There’s an old saying that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
At Wednesday’s 196th Royal St. John’s Regatta, it was exactly the opposite for two of the competitive men’s crews.
Bussey Horwood Lawyers won the CAA Male Championship race and the Molson Gerry Angel Memorial Trophy thanks to the healthy lead they built up on runner-up Toyota Plaza at the outset of the evening race.
“Go out angry in the start and not let them get a lead,” No. 5 oar Chris Neary said of the team’s game plan.
“I think it went a bit more in our favour than we thought. We actually got that two- or three-seat lead in the first 30 or 40 seconds. I think we surprised ourselves.
“If not for that start, I don’t know where we would have been.”
Bussey Horwood didn’t relent on their way down Quidi Vidi Lake, kept their lead through the turn and powered its way to the finish in a time of nine minutes and 14.53 seconds.
Toyota wasn’t far behind, finishing 3.41 seconds off the pace (9:17.94). The Max Athletics Men crew finished third with a time of 9:21.44. Magna Contracting was fourth in 9:57.81 and Smith Stockley cleared the 2.45-kilometre course in 10:10.77.
Other members of the championship team are stroke James Cadigan, Adam Kavanagh, Ronnie Whitten, Dan Cadigan, Craig Whitte, spare Brent Hickey and cox Ben Colbourne.
Bussey Horwood felt fortunate to come away with the title, especially considering Toyota took advantage of a tremendous start in the day’s first race, the Male Amateur, cruising to the finish in cool 9:10.90.
Bussey Horwood clocked a 9:14.90 in the morning dash.
“They rowed a flawless race,” Whitten said of Toyota’s morning run that earned them the first choice of stake and boat for the championship.
“They got a wicked turn and we were behind by a couple of boat lengths. We made a move and they countered like they were supposed to. We were playing catch up the whole race.”
That win was cold comfort for the members of Toyota Plaza, many of whom looked distraught as they watched Bussey Horwood celebrating on the winner’s podium after the championship race. This is the second time Toyota Plaza has played second fiddle to the members of Bussey Horwood — who previously raced under the name Rogers Bussey Lawyers — on Derby Day, losing the title race in 2011 and 2012. (Toyota won last year’s title in a season in which the members of Bussey Horwood did not row competitively.)
“It’s tough to lose a Regatta championship... I’ve lost a few now. I know I’m still young, but it doesn’t get easier,” said Toyota stroke Paul Hussey.
“Coming in this year, we just wanted to beat the crew that we have never beaten on Regatta night. It’s tough to put together a crew (to compete) with those kinds of guys with those resumes.”
Bussey Horwood’s No. 2 oar Craig Whittle rowed with Toyota Plaza for parts of last season, including the Regatta championship race. When it came to this season, the now six-time Regatta champ opted to stick with his long-time friends.
“It had nothing to do with not wanting to row with (Toyota Plaza) or thinking they weren’t good enough — they’re certainly a capable crew and they proved it this summer — it was just that I wanted to row with my buddies,” Whittle said.
Hussey acknowledged Wednesday evening’s loss stings, but shouldn’t overshadow a strong season that saw Toyota Plaza beat Bussey Horwood twice (they won the first race of the day in last month’s Placentia Regatta as well and had a victory in the Harbour Grace men’s championship).
“We’re happy,. We’re a good group of friends,” Hussey said, adding that, “Maybe sometimes that’s more important than winning and we need to think about that.”
This year’s championship could be the official end of the recent Regatta dynasty cultivated by the members of Bussey Horwood. Neary has said for certain that he’s walking away from the competitive side of the sport, and Whittle insists he’ll stick to rowing recreationally in the future.
“Don’t mind Whittle,” said Whitten. “He’s won championships the last two years and he was supposed to be retired.
“We torment him about it that.”
As for Whitten himself, the championship was his 10th at Quidi Vidi, but the team’s elder statesman at 39 isn’t sure what the future holds for his rowing career following a season that saw him beset by nagging foot and knee injuries.
“They were nothing that I couldn’t get over, but it slowed me down a bit. When you’re my age, you don’t need anything extra to slow you down.”