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35th boat race and 31st Regatta : 

Oarsmen of Royal and S. Thomas' clash on Beira waters

by Richard Dwight

Royal and S. Thomas' on par having won 17 boat races each, the 35th clash this afternoon, will witness an interesting tussle between the two teams - striving to go one up in the series on the waters of the Beira Lake, which is what Thames is to the oarsmen of Oxbridge.

The boat race which is also referred to as the coaxed fours that preceded the Royal-Thomian regatta - is the local version of the annual Oxford-Cambridge boat race on the river Thames. The interest in this year's regatta, where S. Thomas' leads with 16 wins to Royal's 13, will revolve around Royal doing everything it could to reduce the deficit and, prevent S. Thomas' drawing further away to widen its lead. It must be mentioned that the 1993 regatta ended in a tie, thus accounting for 30 regattas hitherto held, and now moving on to this its 31st regatta.

There is however bound to be much excitement and thrills on this '1000 yard' water stretch for spectators and those of the rowing fraternity, in a sport that has grown popular through each succeeding year.

The two teams straining every sinew, muscle and nerve to out row the other on the Beira (along side the Colombo Rowing Club) their familiar domain - will largely depend on the amount of encouragement and support they receive from their respective cheer squads, especially as they enter the home stretch.

For the purpose of record and with the young in mind, the boat race or the coaxed fours initially began in 1962. And four years later in 1966 it broadened out to give rise to the regatta, having a card of six events, of which the boat race is one. There is however a gap of seven years from 1973 to 1979 when the regatta was not held, which meant there being no boat race as well.

The regatta is worked off in two groups A and B with 3 identical events for each group making a card of 6 events. They being the A fours which carry 12 points, B fours 8 pts:, A pairs 8 pts:, B pairs 4 pts:, A sculls 6 pts:, and B sculls 2 pts: - in all an aggregate of 40 pts.

The overall regatta champions are awarded the T. Noel Fernando Trophy, A Fours - The Boat Race Trophy, B Fours - The Eraj Wijesinghe Trophy, A Pairs - The Freddie Anthony Raux Trophy, B Pairs - The Chula Samarasinghe Trophy, A Sculls - Royal-Thomian regatta challenge trophy and the B Sculls - The Ajith Gunewardene Trophy.

The regatta continues to be sponsored by Dialog GSM with S. Thomas' College acting as hosts. S. Thomas' who defeated Royal 34 to 6 points last year under the leadership of Preshith Ganegoda is led this year by third year coloursman Isuru Perera the other four coloursmen are Dejan de Zoysa, Mahangu Weerasinghe, Lashika Weerasinghe and Dathika Wickremanayake.

The supporting seniors are Dineshka Aluwihare, Stephen Phillips Namesh Navaratne, Shannaon de Silva and Dayantha Siriwardene. The coach Ajith Goonewardene is assisted by Chevantha Sirimanne and Tazio Ratnayake with the master-in-charge Shirley Panditharatne.

Second year coloursman Aqil Sulaiman leads Royal and has five other coloursmen in Mehran Careem, Veran Wickremasinghe, Shimendra Perera, Ragu Jayachandran and Shehan Wanigasekere.

The other seniors expected to do well are Tila Jayatilleke, Padma Priyan, Rasika Jayasinghe and Suranje Dharmaratne. The coach Hiran Deraniyagama, is assisted by Kushantha Jirasinghe and Usman Fatherally with R. Jayasooriya as the master-in-charge.

According to the coaches, this is a sport which calls for team work of a high order, where the hand movements, upper body and legs work together to produce a fluid motion of a stroke, resulting in the rhythmic co-ordination of the oarsmen, slicing the waters with their oars and pulling it out in unison. A wash out, a dig or catch-a-crab, is a few and far between occurrence - the coaches seeing that it does not take place, for if it does, could cause confusion amongst the oarsmen.

The salient feature of these encounters between traditional rivals, Royal and S. Thomas', is that it stands for rivalry without rancour, struggle without strife, verily it turns out to be a contest with sportsmanship, and a battle in friendship. Many a sporting deed and virtues that count for good have through these encounters surfaced.

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