St. John's Regatta's bicentennial year has record number of teams look to race

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St. John's Regatta's bicentennial year has record number of teams look to race

St. John's Regatta's bicentennial year has record number of teams look to race

Volunteers with the Royal St. John's Regatta are busy getting ready for this year's races, which will mark two centuries of the event that claims to be the oldest annual sporting event in North America.

While the bicentennial will make this year's regatta extra-special and is expected to draw larger crowds than usual, organizers say there's also many more teams than usual looking to take part.

Busy day ahead

All of those applications have the regatta committee scrambling to ensure all the teams will be able to get races in on the day of the races, which could mean an earlier start time to the event and fewer breaks throughout the day.

"We're going to start as early as we can, go right through lunch and supper and squeeze in as many teams as we can,"committee president Chris Neary told CBC Radio's On The Go. "I'd say it will be load and go for Regatta Day, no doubt."

Neary said they had to cut the teams off at 128 applications, and have about 20 more on a wait list. Committee members will now start working on an schedule for this year's event and hope to be able to squeeze in some more teams.

Last year there were 100 teams taking part, making this a record year for applications.

Rise of the women

This year's big anniversary also comes at a time when interest in rowing from women's teams is at an all-time high.

Neary said women now make up about 70 per cent of the total teams involved in the regatta, which has put them in the unprecedented position of wanting to recruit more young men to the event to balance the scales.

"[Female participation] has been gradually increasing since certainly the mid-'90s," he said. "They've taken over the event, and we're certainly happy to see it."

Young people are also getting more involved than ever before, which Neary said is a direct result of them trying to grow the youth side of the annual races.

"We're very proud of the fact that last year we had 30 teams participating that were under the age of 19," he said.

The Royal St. John's Regatta is set to take place Aug. 1, but anyone who lives in St. John's will tell you that can get postponed to the following day if the weather doesn't co-operate.

Regardless of what day this year's races that place, Neary said it's going to be a memorable year with concerts planned the night before the event and at the lake the day of the regatta.

There will also be special events in the week leading up to the races, such as something called the Fun Regatta, where people can come down and try rowing on the lake.

Neary said he and other organizers will continue to be extremely busy as the big day, now only nine weeks away, gets closer.

"People come down Regatta Day and think it's just a one-day event, but we're working 365 days a year and there's no glory in it, but a lot of pride," he said.