Expect close race for women's crown

Brendan McCarthy
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East Coast Maintenance Services men's crew to beat

Based on times rowed so far this year, here's a simple assessment of what might be expected - in terms of championship contenders - for the 191st Royal St. John's Regatta, today at Quidi Vidi Lake:
• There have been a couple of name/sponsor changes, a few crew adjustments, but the women's competition is basically comes down to the same three-team affair it was last year
• And barring any big surprises/major accidents, the men's championship may be classified as a foregone conclusion.
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Women's crews
In 2008, H.J. O'Connell, won the regatta women's championship, finishing three-and-1/2 seconds ahead of Power Vac and four seconds in front of Smith Stockley. But going by the Regatta time trials last month, it may be an even closer contest among these three teams this year.
The majority of the '08 champs are back this year as part of the North Atlantic (Yay! Rewards) entry. Cox Gord Delaney, stroke Ashley Peach, Lisa Jestican, Tracy Hussey and spare Krista Carew are the returnees, joined by Teresa Butler, Catherine Kelly and Kim Oates, the latter having rowed with Marco, the fourth-place finisher in the women's final last year.
North Atlantic was third in the time trials, just over two seconds behind No. 1-seed John Atkins Marketing, but has since won the championship finals in both Placentia and Harbour Grace, defeating John Atkins in the latter.
That puts North Atlantic in line for the triple crown.
John Atkins Marketing is one of three Regatta entries made up of members of the provincial sliding-seat rowing team that will compete in the Canada Games in P.E.I., later this month.
The Atkins crew is, for the most part, the Power Vac intermediate team that was runner-up in the women's final in 2008. Coxswain Ron Brennan, Steph Davis, Jane Brodie, Hilary Sinclair, Shannon Driscoll and spare Amanda Ryan are joined by new stroke Alison Delong and Alyssa Devereaux, who were both with Marco in 2008. All are intermediate age, but the crew chose to compete in the senior women's division.
John Atkins wasn't entered in Placentia - the crew members were in Halifax to compete in the Atlantic rowing championship. However, they were in Harbour Grace where they easily won the first race of the day, outdistancing North Atlantic by more than 11 seconds and setting a record in the process. However, there was a big turnaround in the evening championship race, with North Atlantic putting together a race-record time of 5:17.50, more than two seconds faster than John Atkins -which struggled a bit on the turn - and 17 seconds better than their morning time.
Smith Stockley was just a second-and-a half behind John Atkins in the time trials, but didn't race in either Placentia or Harbour Grace.
Coxswain Paul Ring, stroke Tina Hunt, Wendi Young, Williamina Martin and spare Paula Howell are back with Stockley, joined by Samatha Power, Jennifer Carroll and Susie Ennis, the latter having rowed in last year's final as part of fifth-place Audio Systems.
Rounding out the five fastest time-trial clockings by senior female crews and the lineup for the Female Amateur - the first race on Wednesday's schedule - are Provincial Airline/Portugal Cove and Central Dairies, who were, respectively, 21 and 29 seconds slower than third-seeded North Atlantic.
The fifth-fastest time trial result actually belonged this year's Power Vac intermediate entry (5:34.13), which is another Canada Games-based crew. Power Vac and another intermediate team, Norampac (5:39.05), will contend for a spot in the five-team final, although it would take a huge improvement for anyone to challenge the three top-ranked crews.
In terms of close races, today's second dash - the Female Mercantile - might be the tightest, at least going by the time trials. On that day, only 2.44 seconds separated Fortis, Newfoundland Herald, Roebothan McKay Marshall, All-Star Rebar and Prudential Reardon Realty.
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Top-ranked men's crews
Going only by the time trials, East Coast Maintenance Services has to be seen as the prohibitive favourite for the men's championship this year. And it's a finding that would be positively augmented by recent regatta history.
The majority of the crew - which was more than 12 seconds faster than anyone else in the time trials - were members of the Crosbie Industrial Services entry which won regatta championships in 2006 and 2007, setting a course record of 8:51.32 in the latter year.
Coxswain Mark Hayward, stroke oar Brent Hickey, Ronnie Whitten and James Cadigan were on those two championship teams. They are joined this year by Jeremy Kavanagh, Luke Hayes and Matthew Manning, who had previous success at the Regatta as intermediates.
The defending regatta men's champion is O'Dea Earle, and four members of the 2008 team are back. Stroke Chris Neary, Scott Wilson, Craig Whittle and Adam Power are back, joined by coxswain Ben Colbourne, Steve Ring and Adam Shea. O'Deal Earle was fourth-fastest in the time trials at 9:51.32, behind East Coast Maintenance (9:28.09), Lambs Rum (9:40.23) and Browne's Auto Supplies (9:42.58)
In Placentia, Lambs Rum won the men's championship in 9:36.25. The team includes coxswain Gord Delaney, stroke Doug Trainor, Dan Cadigan, Chris Quinton, Jonathan Walsh, Adam Nichols and spare Ian Anderson, all returnees from the entry which was runner-up to O'Dea Earle in the 2008 regatta men's championship race.
In Harbour Grace, Browne's Auto Supplies, with coxswain Danny Harte, stroke Tyler Young, Paul Hussey, Mark Perry, Chris Clarke, Josh Sutton and Brent Payne, won the men's title in a championship race record of 9:57.03. This is the third Regatta crew made up of Canada Games athletes, and like their female counterparts on John Atkins Marketing, the members are young enough to row as intermediates, but have chosen to move up to the senior men's division.
Lambs Rum wasn't entered in Harbour Grace, while East Coast Maintenance didn't row in either Placentia or Harbour Grace.
The fifth-fastest senior men's crew was Shamrock City, a Ron Brennan-steered group whose lineup is better-known for success in other sports. Senior hockey's Eddie Oates, Steve Cleary (stroke) and Chris Bartlett, along with softball notables Ron Boland and Wish Pittman join Geoff Humphries, who rowed in last year's men's championship with fifth-place IKM.
However, Shamrock City will have to be a lot faster than its time-trial result of 10:21.54, which was slower than that posted by a couple of masters crews - Mask Security (10:13.19) and NMP/Iceberg (10:13.79).

bmcc@thetelegram.com

Organizations: East Coast Maintenance Services, Power Vac, St John's Audio Systems Crosbie Industrial Services

Geographic location: North Atlantic, Placentia, Quidi Vidi Lake Halifax Portugal Cove Newfoundland Shamrock

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