More than sixty rowers from clubs across the north of England vied to set the first course record of the modern era on Derwentwater on Saturday.
The fiercely contested honour went to a quad from Talkin Tarn Amateur RC, crewed by four men with an average age of 55-59, who completed the 2.5km row in just 10 minutes and 7 seconds, a single second ahead of a men’s eight from Durham ARC.
Derwentwater’s first major rowing event for almost 150 years was organised by Keswick-based Lakeland Rowing Club as a trial for a full head race involving up to 150 crews and 750 rowers from across the UK, scheduled for March next year.
The last competition of this kind was in 1870, when crews from as far away as London arrived by train and carried their boats through the town to the shore.
Lakeland RC event coordinator David Thomas said: “The purpose of Saturday’s head race was to test the club’s ability to stage a full British Rowing listed open event on the lake next March.
“Judging by the feedback from participants and the two British Rowing umpires who observed, it was an unqualified success. The crews relished the opportunity to row the course from Kettlewell to Friar’s Crag, and it created a lot of interest among local people and visitors who watched from the shore.”
A junior crew from Lakeland RC, made up of Billy and Tom Strong, aged 15 and 13 respectively, Adam Wilson, 15, and Cam Regan-Teasdale, 17, recorded the day’s fourth fastest time, finishing only 9 seconds after the adult winners.
Mr Thomas added: “The day was a real community effort. The club received a huge amount of support and help from local organisations, including our landlord the National Trust, Keswick Launch Company, Keswick Lions, Derwent Water Marina, the town council, Keswick Rugby Club, Allerdale Borough Council and the Theatre by the Lake.
“We’d also like to say a big thank you to our event sponsor, digital agency Inovica.com, to our catering sponsors, Carvetti Coffee Roasters and Caterite, and to photographer Rob Grange. Without all of them, it wouldn’t have been possible.”
Gill Houston of Talkin Tarn ARC, who rowed in the day’s fastest women’s masters crew, said: “It was lovely to have a bit of variety from the river courses we normally row and to see the fells all around us.”
Kevin Corkar, a masters rower from Tyne United RC, said: “The conditions and the course were excellent and we’re planning to come back in March. You’ll not see sights like this elsewhere in the country – it’s second to none.”
Lakeland RC junior member Ella Horne, 15, who learned to row just two months ago, was competing in her first ever race with three school mates. She said: “We worked well as a team and it was really fun. We were singing and playing ‘I spy’ while we waited at the start.”
Mr Thomas said: “Now the really hard work starts, as we begin preparing for the main event, the inaugural Derwentwater Head, on Saturday 7 March.”
Beginners, or returning rowers, coxes, coaches or prospective sponsors who would like to know more about opportunities at Lakeland RC can visit www.lakelandrowingclub.com or find it on Facebook – just search for Lakeland Rowing Club.