As James Cadigan joined his brother Daniel at Quidi Vidi for an evening spin with their Rogers Bussey Lawyers crew Tuesday evening, the sun was beginning to set, the wind had begun to slack off considerably and the water began to flatten, creating near perfect rowing conditions.
As the other members of the crew — Ronnie Whitten, Matthew Manning, Craig Whittle, and Adam Kavanagh — arrived for their session, Cadigan suggested they take advantage of the pond and row for time.
Going for time — the proverbial “poke” — with these two-time defending men’s champions of the Royal St. John’s Regatta, means getting under the nine-minute mark — something the crew hadn’t done yet this season.
They didn’t get there Tuesday either, clocking a very unofficial time of around nine minutes and 10-seconds, depending on whose stopwatch one was going by.
“There was a couple of seconds of wind on the pond and there’s different factors to be taken into consideration,” says Cadigan, not mentioning they were also affected by having to steer around a ladies crew training at the same time.
“I feel we’re capable of getting close to nine minutes. (The) conditions are going to have to be there for us, of course.”
Inside the boat, coxswain Ben Colbourne had about the same time as those on the shore, but he says you have to consider the previous three days when assessing their time in Tuesday’s poke. On Saturday, Rogers Bussey competed in and won the men’s title at the Placentia Regatta, and had been completing some intense ergometer training in the days following.
“If the opportunity strikes for us to go for time, we do because it’s a good indicator,” he says. “But they’ve worked hard for the past two or three days, so they’re not fresh. We make up a bit of time there.”
Colbourne, a slide-seat rower who has earned a mountain of respect within the fixed-seat community since in recent years, believes the crew is more than capable of rowing under nine minutes if the conditions are ideal for next week’s Regatta at Quidi Vidi.
“I really hope they can.They want to go under nine, but so do I.
“I’ve never been there,” says Colbourne.
He’s not the only member of the Rogers Bussey team to have never broken the barrier.
No. 2 oar Whittle has yet to get there in his 20 years rowing at Quidi Vidi, although Rogers Bussey went under nine minutes twice in Placentia last year — the first crew to ever accomplish the feat. The closest Whittle has come in St. John’s was in 2007 when Exit Realty rowed nine flat and change.
What’s more, this loks like Whittle’s last shot at the elusive sub-nine as he’s decided to step away from the competitive side of the sport. Most of the 37-year-old’s two straight decades of rowing in the Royal St. John’s Regatta have been dedicated to winning a championship.
“For the longest while, I didn’t think I’d ever win one,” says Whittle, who copped his first title with O’Dea Earle in 2008.
“To come back and get in with these fellas and hopefully win a third in a row this year is icing on the cake.”
“It’s been a long haul. I would be nice to finish, finally breaking the nine minute mark.
“But if we don’t get there, it was a still great run.”
Of course, any time a crew trains to row under nine minutes, they’re approaching the record of 8:51.32 set by Crosbie Industrial Services in 2007. But Cadigan, who was part of that record-breaking crew, says there’s been no talk of records this year, and as such, they haven’t trained for it.
“That’s another level you have to go to, basically make rowing your life,” explains Cadigan.
“This year, we’re just talking about going as fast as we can.”
Expect Toyota Plaza to challenge
Looking to keep Rogers Bussey from completing a St. John’s Regatta three-peat, is a returning Toyota Plaza crew which bested Rogers Bussey in last year’s time trials, but came up five seconds short in the 2011 championship race on Regatta Day.
While they’ve had some changes in their boat — Manning rejoined Rogers Bussey, and Jeremy Kavanagh moved to the spare spot, leaving openings filled by slide-seater Zach Meaney and Ferryland native Ryan Kavanagh — everyone in the Rogers Bussey Lawyers boat expects the young Toyota Plaza team to challenge once again.
Toyota was about 18 seconds off Rogers Bussey’s pace at the Discovery Day Regatta and a full 20 seconds behind at time trials. But last weekend in Placentia, Toyota narrowed that margin to 12 seconds in the qualifying race and a 5.66 seconds in the championship race, although it should be noted Rogers Bussey spare Jon LeDrew rowed for Dan Cadigan in Placentia’s men’s final.
James Cadigan says the Placentia experience proved what they already knew about the Toyota crew, seen as the only legitimate challenger in this year’s field of competitive men’s teams. (The next closest in the time trials was Carew Services, 52 seconds off the pace.)
“We have to be prepared for their (Toyota’s) push. They’re ready to go, they want it, they’re hungry and we know it,” he said.
“We need to be mindful of their push come Regatta Day.”
The 2012 Regatta goes Wednesday, as always, weather permitting.