It's time to have some fun at Quidi Vidi

John
John Browne
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The Royal St. John's Regatta program needs a little tweaking to generate some interest in the races on Quidi Vidi Lake.

Let's face it, aside from the early morning races when the elite crews traditionally have the best shot at a course record, and the final two races of the day, the rest of the program is dull and irrelevant for most folks at pondside.

The Royal St. John's Regatta program needs a little tweaking to generate some interest in the races on Quidi Vidi Lake.

Let's face it, aside from the early morning races when the elite crews traditionally have the best shot at a course record, and the final two races of the day, the rest of the program is dull and irrelevant for most folks at pondside.

The old Regatta needs something new, something potentially interesting and fun that would create some interest among the bystanders.

What's needed are some fun races with the potential to build natural rivalries among the participants.

For example, how about setting up two special races at the end of schedule specifically for athletes involved in local teams sports? In other words, a crew made up of softballers, one comprised of baseball players, another made up of rugby players, etc. An exception would have to be made for these crews because the athletes wouldn't have the time to train all summer on the pond due to their involvement in their main sports. They'd just need three or four spins to get used to the shells and then off they'd go.

Of course, it would mean making an exception for one or two (male, female) specialty races, but I believe the interest it would generate among the local athletes and various sports teams would be well worth it. All crew members would have to be registered with specific sports teams to be eligible.

We're talking about a couple of fun races and because the crews wouldn't have participated in the time trials, they would not be eligible for the championship races.

Another idea would be a fun race with teams sponsored by locals bars and made up of crew members who frequent the local watering holes on a regular basis. In this case, the honour system would apply.

Another alternative to the current program would be to make sliding-seat races a permanent part of the program. The Regatta Committee has permitted sliding seaters on the pond in the past on a demonstration basis only. I think the sliders deserve better. Sliding-seat races should become an integral part of the Regatta as their athletes are some of the best rowers in the province and have proven it time and again in the Canada Games and at various mainland competitions. Ten years from now, I'd like to see the Regatta divided evenly between fixed and sliding-seat and crews.

The Regatta could also use more and better outside competition to shake up and push the local crews.

It's too bad the Corner Brook, Placentia and Harbour Grace regattas are not producing crews on a regular basis good enough to contend for the St. John's male and female championship races.

The best thing that could happen to the Royal St. John's Regatta would be a crew from outside the capital city taking a championship race or setting a course record. The St. John's Regatta Committee has helped out these regattas in various ways in the past. Now, it is up to those areas to better develop the sport instead of having to depend on teams from St. John's to fill out their program.

There are about 10 less crews competing in this year's Royal St. John's Regatta, which may be a trend or just a blip.

If it's a trend, Regatta Committee members need to sit up and take notice.

Some members of the Regatta Committee don't like change of any sort. They talk about sacred tradition when they know full well all sorts of Regatta traditions have been changed and/or abandoned over the years.

In most cases, the changes have made for a better event.

Regatta president Gary Squires, a former rower, isn't one of those opposed to change and he says he is open to new ideas.

When asked if sliding-seat races could become a permanent part of the program, he said he wouldn't rule anything out.

Maybe the Regatta Committee will be forced to turn to the sliders if the fixed-seat crew numbers continue to drop over the next few years. There's always the possibility of going back to the days when the elite crews got to row twice before the championship race.

Squires said he would be concerned if the numbers are down again next year and if there appears to be a negative trend in overall numbers.

"Our numbers have been up and down over the years and I suppose there are many reasons why, including poor weather this summer. In some cases, people are just taking a year off and will be back next season," said Squires, who believes out-migration might also be taking a toll.

"If there's an idea presented that would probably generate some more interest, I'd be open to it as an individual and I'd bring it forward (to the committee)," he said.

jbrowne@thetelegram.com

Gary Squires

Organizations: St John's, Regatta Committee

Geographic location: Quidi Vidi Lake, Corner Brook

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