Having resoundingly won the event a year earlier, Derwent cemented their place as the University’s premier rowing college in Sunday night’s college rowing tournament.
A packed out Roger Kirk Centre once again played host to a tournament that proved a huge hit last year, with Derwent eventually finishing the night 45 seconds ahead of James, who led the overall college sport standings at the end of the Autumn term.
With all eight colleges represented, albeit Wentworth and Goodricke suffering with somewhat depleted squads, it was a competitive evening that was far from the Derwent walkover that many had expected beforehand.
And having eventually overcome the technical difficulties that saw the tournament postponed in November, the women’s 2000m race kicked off proceedings – after navigating a false start from Goodricke.
The Hes East side recovered from that well, though, opening up a comfortable early lead over James, Vanbrugh and Wentworth in the first heat. Their success was shortlived, however, as Vanbrugh and James fought back and the former finished first in an impressive time of 7.48.3.
Wentworth were well behind, bringing up the rear in 9.38.4, but that was no disgrace given that they competed in both the women’s and men’s races with two rowers instead of the standard four. Alcuin came out as the fastest women’s squad, winning the second heat in 7.44.8, ahead of Derwent, Langwith, and Halifax.
Come the men’s races, Derwent’s proved themselves worthy of their favourites tag. Despite Langwith leading their heat at the 500m mark, the Derwent boys fought back and the combination of Sam Davies and Fraser Kirkley in the second kilometre, accompanied by a vociferous crowd, saw them finish over 40 seconds ahead of nearest challengers Halifax.
James came close to matching that time in the second men’s race, with 6.16.7. In the closest race of the night, the Swans were neck and neck with Vanbrugh for the majority of the 2000m but eventually edged them by seven seconds.
The final event was the mixed 4000m race, which Wentworth and Goodricke were both absent from – given that their understrength teams were suffering after the opening races, no one could blame them for opting out of the mammoth finale.
The race to decide fourth, fifth and sixth saw Halifax record an impressive time of 15.04.1, only beaten by Derwent and James later on. Langwith, who boasted York Sport President Cass Brown in their team, were next, with Alcuin finishing in just under 16 minutes. That slower time in the 4000m would cost Alcuin fourth place in the overall standings, Halifax’s narrowly edging them by just 0.7 seconds.
That was just the warm-up for the main event, though, as James and Vanbrugh set out to make up a gap of 24 and 6.8 seconds to Derwent respectively. The reigning college rowing champions employed some risky tactics, putting all of their girls out first and hoping for a comeback in the final half of the race.
It paid off though, with the Derwent girls putting in a sterling effort that saw them beginning to claw back James’ 200m advantage by the halfway mark. At this point the noise inside the Roger Kirk was reaching deafening levels, particularly with Derwent desperate to urge their rowers into the lead.
With 1500m to go, that gap had been reduced to 136m before Hugo Marino stepped up and put in a stunning stint.
By the time he handed over the reins, Derwent were just 10m behind and all set to power their way to victory. Eventually taking the lead with 800m left to row, it was down to star man Kirkley to bring it home and he obliged in trademark powerhouse style.
With the Derwent crowd drowning out the other two colleges, the university rugby captain extended the lead to over 100m by the end, Derwent finishing in 13.54.7, 20 seconds ahead of James and over a minute ahead of Vanbrugh.
In the overall standings, Derwent recorded a winning time that just broke the 28 minute mark, 45 seconds ahead of nearest challengers James, with Vanbrugh impressive in their third place finish.
With college rowing once again proving a big hit and generating one of the best sporting atmospheres of the year, college sports officer Dave Washington expressed his delight at proceedings: “It was an absolutely great atmosphere, and after a few hiccups with setup the event went brilliantly – it’s a fantastic advertisement for college sport. Congratulations to Derwent, they were brilliant, but every college should be very proud of their efforts tonight. It was great to see Derwent pushed so hard by James and Vanbrugh, and there was a good battle between Alcuin and Halifax who were up there as well.”
York Sport tournament secretaries Bronwen Dalley-Smith and Dani Farsiani told Nouse, “It was a really great success, an even bigger turnout than last year and you could just tell everyone was so enthused by the whole event – the atmosphere was fantastic. Every college got involved and the standard was really good, which was great to see.”