Though people will argue that the Regatta started much earlier, the earliest documented mention of a rowing competition dates back to 12 August 1816. According to the Royal St. John's Regatta website: ”the first 30 to 40 years of Regatta history the races often took one, two, even three days to complete. Some challenges were for sailing while others were for racing. Crews and boats had to be classified or matched so that all challenges could be met. Sailing matches were initially held in the Harbour with rowing matches reserved for Quidi Vidi.” As years passed and the harbour became too busy to hold the event and the races moved to Quidi Vidi for good.
I have a special interest in the race this year because I know one of the people racing in it. Angela Antle, Host of The Weekend Arts Magazine, is one of six talented and busy woman to form a team for this year’s event. They all work full time and have families to raise so finding time to exercise can be about as difficult as nuclear physics. However, each of the women made a commitment to themselves and to each other to start a rowing team, and as Angela put it: “...we carved out a little bit of time for ourselves and no one died or got a divorce...yet.”
Most were newbies to the sport and the team goes by the moniker “The Unfit Mothers”. Angela explains: “We're all out of shape...in fact...we didn't want to row with anyone in shape!” But they did have one person with experiece to mentor the crew. Jackie Cains is the Cox. She rowed since she was 15 and agreed to take the team on; getting up with them to row at 6:30am every day for 13 weeks on a VOLUNTEER basis. Angela jokes: “She is 5 ft nothing and she gets in and stands over us with her mug of Tim's tea and says "OK ladies...get in time, Give me 10 good ones, C'mon I know you can do it...slow down number 2!" Also on the team is Victoria King who as the team’s "stroke" she sets the pace. Clara McCue who Angela describes as “very strong” remarked to Angela once that rowing is “great because the exercise is a consequence of the activity ...not the focus...there's so much technique going on you don't even realize you're working hard”. Artist and teacher Elayne Greeley manages to keep the team laughing and focused. Dr. Joy Tilley is also a member of the team who says she's NEVER had so much fun getting exercise. Finally, there is Debbie Hynes who is a secret weapon for the team.
This group of women are determined ladies to be sure. They improved their times by one whole minute from St. John's Day to Time Trials and are the only team that didn't get a sponsor. The ladies split the $800 rowing fees and their own t-shirts printed: “ …because we didn't want to lose our name and have to be the shopper drug mart team or whatever...and the fees themselves were cheaper than weight watchers or a gym fees for the summer!”
Ladies I shall be thinking of you all on the 5th. Race hard.
May the wind be at your back.