Lab West Re­gatta marks 45 years

Harold Clarke re­flects on the past, and looks ahead

The Aurora (Labrador City) - - SPORTS - BY MIKE POWER

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.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

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.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

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.

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO

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.

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