The Hyflodraulic crew has won the 2021 Royal St. John's Regatta women's championship in what was a historic ending to a historic event which usually draws tens of thousands of spectators to Quidi Vidi Lake each year.
Hyflodraulic posted a time of 5:10 ahead of Dawe and Burke at 5:26, the Cahill Group at 5:28, Roebothan McKay Marshall at 5:32 and Kennedy's Cleaning Services at 5:40. It was the first time the women's championship was the final race of the day in the over 200-year history of the event.
NTV took home first place with a time of 9:36 in the men's championship ahead of Belfor at 9:51, Newfoundland Power at 10:05, Andrew McDonald General Contracting at 10:11 and JSM Electrical with a run of 10:33.
While the regatta — which was cancelled in 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic — is among the large public events that have been cleared to return, the crowds this time were not there. This year marked the 203rd anniversary of the race.
The long-awaited return to the lake was delayed by a day as harsh gusts of wind kept rowers on land during what would be the normal running on the first Wednesday of August.
The Regatta Committee made the announcement early Thursday morning, which also triggered one of Canada's more unusual public holidays.
History made with women's championship
This year, there were 67 crews in total rowing in 19 races, including the two championship races.
For the first time ever, the women's championship race was the final race of the day. The change was approved in 2019 after Amanda Hancock, part of the record-breaking M5 women's rowing team, called for more inclusivity at the Regatta.
Starting this year, the order of the men's and women's championship races will alternate.
"I'm very proud as a female VP to be the one who gets to implement this change on the schedule," Regatta Committee vice president Noelle Thomas-Kennell said Thursday morning.
The entire event was cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which still looms over the event.
Thomas-Kennell said had there been a Regatta last year, women would have had the final race then.
"It's long past due. We had voted in 2019 as the 40th anniversary of the first time there was a female championship race at all," she said. "So, that was 40 years past due. We're definitely ready for it to happen."
A different look
But, while the races were back, the garden party and thousands flocking to the shores of Quidi Vidi Lake during the municipal holiday were still off the table.
"We're really excited to be able to put this off," said Bradley Power, president of the Royal St John's Regatta Committee.
"It's really sad to not see the vendors, and the concessionaires and all the games of chance, but we'll be back bigger and better than ever next year in that regard," Power told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.
Several safety measures in place for rowers and committee members this year. That included "COVID ambassadors" who walked the lake to encourage crews to keep distant as they prepared for their races, Power said.
There were also "cohort circles" dotting the shores of the north-end of the lake where those who had to be lakeside Wednesday could watch and prepare from a safe distance from other people, said Power.
"That's one of the hallmarks of our summer at Quidi Vidi Lake, that's been the ability to keep everyone safe because they're staying in those key cohort setups and doing their daily COVID assessment," Power said.
Thomas-Kennell told CBC News the feeling around the lake was an eerie one, where there would normally be a buzz from the crowd it's mostly silent around the shores.
She said it was still an exciting day for rowers who sat idle on Wednesday with the event being postponed.
Carrying the legacy
Seth Hyde was back lakeside with his father Darin ahead of their race at 4 p.m. in the in the boys' squirt division. The sixth generation rower hit the water in 2019, and after missing last year due to the event being cancelled, he said he was ready to row again.
"We've had loads of practices this year and our crew is looking good," Seth Hyde told CBC News from the banks of Quidi Vidi Lake.
"I wouldn't consider us out of the race, but I wouldn't consider us favourites either because it's so close. All the boys are so skilled and it's going to be a really close race."
Darin Hyde, who is a former rower and Regatta champion, said conditions on the lake were favourable on Thursday with a light breeze blowing toward the boathouse on the south side.
"I'm very pleased that Seth decided to go rowing a couple of years ago. It's exciting for me because I was able to get back into rowing after being away from it for a while," he said.
"I'm very proud of him. We try to be competitive but it is a lot of fun. We enjoy it, we've met a lot of friends and family down here."
Staying safe, supporting local
This year, the public was asked to stay away from the lake, but to take in the races online.
Power said he expected hundreds of people to be on the public walking trail throughout the day, but asked anybody who is out for a walk to not stop and create unintended gatherings. Power said the event should not break any public health guidelines.
There was also fenced area along the south side of Quidi Vidi Lake near the boathouse and around the winners' circle that the Regatta Committee asked people to stay away from.
"The reality is we're keeping everybody safe, so if we see anything out of the ordinary we'll shut things down very, very quickly," Power said.
"The key to it is stay at home. Safely watch from there and then next year lets all get back together for a bigger and better event."
The historic and popular garden party has moved online. It began Wednesday and will run until Aug. 11.
Power said the idea was proposed by vendors who have been supportive of this year's new look.
The plan is to showcase a list of vendors on a printable map, so that the public can visit their locations throughout the St. John's area on Regatta Day. The public is encouraged to visit at least three vendors to participate in prize draws.
"It should be a signal for us all that we are getting back to normal, but it's also a reminder that we're not just there yet," Power said.
"We've got to take extra precautions just for a little while longer."