The 600 metre course, down a gently curving River Aire, is a popular splash-and-dash sprint regatta which attracted crews from across the North including Mersey, Tees, York City, Ancholme, Sheffield and Doncaster.
The diminutive nature of this picturesque stretch of slack water above Hirst Weir means that West Yorkshire’s only regatta attracts a lot of pot hunters and novice crews seeking to notch up their first points. And this year was no exception with 142 crews competing in more than 40 events throughout the day – all in small boats.
The most heavily contested race of the day was the Junior 15A double sculls with several crews from across the north turning up to show their worth. In the event the final was decided between Curt Iles and Rhys Mould from Bradford and the York City duo of Charles Proctor and Alex Howe who snatched victory at a tight finish.
Charles said: “That was a hard close race and we were chased right to the end with Bradford coming back at us. I think they might have caught something in the end which allowed us to get away.”
Another tight finish saw Doncaster take the tankards off Ancholme in the women’s IM3 coxed fours while an inter-club grudge match between Bradford’s masters double sculls Smith and Hoskins and Dunhill and Hobbs saw the Smith boat go through to victory in the final in revenge for being beaten by the Dunhill crew at Tees Regatta.
Mersey, who travelled the furthest to compete at Bradford in a scratch crew in the men’s IM2 coxed four, beat Bradford’s crew by two lengths to pick up a pot. Originally, Mersey had no competition but Bradford likes to give everyone a race so put together a scratch crew to accommodate the Scousers with a race.
In the event the Merseysiders, coxed by Haley Rooney, beat Bradford with Matt Ward at stroke, Andy Coyne, Steve Forshaw and Chris Cheng at bow triumphed over a Bradford crew coxed by Sally Gowitts with Mick Brickley at stroke supported by Mike Gaunt, Simon Scull and bowman Carlo Smith.
Regatta Secretary Celia Hickson said: “Bradford Sprint Regatta is always a popular, cheerful event in the Northern rowing calendar, attracting crews from both the East and West coasts – today we had a contingent from the River Tees and the River Mersey – and always delivers some tight competitive rowing.
“The most far-flung club to attend was Mersey and they have had a great day along with everyone else – we pride ourselves on running a cheerful, friendly regatta and so it has proved today.
“This is my first year as Regatta Secretary and, I have to say, I am delighted how well it has gone – the weather has held good, the feedback from crews has been very positive. There has been a lot of junior competition but it’s been good to see so many mature mixed crews during the day.”
Also attending the event was a team from Hirst Weir Ltd (HWL), a charitable company set up by BARC to preserve the 750-year-old weir at Hirst Mill on the River Aire at Shipley, West Yorkshire set out its stall this.
Hirst Weir is an important historical structure in Shipley and is first mentioned in 1249. Its loss would be a major blow to BARC which has rowed from the weir for almost 150 years.
BARC President Richard Phillips said: “In the floods on July 2012 the weir suffered significant damage and was in danger of collapsing before emergency repairs were carried out by HWL funded by the club’s members and our annual regatta is the ideal occasion to raise funds to secure the future of the weir.”
Working in partnership with the Environmental Agency, HWL is now seeking to raise £600,000 to repair the weir and introduce a fish pass which would facilitate the free migration of fish to the upper reaches of River Aire including salmon, trout and eels.
Full results can be found at bradfordrowing.co.uk and details of the Hirst Weir project at hirstweir.co.uk.