Regatta or regret-ta? Getting ready for annual moving St. John's sporting event

If the latest forecasts hold true, the 201st rowing of the Royal St. John's Regatta should be going ahead Wednesday as scheduled.

The annual race — North America's oldest documented continuous sporting event — happens on the first Wednesday of every August, depending on weather, of course.

It's a townie tradition to risk staying out late the Tuesday night before the Regatta, to wake up Wednesday morning with fingers crossed the rowing races go ahead on Quidi Vidi Lake.

If they don't, people have to drag themselves into work, and the event moves to Thursday (again, weather permitting), while the roulette wheel spins.

But so far, so good, said Environment Canada meteorologist Jennifer Kowal on Tuesday.

"It actually looks like a really great day tomorrow," she said, adding there is sunshine in the forecast for Wednesday morning.

CBC

"There is gonna be some clouds, just offshore, and it looks like we might see a little bit of clouds moving in in the afternoon, but just becoming a mix of sun and cloud and 18 degrees probably around the coast there and the winds are gonna be nice and light."

Winds should stick around a maximum of 20 km/h, Kowal said, making it likely races will proceed as scheduled.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is planning to attend the event this year as well, scheduled to walk around the lake around midday Wednesday. 

And compared to last year, 18 C should be a welcome change.

In 2018, temperatures soared, with the humidex reaching as high as 35 – the hottest Regatta day many people could remember.

"Last year it was incredibly hot during the Regatta and people like it, but it's a bit problematic," Kowal said, noting that extreme heat for long periods can cause a number of health concerns.

At most, she said, a sea wind may blow in to shore, bringing temperatures down to around 16 C in the early afternoon.

"With winds at that speed, it doesn't really make a huge difference to anybody."

New winner's circle, new rowers 

The new winner's circle was officially opened on Tuesday, beginning with a public ribbon-cutting ceremony that drew athletes, committee members and government representatives. 

Winners of the 201st rowing of the races will be the first to step foot inside and have their pictures taken as champions on Wednesday, cementing themselves in the race's long history and marking the beginning of a new era of sport on Quidi Vidi Lake.

For Allison Duffett, this year's race will be her first.

Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada

"I feel like it was very important, and [I'm] kind of nervous because it's my first one," said Duffett.  

She comes from a long Regatta lineage, dating back to her great-grandfather John Farrell, who was born in 1908 and a winner in 1936. 

A medal from the 1936 Regatta has been passed down through the family for generations. Each Duffett will wear it on Wednesday when its their turn to take the oars.  

Jeremy Eaton/CBC

Connie Duffett, Allison's mother, has been rowing in the Regatta for 21 years.

Her older sister, Ella, also followed in the family footsteps and has been competing for four years.

Quidi Vidi Lake construction   

The new winner's circle is part of what's called the Quidi Vidi Park Master Plan.

All told, the project came in at a price of $2.7 million.

The City of St. John's kicked in $1.26 million of that total.

"Quidi Vidi Lake is one of the jewels of our city. It holds tremendous cultural and historical significance to each and every one of us," Mayor Danny Breen said.

"The fact that we've been doing this for 201 years speaks to everybody in our community and our love for the Regatta."

The winner's circle also triples as a hall of fame for participants past and includes a park-like sitting area for public use with a view of the lake. 

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