Fewer fellas spinning on the pond

John Browne
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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.




Organizations: Regatta Committee, Time Trials

Geographic location: Quidi Vidi Lake

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Recent comments

  • Danny
    June 28, 2013 - 02:08

    More women ..yay!! Let the lard butts stay exercising the thumbs...I'll stay rowing!! :)

  • Safe Work
    June 27, 2013 - 11:19

    The upside of their being only nine male crews is a guaranteed top ten finish for our Safe Work men's team!

  • Ryan
    June 27, 2013 - 11:00

    The first Friday? Really? If we are going to change the date of anything, why not change it so that the George St. festival begins on regatta day instead of ending on it. That alone would increase both participation and attendance. Any competitive team right now can basically have no involvement in the festival, and any spectators are far too under the weather from a week of festivities to even care about getting up on one of their only holidays for the summer. other than that i see no need to change the oldest sporting event in north america. its got nothing to do with video games nor the cost - i have rowed for 5 years and have never had $1 dollar owed that the sponsor didnt pay, and i still play video games. the problem is that its a huge commitment even for non-competitive crews, its incredibly hard to learn and become good at, there is a lack of available coaching, there's no glory in winning outside the inner circle of rowers, and no prize money, but sorry fellas - this is rowing. Currently, people see it only as a day off to recover after the george strreet festival instead of a proud newfoundland tradition. we need to change the attitudes towards the regatta, not the sport itself - it has lasted for 200 years without the changes you suggested, thats got to stand for something.

  • Mike
    June 27, 2013 - 09:59

    Of course all men aged 18-30 are lazy bums playing video games. None of them go working offshore for longer period of times. None of them participate to other competitive sport activities such as running, cycling, hockey, basketball,soccer,rugby, whatnot. Maybe the reasons why males don't participate is because it is very complicated to get a competitive crew going: - you need to have 7 fellas having similar working schedule to fit 6-7 trainings a week - you need to book the spins every single day for the following day (which is a pain) - the workout you get out of a spin is pretty short (30 min) so if you want to build some stregth/endurance you 'll have to go for an additional session, so many may think it's better to go for an hour run or a longer workout in the gym - it's expensive: 1000$ to register and you need to buy your own seats. I know you get sponsored but it's some work to go to see the companies and get some sponsorship. Some people just don't want that kind of hassle to exercise.

  • Skipper McGee
    June 27, 2013 - 09:31

    Women, for the most part, love rowing because it provides them with the opportunity to socialize, get in shape and have fun (with little concern spent on winning); the majority of men, meanwhile, may feel that their egos are damaged if they're not clocking times under 10:00 for the course and making championship race. The flip side is, of course, that it takes a tremendous amount of work to get to the level of competitive in the Royal St. John's Regatta. But why is it, then, that thousands of only armchair-athlete men line up to run the Tely 10 each year? For one, it's advertised like crazy, and two, you don't necessarily need to run in wind and rain, using semi-poor equipment and beat-out muscles -- you can get on a treadmill at the gym and go at your own pace. It's a one-man thing -- and rowing is the ultimate team sport. While the Regatta Committee is making great strides in getting youth involved in the sport, perhaps a strategic look at getting the 18-55 male crowd involved and more competitive would be an extremely worthwhile investment.

  • Lou
    June 27, 2013 - 09:27

    The Men(ages 18-30 ) of today are too busy playing video games, and the only exercise they get(on their thumbs) or competition they have is through the games on the computer. Just my thought!!!! Just not like fellas from years gone by. Also Joe is right... time to move on and make some changes in the date, the first Friday of August and then Saturday, Sunday if weather bad on Friday.

  • joe
    June 27, 2013 - 07:56

    Its 2013, people do not want to give up there whole summer for one day of the year, brutal weather, wind, rain, even a broken oar can cause the day to be a waste. I get that it would keep you in great shape but their are other means for that now. Times have changed. Maybe one suggestion for the Regetta Committee would be to make the regetta on the first friday of August and host the regatta on that day, keeping saturday and Sunday open in case of bad weather. Then you have 3 shots at having a good day. I am sure the vendors would appreciate that as well. Time for the regetta committee to start making some progressive decisions and stop with the whole traditional speel regarding 1st wednesday of august. Well, thats if they want to see it continue to 2020.

    • Patrick
      June 28, 2013 - 07:42

      The regetta on the first friday of August!!!! ....Joe, I don't think that would work...people, MAYBE RIGHTLY SO, would be off to their cabins etc. for a ''L-O-N-G W-E-E-K-E-N-D...which inclement never bothers...it's always a go.