Rowing for the Republic

Published on August 2, 2011
“Republic of Doyle” actress Lynda Boyd is rowing in this year’s Royal St. John’s Regatta, in a team sponsored by the show. Boyd, who joined a rowing team in Vancouver last spring in order to be able to row in the Regatta, says she feels humbled to be a mainlander taking part in such a historical Newfoundland event. — Photo by Tara Bradbury/The Telegram

It’s the first week in August, and actress Lynda Boyd is back in her theatre years, feeling the jitters in her tummy as if she’s about to step onstage for opening night of a play.

It’s not on a stage on which she’s about to perform, however, nor is it her usual “Republic of Doyle” set; it’s an open pond.

Boyd, who plays Rose on the hit CBC-TV series, is rowing on the show-sponsored women’s team in Wednesday’s Royal St. John’s Regatta.

“I’ve got the jitters,” Boyd told The Telegram. “I keep trying to talk myself down like I did before opening nights, saying it’s just a rehearsal, not a big deal.”

Boyd is currently filming her third season on “Doyle,” but has not yet been to a regatta. She knows all the history, though — once she got the role on the show and moved from Vancouver to St. John’s in 2009, she did some research.

“I’m Canadian, but I didn’t know anything about Newfoundland. I mean, I know what you learn in social studies in school, but that was a million years ago, and I really wanted to know about this place and where it came from. I bought a Newfoundland history book, and there was a section on the Regatta.”

Boyd said she has a fair bit of free time while “Doyle” is filming. Because Rose is generally seen at home and in the office, she doesn’t have to do a lot of the location shots that the other main actors, Allan Hawco and Sean McGinley, do, and for the past two years, has taken up extra-curricular activities.

She’s taught acting classes in St. John’s, and sings in a band, the Dukes of Doyle, with crew members.

Last spring, while back in Vancouver, she got the idea to start rowing.

“Doyle” sponsors a women’s team in the regatta, and Boyd — who had never rowed before in her life — called producer Mary Sexton to see what her chances were of making the team. Sexton signed her up, and when she arrived in town in June, the team, which includes Boyd, Sexton, Carolyn Cook, Bernie Donahue, Carla Lawrence and Bernadette Jerrett, started training together at Quidi Vidi.

Before now, Boyd didn’t have any rowing experience, although she says she’s always been active. She’s a former kickboxer and marathon runner, forced to stop after suffering injuries, including a blown-out knee. She still enjoys hiking, though, and does the Signal Hill trail right after rowing practice is over each morning.

“I’m definitely the weakest link,” she said, laughing, about the rowing team. “I’m lucky we have such a great coxswain.”

Coxswain Ed Oates has given her the best piece of advice for the race, she said.

“He says, ‘Don’t be your own rower.’ I try to keep my eye on the paddle in front of me, and focus on making my paddle go out of the water, up and back down in the water at the same time,” Boyd explained.

“You know those wind-up monkeys that play the accordion and the cymbals and stamp their foot at the same time? All the while, I feel like one of those!”

All the physical training she’s been doing has put Boyd in the best physical shape of her adult life, with stronger core, leg and arm muscles. Getting up Signal Hill is getting easier, Boyd said.

“My arms are tighter, too — my tattoo doesn’t jiggle anymore,” she added with a laugh.

She got her arm-band tattoo at Troublebound Tattoo Studio on Water Street after Season One on “Doyle,” wanting to link herself with this province “in a way I couldn’t get rid of.”

What Boyd is enjoying most from being on the team has nothing to do with the actual sport. It’s the camaraderie amongst the women, something she says is unique to this province and struck her right away when she first arrived.

“As a CFA ( “come-from-away”), I’ve observed that the women in this town are unique in that they are kind to each other and non-competitive, aside from Regatta Day,” Boyd said. “I’m inspired by the strength, power and creativity I see in the women of St. John’s.”

Boyd’s team, funnily enough, is competing against The Dukettes, a team sponsored by the Duke of Duckworth — the neighbourhood pub on “Republic of Doyle” — in the Goodlife Fitness Female All-Comers race, and finished with a time of 7:09:96 in the time trials; something they’re hoping to shave at least a half a minute off before Wednesday’s race. Boyd said she’s optimistic they’ll be able to do it. The Dukettes have a time of 7:13:29.

Other teams in the race are sponsored by Trapper John’s (6:55:18), Pennecon (7:02:85), and Comfort Inn (7:05:15). Boyd plans to join the local rowing club after the Regatta and continue training throughout the year, so she’ll be prepared when Regatta Day rolls around again next year.

The fact that she’s a mainlander competing in an event that’s a significant part of local tradition isn’t lost on her.

“I get really quiet and humble when I think about it. I don’t think a lot of CFAs get to row in the Regatta, right? I’m very excited.”

Boyd’s team races at Quidi Vidi Lake at 3:20pm Regatta Day.