Crews sought for harbour punt race

James McLeod
Published on July 11, 2014
St. John’s South-Mount Pearl MP Ryan Cleary (right) speaks to reporters alongside organizers for the second annual Grand Punt Race. The race around the St. John’s harbour will take place Aug. 9, with a $3,000 purse to be divided among the winning men’s and women’s crews.
— Photo by James McLeod/The Telegram

Next month, the Grand Punt Race will be bigger than last year, with more races, more punts and, hopefully, more attention from the public.

NDP MP Ryan Cleary called reporters to the edge of St. John’s harbour Friday to announce that the second annual Grand Punt Race will take place on Saturday, Aug. 9.

“Last year’s Grand Punt Race was a highlight of the summer, even though our townie pride was crushed. The women’s crew from the bay beat the townie men’s crew by eight seconds over the same course,” Cleary said.

“That cannot happen again. I don’t think we’ll be able to live it down.”

The race is a bit of fun, but it’s organized by the Narrows Group, whose mission is to draw attention to the condition of the historic properties on either side of the entrance to St. John’s harbour.

Mark Hiscock, chairman of the Narrows Group, pointed out that the Second World War fortifications on the site are fenced off and crumbling.

“Across The Narrows, the wharves and stages, the rich fishing heritage and culture that The Battery is known for is also falling into the sea. The Narrows is one of the wonders of the world, and our goal is to enhance, protect and preserve it,” Hiscock said.

Organizers are still looking for people to participate in the race, and Cleary said the best way to get involved is to call his constituency office in Mount Pearl.

Aside from The Narrows, the event is also about rekindling people’s connection with the sea, Cleary said, and the historical connection to the inshore small-boat fishery.

“So many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians today don’t understand the difference between a punt and a dory, and we’re out to change that,” Cleary said.

He explained that a dory is flat-bottomed for storing on a schooner, whereas a punt is round-bottomed and better suited for hauling up on the ice when going after seals.

One lucky person will learn the difference first-hand. Over the next month, people will be selling tickets around town and at the Regatta, before a winner is drawn at the Grand Punt Race.

The winner will become the proud new owner of a championship punt that has competed in the Fogo Island Punt Race.

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