Before coming together to create a dominant Royal St. John’s Regatta rowing crew in 2010, the men who make up the nucleus of the Bussey Horwood Lawyers team competed against one another.
“But when we got together (for the) very first row we had three or four years ago, it felt awesome,” says Chris Neary.
“It’s been that way ever since.”
Along the way, the team collected three straight men’s titles (2010-12), and copped three triple crowns thanks to wins in the Placentia and Harbour Grace regattas.
After so much success and three summers of intense, six-days a week training to stay on top, the team opted not to return to defend it crown last year at Quidi Vidi Lake.
Stroke James Cadigan did row recreationally with some work friends — and their Blue on Water crew did find its way into the men’s championship race, finishing fourth — and Craig Whittle ended up with eventual men’s champ Toyota Plaza. However, the rest of the 2012 team — veterans Adam Kavanagh, Ronnie Whitten, Matthew Manning, Dan Cadigan, Brent Hickey and Neary — stayed off the water.
It wasn’t long after last year’s Regatta that they began talking about getting the band back together.
“I’m sure we had a few beer later that night and talked about it,” says Kavanagh.
“Over the winter, it became a little more serious trying to figure out who could row, what with work and family commitments.
“Once we figured out there were six guys who could row (this year), we decided to do it.
Neary, who had been away from the team in 2012 following the birth of his daughter Olivia, was particularly excited to get back for what he figures will be his last season of competitive rowing. He even purchased a rowing machine for his home.
“I was talking (to my wife) Jen about it and said I was probably going to be rowing, she said ‘I thought something was on the go, you had a big grin on your face.’”
The crew’s season started well enough as the guys posted a 9:26.17 in the Discovery Day Regatta, edging second-place MAX Athletics Men by close to eight seconds. They shaved another seven seconds with a first-place finish at the Regatta time trials last month, with Toyota just three seconds off the pace.
“We felt really good, but our times weren’t getting as fast as we’d hoped,” says Kavanagh.
At the Placentia Regatta a week later, Bussey Horwood was bested by Toyota in the day’s first race, finishing over 10 seconds behind.
“It’s so easy to get away from doing it right,” contends Kavanagh.
“If you’re getting a decent time and you’re winning a race, you probably think there’s nothing wrong where there could be.
“It took someone from the outside looking in to give us a suggestion. Since then, we’ve been rowing a fair bit better.”
That suggestion came before the championship race in Placentia when former rower and coach Todd Sears told the Bussey Horwood crew members that their stroke length was shorter than normal. They took the advice into the championship race and ended up beating Toyota by nearly 13 seconds.
“We had a bit more success in the championship race, and we’ve been rowing really well since then,” notes Neary, who says it hadn’t helped that the team missed a number of spins due to red-flagged water conditions at Quidi Vidi through much of early July.
“We’ve still been missing practices because of the wind. .. but the feel we had in the boat, that we usually do in terms of speed and run, is back. We’re looking forward to seeing what we can do (today).”
Standing in their way are two capable crews in Toyota and MAX, both of whom have proven up to the challenge this season and neither of whom are being easily discounted by the veteran rowers on Bussey Horwood, who are coxed again this year by Ben Colbourne.
“I think all the crews looking to contend for the championship have definitely progressed throughout the season,” says Bussey Horwood stroke James Cadigan.
“It should be a very close and competitive race.”
The first men’s race, the NTV Satellite Network Male Amateur, starts at 8:30 a.m. Other crews competing in the race are Magna Contracting and Smith Stockley.