Last weekend two crews from Royal West travelled to Glenarm on the Antrim coast to take part in the inaugeral Dalriada Challenge 7km race. Chippy McNish was crewed by Robert Dowall, Paul Brooks, Alex Paterson, Ronald Graham(LARC) and Adam Graham. Birdie Bowers was crewed by Ian Clark, Alistair Blincow (JCRC), John Glover, Campbell McCall & Yvonne Christie.

Birdie Bowers heading out to the sprint races

Royal West & Galgael arrived on masse in Glenarm at about 4pm on Friday, having sailed over on the P&O ferry from Cairnryan in the early afternoon. Our ferry & accommodation was arranged and paid for by the Antrim Coast Rowing Association and the Dalriada Festival organisers. All participants would like to thank the organisers and especialy Elaine Nelson of Glenarm RC for thier efforts in this regard.

On arrival were were met by members of Glenarm RC and shown thier boats before being helped to offload our trailers and shown our accomnodation. We were directed to The Bridge End Tavern where the local rowing community would be meeting on Friday night to make final arrangements for the racing the following day. We watched the Festival’s opening parade  from the pavement outside the Tavern, suitably refreshed from our journey, then spent a very pleasant evening meeting the locals and enjoying thier hospitality.

The weather on Saturday morning started fine but deteriorated. When the crews took to the water it was a light drissle and the wind was getting up. As Chippy McNish crossed the start line there was a radio message for the rescue boats to keep a close eye on the fleet as the first boat away was starting to take water over thier bows. Worsening weather and sea conditions did not concern the crew in Chippy, Anstruther had hardened the crew and given them a clear understanding of the boats fantastic capabilities in rough conditions.

Chippy McNish was the third boat to start the 7km race in a fleet of 15, followed 1 minute behind by Galgael’s St Ayles Skiff Gobhacroit. Birdie Bowers started at no. 10. The other boats in the race were Antrim Gigs (like a Jollyboat but of plywood construction) and the Irish Coastal Rowing Federation Universal Boat (fibreglass light weight sea going boat with carbon fibre oars). The winning crew from Cairndhu finished the course in just over 40mins, Chippy McNish finished in just under 54mins, Birdie Bowers in just over 56mins. This was only the second outing for the crew from Galgael and the finished in approx 1hr 10mins.

The race was from the harbour mouth to the fish farm, then north towards the Black Rock, there was then a right turn towards Cairnlough where the course did a U-turn in front of the chapel back towards the shore side of the Black Rock before crossing Glenarm Bay to the finish line. On the return leg past the Black Rock two local crews hugged the coast a little too tight and fouled on the bottom, one loosing its rudder and having to retire. Re-grouping in the harbour after the race there was a great sense of fellowship with other crews, especially Cairndhu RC. Adam unfortunately missed this as he was suffering from mild hypothermia and spent 20mins warming himself in front of the hot air blowers in the crew support bus, drinking tea.

Universal Boats returning to Glenarm Harbour

The late afternoon races were 400m sprints to a buoy and 400m back, very similar to our Jollyboat events, but with 12 lanes. There were a couple of Junior events to start the race series before the Open events. Chippy McNish’s crew had been keen to have a go in one of the Universal Boats so were overjoyed to be offered Glenarm RC’s second boat to use in the sprint event. Lining up in Lane 4 the tension was high as banter was exchanged with a Cairnlough Open Ladies Crew in Lane 5. The start was sudden but the Royal West crew were not phased and quickly established a solid second place. Before getting to the buoy there was a commotion in the boat as one of the self inflating life jackets did “exactly what it says on the tin”. The amount of water splashing around had triggered the inflation. A slight confusion over which direction we were to turn led to us coming out of the buoy in third place. The crew held this position all the way back to the finish line. The fourth placed crew were Glenarm RC’s in thier first boat.

Birdie Bowers crew were entered in the Mixed event and raced in Birdie against the Universal Boats. Although they were using a much slower boat they did not finish that far behind the last of the Universal Boats and they were the only one with a carved dragon’s bowsprit.

Again, on the return of boats into the harbour all clubs gathered to lift each other’s boats back onto trailers and discuss the days racing. This continued at the prize giving where Chippy’s crew collected third place medals.

Cold, wet but satisfied with a medal and the prospect of a warm cocoa

Royal West presented Glenarm RC with a plaque manufactured by The Trust in Port Glasgow, we also presented Elaine Nelson with an engraved glass for her assistance to Royal West all weekend.

During the regatta dance in the upstairs lounge of The Bridge End Tavern we were approached about Antrim Coast Rowing Association sending crews to our regatta. They are making arrangements this week and should confirm how many crews by the weekend. We have definitely made a solid link with rowing clubs on the Antrim Coast and expect to be back next year.

Remember that we have our own regatta in just over two weeks, Sat 9th July. Volunteers are being sought to help on the day, also race sponsors and donations of home baking. Contact Adam or Karen Graham for details.

We are also keen to hear from anyone willing to provide camping space in thier gardens for visiting clubs that weekend.

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