Back to the boats

With the Royal St. John’s Regatta boathouse opening up its doors, teams are streaming back in

Matt Hagerty

Keith Bussey is the stroke oar for his rowing team. Since the boathouse has opened up rowers like Bussey can return to train
Keith Bussey is one of many area rowers now allowed to train again at the Royal St. John’s Regatta boathouse. On nice days, the rowing machines are brought outside on the deck.  Matt Hagerty/Kicker

The Royal St. John’s Regatta boathouse has reopened its doors offering an indoor training program that will run until Oct. 24.

This comes at a perfect time, as teams are still disappointed about the loss of this year’s St. John’s regatta but are already looking forward to the next.

Jackie Warfield is coxswain in four different rowing teams. Her teams spent all winter training for this year’s regatta, even through the first stages of the pandemic. Warfield says they used video chat to train together from home hoping the regatta would go ahead.

“I mean I can almost talk for everyone in the rowing community, everyone was disappointed,” said Warfield. “Not just for rowers but for people who go to the regatta as well.”

That disappointment has changed to optimism, as her teams, like many others, are looking to continue training for next year. The boathouse reopening is a big help, says Warfield, as it brings back a sense of unity that was lost during the pandemic.

While the reopening of the boathouse has helped many teams continue to train, some have taken measures into their own hands.

“That’s all you can do is train and when you’re at the start line and that gun goes off, that’s where it all counts.”

Kevin Greely is a member of a rowing team competing in the master’s division. He decided to try and help his team by setting up rowing machines in his garage. Getting the team back together is great, says Greely, and being able to train together is going to help their conditioning immensely.

“When you are on a rowing machine everyone is pulling great numbers,” said Greely. “But there are no outside factors compared to a boat that rolls or wind, so yeah that would be a concern if we don’t get on the water a fair amount of time before the regatta,” he said.

Greely and Warfield are hopeful that next year’s regatta will go ahead, but admit some sort of change would have to be made if the pandemic and physical distancing are still in effect next year.

“The only major issue is the coxswain and the stroke oar are facing each other,” said Greely. “But when sports like rugby got the OK to compete full contact, (then) we should be able to get boats on the water.”

Masks for the coxswain could work, Greely says, but wouldn’t want to see them on the rowers as breathing without a mask while rowing is hard enough.

Another problem teams could face, Warfield says, is getting sponsors for the upcoming season. One of her teams isn’t sponsored right now and neither is Greely’s.

Regardless of these factors, Warfield says optimism and the ability to train towards a common goal together again have helped lift everyone’s spirits.

“You train to win your races,” said Warfield. “That’s all you can do is train and when you’re at the start line and that gun goes off, that’s where it all counts.”

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