and Poole in 2nd. Something to be proud of and a good position to finish, given the lack of racing they have been able to do this year.
The 2nd Itchen crew down the track were the Men’s Novice Four, made up of our J16 boys, who had raced several times earlier in the day at the South Coast Junior Regatta. The boys fought hard throughout but unfortunately just missed out on the 3rd place qualifying sport for the final, finishing a few seconds behind Southsea in 4th place.
Our Ladies Juniors were the race following the Novice Men. After a very up and down season, the girls had sorted themselves out and were going well in the weeks leading up to the South Coast Championships, they were the dark horses of the event. The crew made up of (Bow) Lucy Fagan, (2) Georgia Edwards, (3) Charlotte Starkey, (Stroke) Kady Middleton and (Cox) Sophie Foad, had a good start and got out the blocks well. However, the crew from Ryde showed their dominance early on and once again stamped their authority on the race after about 250m. The girls pushed all the way for the highest placing possible, but unfortunately came up slightly short of a podium finish, just being edged out into 4th place. The girls had a great performance and hopefully they remember this and use it as a driving force for next season, where they are still eligible to compete for the Junior Championships.
After a successful year in the Novice Ladies events on the Hants & Dorset this year, the club were able to enter 3 Junior Ladies crews in the Open Junior Ladies event. Thankfully none of our crews came up against each other in the heats. Most of these girls have only just come out of our Junior kids section of the club and were racing against fully grown women, so were always up against the challenge, but hopefully it was a good racing and learning experience for them and is something they can use to develop from in the next few years.
Next up was the Men’s Junior Fours Championship race, the Itchen crew of (Bow) Jonjo Bignell, (2) Lorcan O’Toole, (3) James Cracknell, (Stroke) Oliver Starkey and (Cox) Owen Barnaby, had drawn Lane 1, closest to the ‘crowds’, with their closest rivals all year Bournemouth over in Lane 6. These two crews were both quick off the start, leaving everyone else behind, but early on in the race the boys stamped out the rest of the competition with an absolutely crushing rhythm that saw them walking away form the rest of the field every stroke from half way onwards. Coming to the line the boys were cruising, before the roars of ‘Itchen’ gave them that extra boost to push on for the last 250m, finishing a massive 16.5 seconds ahead of 2nd place Bournemouth R.C. The time set by this crew was the 3rd fastest of the day and would have put them 3rd place in the Senior Championship, a tremendous achievement from such new crew.
The crew of (Bow) Rich Jones, (2) Sean O’Toole, (3) Dan Selby, (Stroke) Adi Barraclough and (Cox) Oscar Taylor were the second to last Itchen crew racing of the day, and were in the Men’s Junior Fours Open. The guys had an awesome Heat coming in 2nd place very closely behind Heat winners Paignton R.C. The guys had quite a quick turnaround until the Junior Open Final, which was less than couple of hours by the time they had done their Heat. This four had shown some decent results throughout the Hants & Dorset season and could potentially throw a surprise, however it was probably 1 step too far on the day, a valiant effort from the guys and finishing 5th in the final.
And finally the last race of the day had finally arrived, the blue ribbon event, the much-anticipated race for the Bideford Bowl, which is awarded to the winners of the Men’s Senior Fours Championship. The Itchen crew consisting of (Bow) Mark Wardell, (2) Luke Williams, (3) James Foad, (Stroke) Wayne Harrison, (Cox) Owen Barnaby, were unbeaten all year on the Hants & Dorset and dominated their event, leading from the ‘go’ of every race. Their closest rivals would most likely come from Deal R.C. from the Coast Association. Earlier in the year Southsea regatta was cancelled, this would have been the only time the two crews may have met before this race, so no one really knew who were the top dogs. Our boys drew the middle Lane (4) with BTC two lanes to their right in Lane 2 and Deal in Lane 1. As with every race this year Itchen powered away from the start, the boat practically took off and by 20m they had a canvas lead over the rest of the field. Out to 250m and they were pushing for nearly a length lead. As with the Junior crew the Seniors hit a devastating rhythm and by half way at 1000m had about a canvas clear water over Deal and BTC, at 1250m a big push saw that lead increase and bar any hiccups the Itchen Seniors were on their way to a strong victory. With their confidence and excitement growing as they approached the roar from Itchen members the lead kept extending as they went on to win the Bideford Bowl, for the 2nd time in the clubs history, 9 seconds in front of 2nd place Deal.
A great way to finish off a very successful season and a strong position to take on the 2018 season.