Young row­ers re­vive re­gatta

Iconic event in Har­bour Grace draws dozens of child par­tic­i­pants


The gig­gling and laugh­ter of chil­dren is over­whelm­ing dur­ing rowing prac­tice at Lady Lake in Har­bour Grace Tues­day evening.

Dozens of young peo­ple anx­iously wait for their turn to take the oars and pad­dle their way across the calm blue wa­ter.

Al­bert (Bud) Chafe of Har­bour Grace is stand­ing in one of four sweep boats — each rower has one oar — call­ing out com­mands to the young crew of six. He is a coxswain of sev­eral rowing teams for this year’s Har­bour Grace Re­gatta, which will take place July 27.

Sev­eral years ago Bud, who is 77, might have said the re­gatta wouldn’t last much longer. But the event has seen a surge in par­tic­i­pa­tion since the im­ple­men­ta­tion of younger chil­dren’s rowing events.

“Four years ago I had a young grand­daugh­ter that said, ‘I want to row,’” he ex­plains adding within 24 hours they or­ga­nized a team of six young girls aged seven to nine, which grew the in­ter­est of the next gen­er­a­tion of row­ers.

Bud says this year there are four teams par­tic­i­pat­ing in the midget di­vi­sions (8-14) from the Har­bour Grace area.

Six young ladies take their seats in one of the long, slen­der boats, life­jack­ets fas­tened. The youngest is only seven years old while the old­est is 11.

All of them are re­turn­ing row­ers from last year and have older sib­lings that also com­pete.

One eight-year-old rushes the coxswain Kevin Chafe —Bud’s son — to tighten her foot stretcher so they can start their prac­tice run. It has to be tied snug or her feet could slip off.

The girls are all friends, and chat­ter about how much fun they are hav­ing learn­ing the sport.

They are a l it­tle young for de­mand­ing com­pe­ti­tion, but they have de­vel­oped a sense of unity and syn­chrony. They are proud of their skill and are just happy to be on the wa­ter.

The par­ents be­lieve in­ter­est in rowing is in­creas­ing in the Har­bour Grace area and are glad to see their chil­dren ded­i­cated to the sport.

While all four boats are on the wa­ter sev­eral groups of young peo­ple play around the grassy plot around the boathouse. Some of them have sib­lings on the wa­ter and some are wait­ing for their own turn to row.

While the young girls’ team is on the wa­ter, a group of five mothers stand on the dock watch­ing. But th­ese moms don’t just watch, they are row­ers them­selves.

The re­gatta has been a fam­ily af­fair since it’s in­cep­tion in 1862 with many of the fam­ily names still tak­ing part each year.

The mothers, on the other hand, ad­mit they were not in­ter­ested in start­ing a team un­til their youngest chil­dren — now age 11 and 12 — be­gan to row.

“Our daugh­ters have been rowing to­gether for four years,” says Amy Durn­ford, mother to two young row­ers — Lau­ryn and Jenna.

“It was them that got us in­ter­ested,” con­tin­ues Amy Par­sons who also has two daugh­ters in the sport — Johnna and Aileen.

Bud says it ap­pears to be the trend — younger chil­dren be­gin to row and their mothers de­cide to join.

“It helps bring back our se­nior ladies,” he ex­plains.

It is more ap­par­ent there are fewer male teams with the surge in fe­male in­volve­ment, but Bud says it is a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence.

“I ex­pect it to be around 90 per cent women,” he says. “There are cur­rently no (male) crews from the lo­cal area.”

Re­mem­ber­ing the past

Af­ter climb­ing the stairs to the boathouse, Bud walks over to the far wall where dozens of pho­tos — black and white and colour — hang.

“This is our ‘ Wall of Mem­o­ries,’” Bud says.

On the wall are pho­tos of the re­gatta from the past cen­tury.

Hun­dreds of faces, many who are not named, who par­tic­i­pated in the long­est run­ning re­gatta in the prov­ince have earned a spot on the wall.

One photo in par­tic­u­lar catches Bud’s at­ten­tion.

“That’s me there,” he says point­ing at the sec­ond rower from the boat’s stern in an old black and white photo. “And that’s the team that beat the fa­mous Wil­liam’s fam­ily,”

Bud is proud of his ac­com­plish­ment with his rowing team, plac­ing first against the long-run­ning win­ners of the event.

Ev­ery year the wall will grow, he says. More pho­tos will be added as the event con­tin­ues to strive.

Last year was the 150th an­niver­sary of the event. Bud had sev­eral events planned that were can­celled. One of them was a fam­ily rowing event from Por­tu­gal Cove to Har­bour Grace to raise money for can­cer re­search.

The Chafe fam­ily of Har­bour Grace and the Gree­ley fam­ily from Por­tu­gal Cove have com­peted as famil i es for a long time , Bud ex­plains.

He wanted to have a sig­nif­i­cant rowing event to in­tro­duce the an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tions, but due to ill­ness of a rower it never got off the dock.

Bud is now think­ing to­wards next year and how he can in­cor­po­rate a fundraiser for the same cause.

Can­cer is an im­por­tant cause in Bud’s fam­ily. He is an eight-year bowel can­cer sur­vivor and his wife Mil­dred is a six-year breast can­cer sur­vivor. Bud’s son Fred is cur­rently fight­ing his own can­cer bat­tle.

“I would like to have a day with can­cer row­ers,” Bud says. “If a group can get one or two full crews to come and row all pro­ceeds would go to their type of can­cer.”

Un­til then, the event will con­tinue as it has in the past, with en­ter­tain­ment, chil­dren’s games and ac­tiv­i­ties and dif­fer­ent types of food ven­dors.

Con­fir­ma­tion of the event will be an­nounced by 7 a.m. July 27, weather per­mit­ting.

Six young ladies sit in the boat at Lady Lake July 16 wait­ing for their chance to row out on the calm blue wa­ter. Their team, Sub­way/RoBren Truck­ing are com­pet­ing for their sec­ond straight re­gatta. Anx­iously wait­ing are, from left, nine-year- old Emily Chafe of Har­bour Grace, eight-yearold Jenna Durn­ford from Har­bour Grace, nine-year-old Johnna Pike from Har­bour Grace, seven-year-old Hailee Ezekiel from Car­bon­ear, eight-yearold Julie Nose­wor­thy from Har­bour Grace and 11-year old Kara Fewer from Har­bour Grace who rowed for Vic­to­ria Crane from Up­per Is­land Cove for the prac­tice. Stand­ing on the float­ing dock is coxswain Kevin Chafe.

Pho­tos by Melissa Jenk­ins/Spe­cial to The Com­pass

Har­bour Grace na­tive and re­gatta com­mit­tee mem­ber Al­bert (Bud) Chafe rem­i­nisces while look­ing at the “Wall of Mem­o­ries” in the boathouse at Lady Lake in the town.

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