Portadown Boat Club are gearing up for the annual Portadown Regatta, an exciting day of activity which will see hundreds of rowers descend onto the River Bann to take part in the races!
The event, which is to be held on Saturday, April 29, will commence early in the morning and see continuous races run throughout the course of the day.
In what is the only full regatta in Northern Ireland, and one of the major regattas in Rowing Ireland’s calendar, rowers will travel from as far afield as Cork, Coleraine and everywhere in between to compete in various categories.
As well as Junior racing for 12 to 18-year-olds, there are also Novice, Club and Masters categories.
The oldest racing category is for competitors aged 65 and up!
The range of races includes singles, doubles, quads and eights for both males and females.
The two-lane course, which launches at the Boat Club’s slip, is 1,000m in total and runs along the river bank.
Last year, there were around 140 races in total, with 21 clubs from across the island competing. The ages of the rowers taking part ranged from people at 12-years-old right up to 80-years-old!
The Regatta is one of two major events in the Portadown Boat Club calendar, with the other being the Club Marascull which is held in October.
The Portadown Boat Club boasts approximately 100 members across all of its categories, with a dedicated group of experienced coaches.
They are also the oldest active sporting club in Portadown, with rowing having taken place on the River Bann since 1877.
Louis Hesbrook, the Captain of Portadown Boat Club, says that the event is the “highlight” of the Boat Club’s year, and something he wants Portadown “to celebrate with us”.
“We would encourage people to come along and have a look at it,” Louis said. “It’s a great showcase for the club and the town.”
Louis notes that the Regatta and the Portadown Boat Club are both continuing to grow each and every year.
“The numbers of people who have rowed since Covid have been significantly higher than we’ve had before. I think everybody has realised the value of being able to get out and get on the water.
“The number of people that have come down to ask how to row has increased over the last year and our club itself has grown. We have grown in a natural way, which is nice.
“It has been lovely to see the youngsters coming down and bringing their parents down as well. We actually have quite a number of parent-child combos in the club.”
He added: “The club itself is very family-led and family-orientated and lots of things that we do are family events….We have to have the juniors come as well and get them involved because they’re the lifeblood of the club in the future.
“We’re proud of the fact that it’s our club and it’s a great showcase of how we work together and what we can do with a small number of people.”
In an appeal to the public to get involved, Louis said: “I would encourage anybody to come down…We take all ages and all walks and all creeds.”
He explained: “The club itself is so diverse. We have such a different number of people from all sides of the community coming down. We have people who are coming from as far away as Castleblayney.
“I’ve been captain now for five years and I’ve seen the place grow.”