Regatta season continues in Harbour Grace
155th edition of annual sporting event this Saturday at Lady Lake
It wouldn’t be summer in Harbour Grace without the staging of the town’s historic regatta. The 155th edition of the boating extravaganza takes place this weekend. Organizers are actively encouraging youth to get involved in the sport to help ensure there’s a steady stream of local crews ready and willing to participate for decades to come.
HARBOUR GRACE, NL — Prior to last Wednesday, wind conditions made it difficult for local crews looking to take a boat out on Lady Lake in Harbour Grace for a practice row.
But on this calm night, rowers had no trouble taking a boat out for a spin around the lake, getting set for the 155th edition of the annual Harbour Grace Regatta, which takes place Saturday, July 29.
It was mostly young rowers working Wednesday as teams to improve their practice times and get their rhythm in sync with one another. According to Amy Durnford, a member of the regatta’s organizing committee, getting the next generation of rowers engaged in the sport is an important part of the event.
“We’ve got a new kids program here this summer that we’ve never done before — getting lots of positive feedback on that,” said Durnford, who is also an experienced rower and coxswain.
On Mondays and Fridays, youth ages eight-to-15 gather at the lake for three hours and learn the basics of rowing, free of charge. A couple of summer students are helping out, along with volunteers like Chris Lilly, who was out last Wednesday serving as the coxswain for a young crew.
“I cox three other teams,” Lilly explained, “and my son Peter, he said he wanted to row, and he said, ‘Dad, can we put a team in?’”
A team came together in less than two days, and despite only being able to take a boat out on the water a handful of times this summer, Lilly said they were doing really well.
“When I first put them in a boat, they were like a spider going up the pond. It was oars all like this, all different ways, and now they’re 85 per cent there. Another three-or-four practices before regatta, and they’ll be a different team come regatta day,” said Lilly, adding that staying in stroke as a team is the hardest part for beginners.
This year’s regatta will feature 48 crews competing, including 26 local teams (16 youth and 10 adult).
“It’s always really busy in here, and even if we don’t get out on the water when it’s windy, it’s still busy with the kids running around and stuff, because everyone is just waiting for the wind to break,” said Durnford.
Denicka Baker, Brooke Higdon, Emma Keats, Kyla Mercer and Rachel Snow formed a new youth team for this year’s regatta. All five girls hail from Carbonear, excluding Mercer, who is from Harbour Grace.
“Our friend wanted to make a team, so she texted us all, and she was like, ‘Do you guys want to make a team?’ And we were like, ‘Sure.’” said Snow.
Baker said it was hard at the start getting used to rowing as a team. Higdon found learning to turn the boat difficult, and the act of rowing with oars was painful on Snow’s hands before she started developing calluses.
Despite some initial struggles, they’ve quickly become fond of rowing and have improved considerably over time. For the 1.22-kilometre race, they started at the beginning of July with a time of eight-anda-half minutes, but have since brought it down to six-and-ahalf minutes.
“I just kind of like the experience of rowing,” said Baker. And their goal for this year? “To finish,” Snow joked as her teammates laughed along with her heartily.
For a full race-day schedule, regatta fans can visit the event’s Facebook page at https://www. facebook.com/harbourgraceregatta/.
This young crew managed to get some valuable practice time in on Lady Lake last Wednesday. Pictured, left to right, are Ryan Snow, Noah Mercer, Pearson Babb, Gavin Dobbin, Braeden Sullivan, Kyla Mercer (filling in for Kolby Noel, who couldn’t attend the practice) and coxswain Nicole Menchions.
A young crew returns to land following a practice run on Lady Lake in Harbour Grace. From the left is coxswain Chris Lilly, stroke Neal Button, Kassidy Farrell, Matthew Follett, Tyler Kennedy, Peter Sampson and Michael Cole.
These rowers formed a crew for the first time in advance of the 2017 Harbour Grace Regatta. From the left are Brooke Higdon, Denicka Baker, Emma Keats and Rachel Snow. Missing from the photo is fellow teammate Kyla Mercer, who was out in a boat practicing with another crew.