On Saturday August 16th, the coastal rowing crews from Ontario and the Lac St-Jean area of Quebec set camp on Balmy Beach in the east end of Toronto. The newly formed coastal rowers from Ontario were to compete against crews from Alma that brought in boats, expertise, a huge amount of enthusiasm and passion for this rowing discipline.
A coastal rowing event had been germinating in Toronto rowers’ minds for over a year. Coastal Rowing vastly expends the ability to not only host regattas close to urban centers where the sport can be easily exposed to non rowing crowds, it allows clubs located close to a large body of water a safe way to expand and run their rowing programs in rough waters. Thanks to Rowing Canada Aviron, creating a coastal rowing event was part of the plan that saw two coastal boats being hosted at Hanlan Boat Club of Toronto. With the strong support of ROWONTARIO, volunteers and commitment of Hanlan Boat Club as the hosting club, the first coastal rowing event in Ontario was born on Saturday August 16th.
The teams of volunteers gathered bright and early to lay down the 3km triangular rowing course on a wavy Lake Ontario in front of the Silver Birch boathouse in Toronto’s east end.
At 9am, the long anticipation of successfully launching the first race from the beach was over. The first heat of the Men Solo (single) race with H. Michaels (Durham RC), D. (Hanlan BC), S. Lavoie (CA Alma) pulled off the sheltered start area at the sound of the horn. The rowers completed the lap around the course to land on the beach and run up and touch the flag pole to stop the clock. Meanwhile, the Men doubles first heat was getting lined up at the start and soon thereafter were on their way through the waves of Lake Ontario. The morning was a succession of qualifying heats for Men singles and doubles and Women coxed quad final. Two laps or 6km of the course were completed during the women coxed quad finals.
A salad and sandwiches lunch was served for all to enjoy during the mid-day break, allowing crews to rest in preparation for the afternoon finals.
Around noon, the clouds started to move in and the wind picked up. The jury and organizing committee decided to shorten the distance of the finals for the afternoon to a single lap of the course in an attempt to get most of the races completed ahead of the oncoming bad weather.
A while later, the uninvited rain decided to come and join our fun day at the beach. The waves grew taller as the winds got stronger, by the last race of the day, the Men Coastal Coxed Quad, midway through the course they were roughly a meter and half. These were not an issue for the coastal boats and both the Hanlan BC and CA Alma crews enjoyed to get to surf such long tall waves! <<C’est ça l’Aviron de Mer>> (That’s coastal rowing!) Exclaimed Victor Dallaire the bow seat of the Alma quad as rowers shook hand to congratulate each other on the race we just completed.
Needless to say that all had an absolute blast, the cold wet weather only made shiver a bit but it hardly affected our enthusiasm.
At 6pm, crews gathered by the fire place (yes we did) at Murphy’s Law for the Medal Ceremony and a well deserved warming beverage.
The organizers and the rowers would like to thank the safety team: David Cole, Michael Sasi, Hugh Fletcher, Bob Hedley, the Ashbridges Bay Yacht club and the Pickering Auxiliary Rescue Association for their exceptional show of expertise in the rough water conditions.
The Jury and our Chief Umpire William Donegan also received a huge round of applause from the rowers.
This was a first event with rather difficult weather conditions but the ability of the jury, coaches, safety crew and organizers to keep the event running smoothly made it a very good day at the beach.
Photo courtesy of Petra U, Sarena Knapik and Mike Purcer