Lab West Regatta marks 45 years
Harold Clarke reflects on the past, and looks ahead
LABRADOR WEST,NL — There are several words that come to mind when you say Labrador West Regatta: racing shells, oars, Jean Lake – home to the regatta since 1978 — early morning training, Ted Churchill (one of the founders) and Harold Clarke, who’s been with the regatta since it started 45 years ago.
The first Regatta, using wooden rowing boats was held at Duley Lake. It later moved to Little Wabush Lake, using wooden shells.
The wooden shells were eventually replaced with high tech fiberglass.
With this year’s event completed, long-time organizer Harold Clarke spoke to the Aurora about some of the changes he’s seen, and offered some of his thoughts on the future.
“First of all we were happy with this year’s event, despite some weather issues and swamped boats on race day,” he said.
Clarke says the biggest noticeable difference this year was in the number of teams and the low number of men participating.
Of the 26 teams this year, 23 were female.
That also meant there was no need for quarter or semi-final races the men’s division.
Clarke says it’s difficult to say why there are so few male rowers.
In earlier years it was the reverse, with just a few female rowers.
Clarke said increased participation by women appears to be a trend in rowing right across the county.
Clarke added this year there were no juvenile teams, for rowers aged 14-18.
It wasn’t for lack of encouragement by the regatta organizers.
“We visited the school this year 10 times, on different occasions, but were unable to attract a juvenile team.”
Despite that he says they will continue their efforts again next year.
“Good juvenile rowers tend to progress well to intermediate and senior divisions,” he said.
Clarke says they were quite happy to have the 26 teams they had this year.
“The the peak was several years ago; 56 teams registered and 54 ended up rowing.”
He says there may be many factors for the decline in teams; from the downturn in the local economy to the fact that many of the students who rowed are getting good paying jobs that require shift work and sevenday shifts.
Clarke says they would like to see at least 30 teams participate in future events.
“That would make for a good competition that would fill out the day,” he said.
There were fewer concession stands at the races this year as well, just nine as opposed to the usual 15 or 16.
Clarke attributes this to the fact there were many other activities this summer that some of the regulars decided they wouldn’t operate at the Regatta.
In the past only non-profit groups were permitted to set up at the Regatta, but in recent years local businesses have been able to set up concessions.
When asked about the rowing facility and the equipment Clarke said the boat house, dock, the shells, all the equipment is in very good condition.
“We now have people who have become very good at maintaining the shells, which are very high-end pieces of equipment.”
The next big thing for the regatta, and its organizers, is their big anniversary in five years.
“We have to start planning for our 50th anniversary,” Clarke says. “Even though it’s five years away we want to make it a celebration people will remember.”
For that milestone year, especially, he said the regatta committee will work towards increasing the number of teams, the number of male rowers, and getting juveniles involved again.
They’re also thinking of trying to entice teams from former years to reunite for the anniversary.
Clarke says it’s been a good 45 years of Regatta in Labrador West, and credit has to go to the many volunteers and organizations in the community who give of their time.
Meanwhile, he encourages everyone to get ready for regatta 46.
“It’s only 11 months away.”
A crew of women row along Jean Lake in the 45th annual Labrador West Regatta. This year 23 teams of women participated in the races.
Men prepare to launch their racing shells for the 45th annual Labrador West Regatta. There were only three teams of men in this year’s race and organizers hope to get more men involved in the event in the years to come.
Racing shells line up at the start line for the 45th annual Labrador West Regatta. The regatta committee is setting its sights on a milestone event for the 50th anniversary of the regatta in 2022.