In the blood

John Browne
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Veteran oarsman as excited about race day now as he was 50 years ago

Gerry Squires, (second from right) takes to the water with his crew Monday evening. Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

Its something akin to the call of the wild.

Gerry Squires cant explain it, except to say it is in his blood so, even at 67, he keeps returning to Quidi Vidi Lake and the Royal St. Johns Regatta.

Squires figures he has participated in more than 20 regattas and he says he is just as excited this week as he was when he rowed on the pond for the first time as a 14-year-old.

I just love it, said Squires. What can I say? Once you get started it gets in your blood. Its just great.

Squires and his East Coast Marine crew will compete in the Molson Masters Race on Regatta Day. Although the team won their race in last Sundays Harbour Grace Regatta and finished third in the championship race, the crew isnt favoured in the St. Johns event scheduled for Wednesday, weather permitting.

We finished over a minute behind Mask Security in the time trials, but thats a crew full of former champions, noted Squires. Still, well do much better on Regatta Day, he promised.

Squires had success early in his rowing career, winning a race his third time out.

He rowed with St. Pats to the fourth best time on the pond in 1957, but the celebration was tempered when the record-setting juvenile race winners were not permitted to compete in the championship race.

Squires is a little bit foggy concerning the reason.

It may have been because they had just finished rowing the last race of the day on the regular card and to row again might be too much for the youngsters or it could have been simply because they were too young. Hes not sure.

As it turns out, the official reason was that regulations at the time prohibited juveniles to compete in more than one race in a day.

Squires still wonders how well his young crew would have done in the final. St. Pats won the juvenile race in 10:54. The championship race was won by St. Bons in 10:10.

Squires moved to Ontario the next year and some years later he returned to St. Johns, but he was too busy raising his family to take part in the Regatta.

Then, in 1992, Mick Dwyer and John Warren helped get a masters division on the Regatta card.

Squires hadnt planned to row, but when Dwyers crew needed to replace the No. 5 oar, he couldnt resist. Once he got back on the pond, it was if hed never left.

He rowed with his son, Gary, for East Coast Marine in the 2002 Regatta. Gary, who is now the Royal St. Johns Regatta president, had coxed for his dads crew in 2000.

Before getting back on the pond, Squires decided to get in the best shape possible.

Its like anything else, he said. Youve got to get yourself prepared. Its hard to get back at it once youve stopped, so you need to get in shape and stay in shape. Its not hard for me because I enjoy training and working out as much as I enjoy rowing.

Keeping in shape at his age meant being able to work out all year around, so the next move was obvious, according to Squires.

With the help of his son-in-law, Cyril Coombs, Squires turned a room at the East Coast Marine building on Water Street into a gymnasium that eventually included ergometer rowing machines and various weight machines.

Coombs, at 68, is the oldest member of the East Coast Marine crew which also features coxswain Michael Shea, stroke Rick Coish, Gary Tulk, Jerome Kenny, Derek Mercer and spare Danny Harte.

Why slow down?

Squires, who started walking up Signal Hill every day after he retired a few years ago, has kept himself in top-notch shape and he sees no reason why hell ever need to slow down or quit rowing, for that matter.

You have to train. The new boats require a lot of technique to handle properly. You need balance in the boat and you need time. Everything has to be perfect, he said.

That means commitment from everyone in the crew, something Squires feels may be lacking in the younger generation of male rowers.

You cant just have five people showing up for practice and training. If one doesnt show, it affects the others. All six have to be committed.

That has never been a problem with Squires.

You always row to win, he maintains.

But every crew that rows 11 minutes works just as hard as a crew that rows nine minutes and they often put in just as much time.

Commitment, according to Squires, is measured in effort and not necessarily by the clock.

Geographic location: Quidi Vidi Lake, Regatta, Ontario Water Street Signal Hill

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