The Royal St. John’s Regatta is the oldest organized sporting event in North America, with documented proof of 1816 boat races, and it’s coming up on it’s 200th anniversary. With over 50,000 visitors, it is also the largest tourism event in Newfoundland and Labrador, with enormous exposure to a wide-range demographic.
Held on Quidi Vidi Lake in St. John’s, the Regatta is scheduled annually for the first Wednesday of August, if the weather cooperates. Teams row six-member, coxswained, fixed-seat racing shells that are as identical as possible and are property of the Regatta Committee. All teams are required to turn buoys and return to the start-finish line.
Some of the folks here at The Herald, NTV and OZFM have been involved with the Royal St. John’s Regatta for years, as well as some newcomers. The race time record for female amateur in 2003 was held by one of our own from OZFM, and we currently have a solid crew who will be racing again this year including Tony Barrington, Donnie Decker and the Chief Meteorologist himself, Eddie Sheerr.
“Not everyone on our team is from NTV, but there’s definitely a core group of us. Blaine Edwards, he’s another rower, he’s actually Heather Gillis’ other half. And then we have a new member that we picked up, Frank Norris, he’s been around the rowing crew for a long time. Chris Roche, he’s another gentleman that’s been rowing with us the past two years, the Roche family have been well known for rowing, heavily into the sport. Then Tony and I, Eddie, and then Dexter,”
Decker, technical director at NTV, explained in an interview with The Herald; “Tony is one of our coaches. So there’s six men that row in the boat, and there’s two coaches. There’s no limit on teams in the Regatta. Right now, the women kind of dominate the sport, there’s gotta be, I don’t know, 60-80 women’s crews down there. For men’s team, there’s roughly around 15-20, so there’s a big difference.”
So, what got the crew from NTV making the decision to take part in racing at the Royal Regatta? An active and healthy lifestyle, bonding, and some good ol’ Regatta pride.
“There was a few people that wanted to be active at NTV, so we decided, come on down, don’t have to take it serious, there’s a lot to learn,” Barrington shared.
“The healthy lifestyle has come a long way with NTV because you know, when I started, it was probably just Rick and myself who rowed, hardly anybody rowed. But today, we got at least 10 members who are way up there in sports and activities. You gotta be dedicated, disciplined.”
Teamwork & Unity
Such as the production process behind the scenes at NTV, rowing is also a joint effort that takes teamwork and unity. From the Coxswain, the steersman of the boat, to the six stroke side and bow side rowers, the job wouldn’t get done without everyone doing their part.
“If one person slacks, it falls apart. You need six people in that boat who are all going to drive each other. It’s by far the hardest sport I’ve ever been involved in,” Decker explained.
“I love playing sports, I grew up playing sports my whole life, through high school. Regularly now I play ice hockey and rowing, and I’ve played softball and stuff like that. Rowing is the toughest by far. You can have a weak member on your team in other sports and still be pretty good but with rowing, if one’s weak, you’re all weak. Everybody’s gotta be on their game the entire time.”
Barrington adds, “It’s like synchronized swimming or dancing, you have to be totally in sync. It affects the running of your boat. If somebody’s out of sync, it’s gonna affect the entire run.”
In 2001, the NTV Men’s crew hustled and captured their third straight title in the Championship Race, posting a time of 9:08.38. Now, with a mix of old and new members, NTV will be rowing towards the finish line with one goal in mind.
“This year, we’re just aiming to do better. You always wanna be better. We’d like to win and beat Outer Cove,” Decker laughed.
“They’re so good. No one’s beating them I don’t think, they’re really good. We only started rowing together maybe six or seven years ago.”
Barrington nods, “A lot better time wise, I think we were around 9:55 to 10:00 minutes last year. Our goal? I’m gonna say 9:25 to 9:30 maybe, I’m gonna just use that. That’s kind of our goal. You’re looking at 9 minutes, you know. Anything below 9:30 I’d be happy with.”
Save the date: August 1, 2018, assuming weather cooperates. For more information on the St. John’s Royal Regatta, visit www.stjohnsregatta.org