No. 4: 1901 Outer Cove Rowing Crew

Record may be long since broken, but legend lives on

Robin Short rshort@thetelegram.com
Published on May 2, 2009
The 1901 Outer Cove crew set a 9:13 time in the St. John's Regatta, a record that would stand for 80 years. Photo courtesy Jack Fitzgerald

It is the most famous of times recorded within the arena of Newfoundland sports, even after all these years. Is it our four-minute mile, our 10 seconds in the 100 metres.

Nine minutes, 13 and 4/5 seconds.

The 9:13.

Many a ballad has been written, much ink has been spilled on pages hailing the legend of the 9:13 and the six Outer Cove fishermen who made the time on Quidi Vidi Lake 108 years ago.

Ten Best Teams -

It is the most famous of times recorded within the arena of Newfoundland sports, even after all these years. Is it our four-minute mile, our 10 seconds in the 100 metres.

Nine minutes, 13 and 4/5 seconds.

The 9:13.

Many a ballad has been written, much ink has been spilled on pages hailing the legend of the 9:13 and the six Outer Cove fishermen who made the time on Quidi Vidi Lake 108 years ago.

It is that record-breaking 1901 Outer Cove crew that holds down the No. 4 spot on The Telegram's list of Newfoundland and Labrador's 10 best teams.

Consider this: of the 500 or so members of Canada's Sports Hall of Fame, only nine are from this province - a jockey from Conception Bay South named Nick Wall, who moved to Nova Scotia at an early age; the great Regatta coxswain Levi (Shotty) Rogers and the seven Outer Cove men who propelled the Blue Peter across Quidi Vidi Lake in record time 1901 - cox Walter Power, John Whelan, Daniel McCarthy, Denis McCarthy, Denis Croke, John Nugent and Martin Boland.

Oh sure, the course has probably changed quite a bit in the past 100 years, but nothing takes away the feat of the Outer Cove seven.

Presumably, there was no training involved in rowing the regattas at the turn of the 20th century. For these men, their training was all in a day's work, rowing their dories around the fishing grounds.

Record-shattering performances at the annual "Day at the races" was nothing new to crews from Outer Cove. Teams from the tight-knit Northeast Avalon community had established several 19th-century records, including posting the fastest time of the day for five straight years in the late 1800s.

And it was a team from Outer Cove that had owned the course record of 9:20, established in 1885, prior to '01.

The weather on that Aug. 8 day in 1901 was, according to The Evening Telegram, "all that could be desired."

"Not a cloud was visible in the blue canopy of the heavens and the sun shone so hot that one could scarcely turn his eyes towards the skies for its dazzling brightness.

"Just a slight breeze was blowing which covered the lake with gentle ripples and added fourfold to its great natural beauty."

As had been the case for previous regattas, many of the citizens of St. John's had convened on Quidi Vidi for the races.

"All business was suspended and the town itself," the newspaper reported, "looked as if it had been deserted pending a great catastrophe."

In the morning Fishermen's Race, Outer Cove had lost to its nearby rivals from Torbay by a slim margin in a preview of what was sure to be a two-boat race for the championship in the afternoon.

In the final race, Torbay was rowing in the Red Cross, Outer Cove in the Blue Peter. The famed Blue Peter had been constructed by the great boatbuilder Bob Sexton.

According to reports, Outer Cove and Torbay were neck and neck as each boat made its way up the pond. But it was Outer Cove that emerged first from the turning of the buoys.

As the band struck up a chord to the "Banks of Newfoundland," Outer Cove rowed with poise and purpose to the finish line, no doubt encouraged by a large crowd unaware that history was about to be made.

When the gunshot rang out to end the race, it was Outer Cove in the remarkable time of 9:13 4/5. Torbay was just a half-boatlength behind.

The time would stand for 80 years.

Some of the Regatta's finest - the great William Summers Jr. crews come to mind - lined up for their crack at it, and failed.

And then, in 1981, Skipper Jim Ring and his Smith Stockley (St. John's Boys and Girls Club) team did the unthinkable.

In the early afternoon of Wednesday, Aug. 5, 1981, Skipper Ring, stroke Randy Ring, John Barrington, Tom Power, Brian Cranford, Bill Holwell and Paul Ring hauled the Native around Quidi Vidi in the amazing time of 9:12.04.

Outer Cove mourned. It had lost the record, but not for long.

The year after Stockley did the unthinkable, Mike Power assembled a crew of eager young men determined to bring the record back to Outer Cove.

Andrew Boland, Bert Hickey, Campbell Feehan, Gerard Ryan, Jim Hibbs and Owen Devereaux didn't disappoint.

In the men's amateur race, the first race of the day in the '82 derby, Outer Cove gave what had been up to that point in time the most dominant performance in a single race, covering the course in an astounding 9:03.48.

After re-establishing the record and winning the men's championship race later that day, pride was restored in Outer Cove.

As for the men of 1901, a plaque in their honour sits in Kelly Park in Outer Cove. The Blue Peter, the only tangible reminder of that glorious crew, rested for years in the CLB Armory, until the big Harvey Road fire in 1992 destroyed it.

Needless to say, the 1901 Outer Cove crew were among the first inductees into the Royal St. John's Regatta Hall of Fame when it was established in 1987.




Top 10 best teams

1. TBA -May 23, 2009
2. TBA - May 16, 2009
3. TBA - May 9, 2009
4. 1901 Outer Cove Rowing Crew
5. Corner Brook Royals
6. St. Lawrence Laurentians
7. Jack MacDuff curling team
8. Conception Bay North CeeBees
9. 1966 Terra Novas junior baseball
10. Sue Anne Bartlett curling team




Selection criteria

The object: To select the 10 best teams Newfoundland and Labrador has produced. Six prominent individuals with an impressive sports background, together with Robin Short, Brendan McCarthy, John Browne and Kenn Oliver of The Telegram's sports department, were chosen to make the selections.
The criteria: Teams must have been primarily comprised of athletes from Newfoundland and Labrador, competed in or represented the province, or country, in athletic competition. The field was open to amateur and professional, and male and female athletes.
The selection panel
Jill Brewer: A long-time diving coach in St. John's, Brewer is head of the St. John's recreation department. A former Canada Games coach, she is a member of the St. John's Molson Athlete of the Year Committee.
Ian Campbell: A two-sport star (hockey and baseball) with the Guards in St. John's during the late 1950s and '60s, Campbell was the 1963 and '65 St. John's athlete of the year and is a member of the Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall of Fame.
George Faulkner: Newfoundland's 'Mr. Hockey', Faulkner was voted the No. 1 athlete on The Telegram's Top 10 list of athletes last year. He is a Newfoundland Sports and Newfoundland Hockey Hall of Famer.
Kathy Gosse: A long-time sports reporter at the Clarenville Packet, Gosse knows how to play the game, too. She was the 1972 St. John's Female Athlete of the Year.
Chris Green: A Corner Brook radio personality for over 30 years, Green has called play-by-play in hockey from the old Newfoundland Senior Hockey League to the American Hockey League (Cape Breton Oilers). Today, Green anchors the morning news for CFCB radio in Corner Brook.
Joe Wadden: A long-time baseball and basketball standout in St. John's, Wadden is a member of both the provincial hardball and hoops Halls of Fame. He is a 2009 inductee into the Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall of Fame.