Re­gatta mem­o­ries 30 years on

Last lo­cal ladies crew to win Har­bour Grace Re­gatta re­flects on achieve­ment

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY MELISSA JENK­INS

1985 and 1986 were two mem­o­rable years for the Har­bour Grace Re­gatta. Each year, a lo­cal ladies crew claimed the cham­pi­onship. No lo­cal crew has done that ever since. A few mem­bers of those teams met with The Com­pass re­cently to re­flect on their history-mak­ing ac­com­plish­ments 30 years later.

This year is filled with nos­tal­gia for a group of women orig­i­nally from Har­bour Grace.

The for­mer Har­bour Grace re­gatta ladies champs earned the top spot at North Amer­ica’s sec­ond old­est sport­ing event in 1985 and were re­peat win­ners in 1986. It was the first time a ladies crew from Har­bour Grace won the ti­tle in the six-oar boats and also the last.

So­nia Wil­liams, Joanne Tay­lor, Brenda Shep­pard and Ch­eryl Wil­liams Snow re­cently joined their for­mer coxswain Lenny Wil­liams at Lady Lake to rem­i­nisce about their ac­com­plish­ment 30 years ago.

“They’ve never been fully rec­og­nized for it,” Lenny told The Com­pass. “And it has never been done since.”

Last-minute re­place­ment

It was a time for laugh­ter and shar­ing mem­o­ries while watch­ing the sunset over the wa­ter. Back then, So­nia was a last­minute ad­di­tion to the group.

“Brenda broke her arm a week be­fore, so she couldn’t row,” Lenny ex­plained.

Luck­ily for the crew, So­nia, who has also been a coxswain, was avail­able on a mo­ment’s no­tice. She was a reg­u­lar mem­ber of the fol­low­ing year’s crew as well.

Each mem­ber of the crew had mem­o­ries from the event. Some could even re­call spe­cific con­ver­sa­tions they had dur­ing that day. It was as if it had just hap­pened.

So­nia specif­i­cally re­mem­bers be­ing told she wouldn’t be able to row suc­cess­fully. But when she fin­ished the race with the rest of the team in 10 min­utes flat, she was proud.

In 1985 and 1986 the course used to be the same as the men’s, about half­way be­tween the cur­rent ladies’ and men’s buoys now. They com­pleted the course in just over 10 min­utes that first year to claim the cham­pi­onship tro­phy.

Dur­ing the pre­sen­ta­tion, So­nia ac­cepted the tro­phy but im­me­di­ately passed it to Brenda, who was there cheer­ing on her crew from the shore­line.

The top women’s crews from St. John’s would go to Lady Lake each year to snatch the cham­pi­onship, and each year they suc­ceeded. But for those two years, they went home with­out the tro­phy. But their loss was Har­bour Grace’s gain.

In 1986, the wind was strong, mak­ing the wa­ter choppy. Lenny was con­cerned about tak­ing the team on the wa­ter, but de­cided he had to.

“I took them out be­cause we worked all year for it,” he said, not­ing they com­pleted the race in 12 min­utes and 33 sec­onds. So­nia agreed. “It was a lot to lose,” she said.

Still in­volved

The team had two dif­fer­ent spon­sors — Pine Grove Lounge and Stage Head Pub. Lenny joked about how the team just liked the bars, although Joanne was too young to go into them. Joanne was only a young teenager when she par­tic­i­pated in the re­gatta. In fact, her daugh­ter Cam­ryn is the same age she was then — 14. Cam­ryn also rows with a mid­get girls team.

Lenny is still a coxswain for sev­eral crews each year and has pre­vi­ously earned the coxswain of the year award. He coxed a home team to a bronze medal in the cham­pi­onship race in 2013 in Har­bour Grace. That same team, Rest­well Mat­tress, broke a record at the St. John’s re­gatta last sum­mer.

So­nia has also pre­vi­ously coxswained, and is cur­rently the deputy mayor of Har­bour Grace. She is still a big sup­porter of the re­gatta and was a vol­un­teer this year at the lake. She can re­call all the hard work and ded­i­ca­tion it took to win the race, and still be­lieves it was worth it.

In fact, all the for­mer rowers on the team sup­port the sport and the lo­cal teams, and many still at­tend the re­gatta each year.

Now, 30 years later, it is a mem­ory the crew won’t soon for­get.

Other mem­bers of the teams were Ros­alie King, Sandy Lewis, Bev­erly Wil­liams French, Corey King Os­bourne and Phyl­lis Collins.

PHOTO BY MELISSA JENK­INS/THE COM­PASS

Mem­bers of the for­mer 1985 and 1986 ladies Har­bour Grace Re­gatta cham­pi­onship teams got to­gether at Lady Lake on Aug. 2 to rem­i­nisce. They were, from left, Ch­eryl Wil­liams Snow, Brenda Shep­pard, coxswain Lenny Wil­liams, So­nia Wil­liams and Joanne Tay­lor.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTOS

Mem­bers of the 1985 ladies cham­pi­onship crew of the Har­bour Grace Re­gatta were, front (l-r) — Corey King Os­bourne, Ros­alie King, Lenny Wil­liams and Phyl­lis Collins; back — El­iz­a­beth English (spon­sor), Brenda Shep­pard, Joanne Barnes Tay­lor, So­nia Wil­liams, Sandy Lewis, Bev­er­ley Wil­liams French and Joe English (spon­sor).

Mem­bers of the 1986 ladies cham­pi­onship crew of the Har­bour Grace Re­gatta were, from left, Ch­eryl Wil­liams Snow, Brenda Shep­pard, So­nia Wil­liams, Lenny Wil­liams, Bev Wil­liams, Sandy Lewis and Joanne Barnes Tay­lor.

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