Veteran cox looks to claim first men’s championship

Kenn Oliver
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Nasty tumble, heart attack couldn't keep Brennan out of the boat

Veteran coxswain Ronnie Brennan waited more than 40 long years to win his first championship race at the Royal St. John’s Regatta.

“In 1996,  I had an RNC crew out there and we lost by two seconds to Outer Cove. That’s the closest I’ve ever come,” says Brennan, who makes no secret of his desire to alter that history.

“I really want this men’s championship.”

This year, he just might have it.

Brennan will be steering two top-flight crews on Wednesday, when the 192nd Royal St. John’s Regatta will go — weather permitting — at Quidi Vidi: his championship winning ladies’ team from last year and a men’s crew sponsored by Rogers Bussey Lawyers.

“The boys are in good shape,” Brennan says of his crew of stroke James Cadigan, Chris Neary, Ronnie Whitten, Daniel Cadigan, Craig Whittle, Matthew Manning and spare Brent Hickey.

“We’re going to work hard for it.

“They had the best time in the time trials, so we’re the favourites this year.”

At the time trials, Rogers Bussey posted a time of 9:38.80, well ahead of the rest of the field. The next-best time — about 15 seconds slower — belongs to the Marco intermediate crew, which didn’t participate in the time trials. They were on the mainland for a sliding-seat event, and therefore were given dispensation and a qualifying time based on their clocking in the St. John’s Day regatta.

Marco’s coxswain is Gerard Doran

“I taught him how to row,” teases Brennan. “If you want to look at anybody who has won a championship in the last 10 or 15 years, I’ve had something do with it.”

Brennan’s crew is already two-thirds of the way to a triple crown. They easily won the men’s title in Placentia with a 9:13.40 — after rowing 9:06.36 in their morning heat — and last weekend, rowed a 10:45.62 in the Harbour Grace Regatta’s men’s championship.

“I’ve been in the championship race more than anybody down there,” says Ronnie Brennan

The scare

That Brennan is even in the boat this year is somewhat miraculous.

His life-long streak of never having been sick or injured enough to need medical attention came to an end in one little fall.

While rollerskating at the Jack Byrne Arena this spring, he took a tumble and tore nerves in his left hip.

After two weeks of bed rest and prescribed painkillers, Brennan had to be taken to the hospital after complaining of heart pains.

“I think the strain of the pain gave me a slight heart attack,” says Brennan who was relieved to find out there was no permanent damage to his ticker.

 “Dr. Karen Fagan patted me on the back and said, ‘go on home, you’re best kind.’”

As for the hip, Brennan says it’s coming along.

“They said I’ll always get a bit of nagging pain there, but it’ll heal eventually,” he says. “I got more of a scare than anything.”

Brennan has no intention of making his 47th year pond-side his last, even if he gets that elusive men’s crown.

“It’s not up to me. It’s up to the crews. If someone comes around next year asking me to steer their crew and they’re competitive, I’ll keep going.

“I have no trouble getting crews. They’ll come to me on Regatta night and ask me to steer them next year.”

Organizations: OZ-FM, John Atkins Co.

Geographic location: Placentia

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Recent comments

  • Bill Holwell
    August 04, 2010 - 05:57

    Ron; you will be on the podium tonight. I was with you in 96 when we lost and I know it hurt, but I will be cheering you tonight when you toast the cup. Congrats!!!!!!!!

  • Albert Gibbons
    August 03, 2010 - 16:09

    Good luck Ron. If not for people like you the Regatta may have died off years ago. Your love for the sport has been genuine & unselfish.

  • Brian Moffatt
    August 03, 2010 - 12:11

    Good Luck Ron to both you and your crew. Wish I could be there to cheer you on.

  • derek holwell
    August 03, 2010 - 10:03

    best of luck on regetta day to you and your crew.Ron; your time has come.

  • Corina Byrne
    August 03, 2010 - 08:20

    Best of luck to you and your crew, Ron!

    • Mike Power
      August 03, 2010 - 14:43

      Ronnie good luck to you and the crew tomorrow, Tormoorw night you very well could be in the history of the Regetta books as the 2010 mens champions .Ronnie for the last forty years you have taken crews taht never had a small balls chnce ioh hell of winning .But Ronnie you gave them all hope nand made them feel like champions , thanks for all of them.Win loose tomorrow for your deication and timeless sacrafice to the regetta you are in my book a champion .Again Thanks for keeping the regetta alive good luck , we will see you at the regetta .