But the veteran cox had never stood on the top step and hoisted the Dominion Ale trophy, sipping from its storied bowl.
That is, until Wednesday evening.
Brennan’s Rogers Bussey Lawyers crew of stroke James Cadigan, Chris Neary, Ronnie Whitten, Daniel Cadigan, Craig Whittle and Matthew Manning clocked a 9:32.76 to win the male championship race at the 192nd Regatta.
“All those years of waiting for it and to finally get one,” an ecstatic Brennan said following the win while a crowd gathered at the boathouse filled the air with chants of ‘Ronnie! Ronnie! Ronnie!’
“Is it ever sweet.”
In their morning heat, the team used near ideal conditions to their advantage and turned in a 9:03.98.
“If the pond had been there in the evening, I think we could have done under nine minutes, said Brennan who went through a particularly trying first half of 2010. After tearing nerves in his hip in a fall, he suffered a mild heart attack and was taken to hospital.
With a clean bill of health, no permanent damage to his heart and his hip on the mend, he was able to get back on the water late this Spring.
Whitten says it meant a lot to the crew to win this for Brennan, his first cox when he began rowing a decade ago.
“He’s one of those guys who never really had a good chance at wining it, we wanted to get him one,” said Whitten, who won his seventh championship in 10 years.
James Cadigan, says a win was well deserved for a man who has helped keep rowing alive locally.
“It’s pretty tough to get a coxswain these days for a crew who come down maybe five times a week.
“He stepped up and said he was interested in cox’ing us because it looked like we had something good.”
Cadigan, whose father Ron was cox’ed by Brennan to a Placentia championship in the mid 1980s, said it was equally special to win a title with his young brother.
“He’s been following my crews for the past four or five years, so it’s a big day for him.”
With a boat loaded with some of the stronger rowers the Regatta has seen in recent years — including a pair from the 2007 8:51.32 record-setting Crosbie Industrial Services team in James Cadigan, and Whitten — on paper, the team looked nearly unbeatable.
But unlike most crews who are established and begin training early in the new year, Rogers Bussey didn’t hit the water until the third week of May according to Whittle.
“This year, most of us never had intentions of rowing but when the opportunity came up to get in with these guys, Chris Neary and I jumped on it.
“All those years of waiting for it and to finally get one,” - Ronnie Brennan
“Normally we’re in the other boat competing against them and battling it out, so it’s nice to sit in there with them.”
Once they started rowing together, using coach Ben Colbourne as cox until Brennan was well enough to climb back in the shell, it didn’t take long for them to return to form.
“Everyone has the technique, it was just a matter of whether we could get in race shape in such a short period of time.”
Whitten adds that there were no expectations when they first got together.
“We started to get pretty fast fairly quickly and started working a little harder.”
Danny Harte, who cox’ed the second place OZ-FM crew, didn’t doubt Rogers Bussey’s ability to take the title.
“They boys are legends on the pond. They’re an unbelievable team.
“They have a wicked pickup off the kegs. They make their turn at the bottom of the pond and they’re gone.”
The Marco intermediate men’s crew turned in a 10:08.67 to claim third place.
The win successfully completes a Triple Crown bid for Rogers Bussey. The team won at both Placentia and Harbour Grace in the weeks leading up St. John’s.