February Bulletin

Rowing Canada Coaches Conference.

The 2024 Rowing Canada Coaches Conference was held in Quebec City, Quebec from January 26-28.  The ARA was well represented at the event with coaches representing five separate clubs here at home. The two-day affair concluded with the Rowing Canada Excellence Awards Banquet which celebrates the achievements of athletes, coaches and officials from across the Canada over the past 12 months.  Alberta athletes, officials and coaches were front and centre throughout the evening.

Tony Zasada Award – Karissa Riley – Rowing Canada and the Zasada family established the Tony Zasada Memorial Award in 1985, given to an athlete in Canada that best emulates Tony’s spirit, character and determination. The first oarsman from Saskatchewan to compete at an Olympic Games, Tony died in a car crash shortly after those Los Angeles Games in 1984.

Karissa Riley is this year’s recipient of the Tony Zasada Memorial Award.  Karissa took up the sport at the age of 17 years old.  A few months later Karissa represented Alberta at the 2019 Western Canada Summer Games in Swift Current Saskatchewan.  A graduate from the University of Western Ontario, Karissa represented Canada internationally at the U23 World Championships in 2021 and 2022 and later that same year made her debut at the Senior World Championships in the lightweight women’s single.  In 2023, Karissa won the first medal of her international rowing career a bronze medal in the lightweights single at the U23 World Championships and finished in second place in the same event at the Canadian National Rowing Championships.  Congratulations Karissa on being selected as this year’s recipient of the Tony Zasada Memorial Award. 

Long Service Recognition – Walter Martindale – 35 Years – , Walter was recognized for his 35 years of service to our sport at both the 2023 and 2024 RCA Awards Banquet. Walter has made a profound impact on the sport over the past 35 years which may help explain the recognition in both 2023 and 2024. 

Long Service Recognition – Bill Reynolds 40 years – During his 40 years in the sport Bill has pretty much done everything.  A former lightweight rower, Bill is a valued resource to both the ERC and ARA.  Course installation, boat repairman, licensed RCA official, awards manufacturer, Bill’s contributions to our sport are virtually endless.  Congratulations Bill.

ARA Erg Championships

There was a time when the writer himself competed at the ARA Erg Championships.  In those days the event was held at a local rowing club and would start and finish within a two-hour window.  Today, the event attracts over 100+ athletes from clubs across the province,and has become a fixture event on the rowing calendar.  The growth of this event is a testament to the efforts of our coaches, volunteers and athletes. 

This year’s event is slated to take place on Saturday March 9, 2024 at the Blackfalds Field House just north of Red Deer.  If you have not already registered but plan to do so simply inform your club coach and they will take care of the rest.  The cost to register is $25.  To check out details of the event visit Alberta Indoor Rowing Championships – Overview (regattacentral.com)

Lakeland Rowing Camp

The Lakeland Rowing Camp dates have been confirmed for 2024.  The 2024 event will be open to athletes of all ages and skill levels.  We hope that everyone will mark the dates of July 19-21, 2024 in their calendars and come out to Vermilion to participate in this year’s event. Details to follow in the coming months. 

National Rowing Day 2024

In conjunction with all rowing communities across the nation, Alberta rowers are challenged to heat up their indoor rowing machines for Indoor Rowing Day in Canada – Coast to Coast 2024!

The purpose is to gather Albertans and Canadians on an indoor rowing machine on Saturday February 24, 2024. We want to create a wave of indoor rowing with the goal of crossing Canada from coast to coast at least once!  We encourage all Alberta clubs to participate.  Many of the details associated with the event are now with your local clubs. The ARA encourages everyone to not only participate, but to also try and bring a friend down with you to the event.  The event is an opportunity to grow rowing in our country. 

Rowing Stories The book and later the movie “Boys in the Boat” highlighted a group of men attending the University of Washington with no rowing experience who came together to take home Olympic gold in 1936.  What most rowing fans don’t know is that Canada has its own Boys in the Boat story.   Back in 1955, Archie Mackinnon made the decision to row with the UBC rowing program despite having no rowing experience.  Upon his arrival at UBC in the fall of 1955 coach Frank Read put Archie in a four with two other freshmen who had never rowed before.   

MacKinnon’s crewmates included Lorne Loomer (1937-2017), Walter D’Hondt (1936-2021), and Donald Arnold (1935-2021). Though very different people, the four came together as a team and relied on their collective athleticism. Led by stroke man Don Arnold (considered the team’s seasoned veteran with just one year of rowing experience), and MacKinnon in the bow seat, the crew got stronger and stronger leading up to the 1956 Royal Canadian Henley Regatta. There, the unknown UBC Four, defeated the heavily favoured Brockville crew, winning by an astounding 10 lengths and qualifying for the Melbourne Olympics.
“Heading to the Olympics meant that I didn’t have to write my Christmas exams. That was a really big relief actually because first year engineering is tough! So that was a big deal,” laughs MacKinnon.
MacKinnon didn’t know just how big of a deal it would be – life altering in-fact. 
“In Melbourne we never had any problem with any of the crews and we kept gaining time with every race. We had a new and really fast Pocock racing shell that gave us an edge. But, we had a bad start in the finals and the boat didn’t feel quite right. I had to do a lot of steering to keep the boat straight, and make sure we didn’t infringe on anybody. Our boat came back, took the Italians, then took the French, and then took the American crew just before the 1000 metre mark. Don Arnold never dropped the stroke, we just kept going.”
The UBC boys shocked the rowing world, beating the Americans by 10 seconds and winning Canada’s first-ever gold medal in rowing. The crew may have left Canada in near anonymity, but when they returned, they returned as heroes. MacKinnon’s parents even made the trip from Cranbrook to Vancouver to join the celebration as UBC welcomed home the golden boys from their fairy-tale win.
* Credit for the story provided by the University of British Columbia.

Upcoming Events:
National Rowing Day 2024 – Saturday February 24, 2024 – Locations across Alberta
Alberta Erg Champs – Saturday March 9, 2024 – Blackfalds, Alberta
RADAR Submissions due between January 29 – March 31, 2024