Competitive rowing returned to Lough Erne after a gap of two and half years on Saturday with the inaugural staging by Enniskillen Royal Boat Club of the Fours Head of the River .

In March 2020 the Head of the River was cancelled due to local flooding and then Covid restrictions played havoc with the rowing fixtures.

As such then it was heartening to see top class rowing action back on Lough Erne and the weather did not disappoint to make for some great racing.

Head of Rowing at Enniskillen Royal Boat Club, Derek Holland was delighted with the inaugural Fours Head which he hopes will now become a permanent fixture in the racing calendar.

“ The day could not have gone any better,” explained Derek. “In fairness the weather makes rowing and the whole day thankfully went very smoothly. All at the club were very happy and we got great support from all over.”

He added: “It was a great success and we planned to hold the race last year but it did not happen because of Covid-19, so it was good to get up and running. The Eights Head in March is well established on the Erne and we hope to build the Fours Head as premier event in the coming years.”

Good to be back

While the racing was competitive, Derek admits for many it was just good to be back out.

“Everybody just wants to get back out and racing, get back at it and I suppose they will worry more about results as the season progresses. At this stage, it is about getting back to some degree of normality. Our own results were not too bad, the girls got two wins and the boys had a second and a third. It’s early doors and we will just keep the heads down and work away,” said Derek.

In Race One, the women’s race, it was the crew from National University Ireland Galway in a time of 19.38.9 who won the Amanda McManus Memorial Trophy.

Bann RC were second and a composite crew from Queen’s University Belfast Ladies BC and Lagan Scullers including former ERBC captain Victoria Wilson took third.

ERBC Women’s Junior Coxless Quad was fifth fastest overall, winning the Junior Women’s Coxless Quad category in a great time of 20 minutes and 51.5 seconds.

The crew of Laura Turner, Niamh Cassidy, Chloe Thompson and Áine McCaffrey had a great race and were absolutely delighted to take the win at home over Commercial and Colaiste Iognaid.

ERBC’s junior four also won their category and they were 12th overall, covering the 6km course in a time of 21 minutes 41.7 seconds. Commercial RC came second.

In the Women’s J16 4X+ Commercial RC took the win over ERBC A by the smallest of margins with the other three ERBC J16 crews having a great race, gaining lots of invaluable racing experience.

In the Women’s S4- category there was a dead heat between UCD and Trinity Ladies BC in a time of 20 minutes 52.3 seconds and they shared first place. The crew from UCD also had a former ERBC rower on board, Áine McCreesh.

In Race Two, the men’s race, Queen’s University BC B who had former ERBC rower Nathan Timoney in the boat was the fastest crew and winners of the John Mills Cup in a time of 17. minutes 21 seconds over Trinity who came home in a time of 17 minutes and 26.4 seconds.

ERBC’s junior boys had to settle for second place to St Joseph’s RC in the Coxed quad and third in the Junior four. The boys were disappointed not to win.

ERBC Men’s Junior 16 crews had a good afternoon with Enniskillen’s J16 4X+ D crew picking up second place to Commercial RC.

Elsewhere former Boat Club members Miriam Kelly and Tom Mills represented Trinity Ladies B and Lagan Scullers respectively while Portora Boat Club had a Ladies’ and Men’s crew in the Veteran’s Section.

Next up for ERBC will be Lagan Head of the River, as clubs start to host more events to try and generate extra revenue after a very tough 18 months.

It will provide more competitive action for the rowers which can only be good.

All in all, it was a highly successful day for ERBC.

“It was a tremendous success,” concluded Derek. “Nobody sees how much works goes into the organising from all the people who helped with the safety boats, the Parents Support Group and all the food that was provided. It is a big team effort and we are very thankful to have all that support.”

A great day’s racing then and the traditional Erne Eights Head will take place on March 5.