Last weekend Telford Lake was once again taken over by toned bodies and racing sculls of all sizes for the Prairie Championship Rowing Regatta.
Telford Lake and Leduc are quickly becoming a premier place for rowing clubs across western Canada to come and practice as well as hosting major competitions as we boast the only Olympic distance six lane race course in all the prairies. Along with all the hard work the City of Leduc has put in to create and maintain a proper racing course including the time consuming and expensive process of grooming the lake for weeds, the Leduc Boat Club has earned rave reviews for their willingness to help with various events, their generosity in allowing competing clubs to use their facilities and the lake, and the quality of their equipment such as water safety gear, lane markers, and at times even their boats.
The fact that we were even able to hold the Regatta out here was a real coup according to Edmonton Rowing Club Secretary Neala MacDonald. Historically this premier event has been held on the South Saskatchewan River in Saskatoon but with the changes that have occurred in the river over recent years such as sandbars interrupting the flow, the race had to be cancelled entirely for two years in a row. It was during this time that the Leduc Boat Club was actively working to create a top notch racing venue on Telford Lake and the Edmonton Rowing Club approached them to see if they were interested in hosting the Regatta here. Needless to say the LBC responded with a resounding "yes!".
The Prairie Championship Rowing Regatta is the final large competition of the year that helps determine placings on the teams for both the Royal Canadian Henley National Regatta held in St. Catherines, ON, and for the Canada Summer Games being held in Sherbrooke, PQ this year.
Due to this the Prairie Regatta drew top competitors from across Alberta and Saskatchewan with seven different rowing clubs represented including Team Alberta and Team Saskatchewan. For the rowing community this Regatta was an even more important event than normal as due to the recent flooding in Calgary the Alberta Open, which is normally held in that city, had to be cancelled this year.
All the races are held over a 2 km long course with 14 different categories open to rowers of all ages and abilities. With rowing quickly becoming a more widely known and appreciated sport the Prairie Regatta saw a wide age span in competitors, with the youngest competitor at this event being a 14 year old Junior, to the most seasoned who was a 68 year young Master.
Expecting about 200 scullers to attend this year's Prairie Regatta the organizing committee was pleasantly surprised to find their estimated number of competitors blown out of the proverbial water! Telford Lake saw 178 boats of all sizes entered into the competition including 13 boats rowed by Masters or Grand Masters and 26 Summer Games candidates.
Seven Rowing Clubs' athletes were represented including Edmonton RC, Calgary RC, Saskatoon RC, Regina RC, Lakeland College RC, Central Alberta RC out of Lacombe, plus two composite crew boatings; one from the Alberta Rowing Association which has Team Alberta candidates, who raced against the Saskatchewan Rowing Association.
Teams could consist of a single rower, a team of two, or a team of 8 headed by a Coxswain, and the teams could be all male, all female or mixed. There were also competitions for both sweeps (with each rower using one oar) or sculling (each rower using two oars).
Rowing is generally acknowledged to be one of the most physically demanding sports out there with every athlete's top effort being demanded over a course that takes an average of 6-7 minutes to complete. Large amounts of lactic acid are released in rowers' muscles over the course of a race which, at high levels of competition such as during the Olympics, has been known to cause severe cramping as well as temporary hearing and vision loss during races.
Despite the high level of competition at the Prairie Regatta thankfully none of those truly nasty side effects were reported but that does not mean that the racers were not putting their best efforts forward. The fastest time of the day was clocked by the Calgary Senior Men's 8 Crew who blazed down the course in 6 minutes and 9 seconds.
At the end of the day five different teams did their coaches proud by bringing home multiple medals and every team did a great job of representing their club and area by exhibiting good sportsmanship and a competitive spirit. The standings of the top six teams at the end of the Prairie Championship Rowing Regatta are as follows;
Calgary: 57 entries, 6 gold, 3 silver, 4 bronze
Team Saskatchewan: 30 entries, 3 gold, 4 silver, 2 bronze
Edmonton: 61 entries, 2 gold, 1 silver, 4 bronze
Saskatoon: 14 entries, 1 gold, 1 silver, 2 bronze
Team Alberta: 4 entries, 0 gold, 3 silver, 0 bronze
Regina: 3 entries, 0 gold, 1 silver, 0 bronze