Bexhill hosts thrilling rowing championships

"THE best championships for more than a decade," was how the regatta hosted by Bexhill Rowing Club was described on Saturday.

The 49th South Coast Championships was certainly a day to remember for participants and spectators alike.

Excellent weather and a strong easterly wind provided ideal conditions and the day's racing began on time.

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The host club's first crew to take to the water was the reigning junior four of Toby Matthews, Joe Pellet, Matt Hellier, Ashley Cahill and Andy Bickers. Drawn on the outside, they were hit by wave after wave, slowing their progress against the inside crew from Poole, but by the finish line they had battled through for a well-deserved 3rd.

Next up was the premier event of the day - the men's senior four championship race for the coveted Bideford Bowl. Representing Bexhill was the crew of Chris Mizen, Kieran Cahill, Mark Mitchell, Matt Mitchell and Terri Miller.

They started well and by 200m had a half length lead over the field. It was from that point onwards that their progress was halted by the sea as, just like the juniors, they began hitting waves and stopping. With just 300m to go, however, they were still within a length of the leaders Herne Bay but were unable to close the gap and had to settle for 2nd.

The junior-senior crew of Phil McCorry, Ben Muggeridge, Doug Holdaway, Nick McCorry and Callum Payne took the race to their rivals including CARA champions Herne Bay. Bexhill were in front after 500m but the pace of the Herne Bay crew was too much and they too had to be content with the runners-up spot.

In the veteran race, the A crew of Bob Balchin, Paul Dawes, Clive Bingham, Graham Dawes and Miller took on the B crew of Dave Jones, Steve Bickers, Steve Hopkins, Glen Payne and Callum Payne. The A crew produced an outstanding performance in their heat to win by more than 10 lengths with the B crew tactfully 3rd in their heat. It was, however, the B crew that eased away in style from the field in the final to collect the Veteran Open trophy.

This was Bexhill's only win on the day, but this result plus two 2nd placed finishes and two 3rd placed finishes helped the CARA association win the inter-association trophy over the Hants & Dorset and the West of England clubs.

The trophies were presented by Ben Hunt-Davies, a member of the GB eight which won gold in the Sydney Olympics.