For this 6th-generation rower, the Regatta's a family affair

Seth Hyde won't be the biggest or the tallest rower at this year's Royal St. John's Regatta.

The 11-year-old's not even sure how his team will place in the boys squirt division on Wednesday.

But he's certain, beyond a doubt, that one day he'll be a Regatta champion.

Just like his dad. And his great-uncle. And three other generations of his family before him.

Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada

"My whole family's won the championship," said Seth. "Now, I need to keep the tradition going."

The Hydes now live in St. John's, but Seth's father, Darin Hyde, grew up in Outer Cove, a community just outside St. John's with a storied history of Regatta victories.

Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada

Darrin Hyde hangs onto two medals his family won in 1911. He's dry mounted a photo from Outer Cove's victory that year.

In the image: Seth's great-grandfather, great-great-grandfather and great-great-great-grandfather. Seth recognizes them all.

Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada

Off to the races

But following in the footsteps of such rarefied rowers isn't easy. For weeks, Seth has woken up at 7 a.m. for practice at Quidi Vidi Lake.

His mother, Jackie Hyde, manages the team and looks after scheduling, jerseys and equipment. His father Darin, a 1993 Regatta champion, is the team's coach and coxswain.

Marie Isabelle Rochon/Radio-Canada

Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, Seth and five teammates don life vests and take to the water. With so many teams, training lasts just 30 minutes — competition for practice time can be as fierce as it is on Regatta Day itself.

During those sessions, they learn proper technique and how to row as a team. It's a process Darin Hyde remembers from his own training days in the 1980s.

"We didn't know how to sit in [the boat]," he said. "We knew what an oar was, but didn't know what any of the technique was."

Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada

Darin Hyde's young team pulled off an intermediate record in 1985 — a record that stood for 16 years. Last week, that Outer Cove team was inducted into the Regatta Hall of Fame.

"Rowing was always fun and it was always hard. Very hard, but the rewards are great," he said.

As coxswain, Darrin encourages the six young rowers on the Madsen crew and helps keep the boat straight so it stays on course and doesn't lose speed.

Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada

"He's very calm on the boat," said Seth.

Things have changed dramatically at the Regatta in the past 30 years, Darrin said. The boats and crews are faster, but far fewer men are now involved in the sport.

About 75 per cent of this year's participants are female, and Darrin said it's increasingly important to recruit young rowers to keep boys and men's rowing at the Regatta alive.

Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada

Seth's team won silver in last year's squirt division (10-13 years) — a proud achievement for a team composed mostly of 10-year-olds. 

And while a lot may have changed since his dad's first days rowing, he said one thing's still the same: there's no telling what could happen on race day.

"We'll have to wait and see."

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