Racing is underway at the 133rd Royal Canadian Henley Regatta in St. Catherines, ON. The ERC is represented by a team of approximately 30 athletes who aim to compete for Henley medals. Famously, only gold medals are awarded at this regatta. The crews have their work cut out with an overall attendance of approximately 2700 athletes from Canada, the United States, Mexico and various South American countries. Edmonton single sculler Dillon Peters was surprised to line up against a lightweight single from Uganda during his heat today.
The honour of racing in the first race of the entire 6-day regatta fell to Andrea Labrecque, who competed in the first heat of the Open Women’s 1x at 8:00 am this morning. Andrea described her race as a nothing out of the ordinary: “I had a normal start, you know – slow, and was last after 250 m. By the 500 m mark I was comfortably in second and held that position all the way to the finish line.” Andrea qualified for semi-final tomorrow, where she is planning to utilize a slightly faster start.
Further racing in the Open Women’s 1x were Amanda Cinnamon and Kendra Hartley. Both scullers faced stiff competition and missed out on the qualifying spots for the semi-final. Amanda reflected on the importance of having both blades in the water for the start of the race – and found that performance might have been improved had this been a given. Critical rowers do make good coaches!
Next up was the doubles combination of Mark Bonar and Ole Tietz in the Lightweight Men’s 2x. The crew raced hard to finish second and qualified directly for the final (to be held on Thursday afternoon). After a sluggish start the crew settled into a good rhythm but had to concede the win to the boat from the Ottawa Rowing Club. The Ottawa double represented Canada at the World University Games just a few weeks earlier and displayed superior race experience and sharpness. The Edmonton boys had looked forward to race a crew from Kuwait, which was entered in their heat but never showed up for the start. Stroke seat Mark showed himself relieved afterwards: “This could have been a hairy situation had the Kuwaiti showed up!”
Further racing in the double were Connor Stephens and Luis Rodriguez. Connor and Luis raced hard in an extremely competitive field, but missed out on the qualifying spots in the end.
One of the most hotly anticipated Edmonton crews on the program today was the mighty combination of Michael Hohnstein and Colin Findlay, racing in the U23 Men’s 2x. The boys took their “minced meat” approach to the competition and set off fireworks in the first 500 m. Confusion reigned in the pack, which allowed the ERC double to ease across the line in second place to qualify for the semi-finals tomorrow. The only crew able to withstand the whirlwind of fury unleashed by the crew in Green and Gold included Junior World Championship silver medalist and Hohnstein nemesis Daniel DeGroot. Michael and Daniel raced one another a number of times in various Junior 1x competitions over the past year.
Seeking to renew a slew of single sculling rivalries, stretching back many decades (even centuries – if rumours are to be believed) was Steve Payne in the Open Men’s 1x. The field in the Men’s single was as a competitive as ever, but Steve was able to match the other scullers in his heat during the early stages of the race. Once the singles entered the final part of the course, fatigue took its toll and left Steve unable to push into the semi-final qualifying slots. Steve is back in action for the Senior 1x Dash in Saturday to reclaim a title he won in 2012.
A small fleet of young lightweight single scullers headed out on the course, looking to establish single sculling rivalries with anyone careless enough to enrage the “delicate flowers”. Hoping to grind and axe were Ben Altman, Dillon Peters and John Carr in the U23 Lightweight Men’s 1x event. The three scullers had difficulty progressing to the semi-finals in a competitive field, but found suitable rivals nonetheless. Altman- vs. Zulauf (Resilient RC) – 1:0. Carr vs. Schmitt (Peconic) – 1:0. Peters vs. Ryan (Peconic) – DNS (Note: Dillon’s chosen nemesis was so intimidated he chose not to appear at the start line).
The Lightweight Women’s 2x of Rachel Kortbeek and Calaine Inglis provided a welcome reprieve from the testosterone fuelled single duelling for coaches and spectators alike. Junior rower Rachel filled the shoes of Kayla Rice due to a last minute substitution and did extremely well to race in an Open event. Rachel joined the ERC Junior program after being introduced to the sport with the Archbishop MacDonald rowing team. Rachel has done extremely well to gain a spot on the Henley team in her first season of rowing. We are excited to see Rachel race in the Junior Women’s 2x and various lightweight events later on in the week.
The grand entrance and first race by ERC Junior sculling super-star Aline Belzil was delayed due to a late afternoon thunderstorm. Aline finally took to the water at 7pm to competed in a heat of the U19 Women’s 1x. The Junior Women’s 1x competition is one of the most competitive of the entire regatta with a total of 70 entries, spread over 10 heats.
Despite initial nerves due to the unknown scullers in the field (although the actual number of scullers in the Junior Women’s category not known to Aline is disputed – estimations by the ERC scientific staff suggest that more than 80 % of the field are Facebook / Instagram / Twitter friends or followers), Aline easily won her heat. When the scores for all races were tallied up, it turned out that Aline had set the fastest qualifying time out of anybody in any heat in her event. These are numbers that fill coaches and athletes with confidence for the days to come. A heat is not a semi-final and certainly not a final, but the outlook is positive.
Three semi-final and one final are booked for Edmonton crews after one day of racing. Well done to all athletes, good luck tomorrow and thank you for reading. Watch this space for updates on Wednesday’s racing action.
-Press Officer Tietz