Royal St. John’s Regatta Committee not concerned about ripple effect
Zachary Meaney (back on) cox’ the Steers Insurance ladies crew of (from back) Janet Oates, Cindy Roache, Elizabeth Hunt, Anette Power, Rhonda Bridges and Carolyn Coady in a practice spin earlier this week on Quidi Vidi. At this past weekend’s Discovery Day Regatta, women outnumbered men’s crews four-to-one. The Royal St. John’s Regatta Committee wants to see more competitive male crews on the water and believe the learn to row program, launched three years ago, should eventually make that happen. — Photo by The Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram
Royal St. John’s Regatta Boathouse manager Tom Power doesn’t know where all the men have gone, and he’s not alone.
The Discovery Day Regatta was held last Saturday and of the 10 senior races on the schedule, and a combined intermediate/juvenile female race and a female masters race, there were only two male races. And, of the 52 total crews which took part Saturday, all but nine were female.
“I really don’t know,” said Power about the dearth of men’s crews showing up at Quidi Vidi Lake in recent years.
He admits in all the years he’s been around the pond — Power rowed competitively for years — he’s never seen so few men’s crews.
A few of last year’s better crews, including defending champion Rogers Bussey, are not back this summer, although they are expected to return next year after taking a break.
Perhaps, Power said, the current lack of men’s crews is just like a trend that comes and goes, and comes around again.
He also noted that, in the past, the veterans used to stay around to coach or cox and help the next generation, but that doesn’t happen as much as it used to.
Power, a legend on the pond with the famous 1981 record-breaking Smith Stockley crew, said the Regatta will always go on, but he admits it might never be exactly the same again.
Royal St. John’s Regatta Committee president Don Kelly said while he isn’t too concerned about the sport’s future as far as the men’s crews are concerned, he did admit the general trend in recent years has shown a lack of growth on the men’s side of things.
Kelly noted, however, that the number of men’s crews for the Discovery Day races has always been low and there won’t be an increase until the Time Trials.
The Discovery Day event is the first of five regattas on the fixed-seat schedule this season, together with the Time Trials (July 6 at Quidi Vidi), Placentia Regatta (July 20), Harbour Grace Regatta (July 27), culminating with the St. John’s event Aug. 7.
“It’s a bit early yet,” Kelly said. “We only have 50 or 60 crews registered at this point. That’s not unusual for this time of year. You have to wait until the Time Trials to know how we’re doing with crews.
“In the last several years, we’ve only had five men’s crews that anyone could consider competitive with only two or three of them considered elite. We’ve been trying our best to get more male teams and, it’s paying off at the younger age group level,” he said.
Kelly explained the learn-to-row program, which includes all ages, as well as the high school component of that program which runs in the spring and fall, is proving to be successful since it started three years ago.
He also said there were 12 squirt (9-10 years) crews — six male and six female — last year.
“These programs have paid off in spades for us,” noted Kelly.
“We’ve got concerns, but every sport is either down in numbers or just holding its own in terms of male registration.
“Whereas,” he added, “it seems as if the female registration in most sports is up in recent years.”
Kelly pointed out there has always been only two or three truly elite crews each year over the history of the Regatta. He said there’s always been some crews that are generally competitive, and some simply recreational.
“Our concern is getting more male crews back at the competitive level, not necessarily the elite level,” he said.
To get to the crews with the really fast times takes a huge commitment, said Kelly, and it will always be difficult to find a lot of those teams.