Regatta memories 30 years on
Last local ladies crew to win Harbour Grace Regatta reflects on achievement
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.