For nearly 200 years, the Royal St. John’s Regatta has been challenging competitors and thrilling spectators during the annual summertime rowing event on the shores of Quidi Vidi Lake.
As the oldest organized sporting event in North America, the Regatta is woven deeply into the cultural and sporting fabric of St. John’s. Its origins date back to the 1700s when crews from rival fishing vessels challenged each other for prize money and bragging rights in friendly rowing races in St. John’s harbour.
Several years ago, faced with a noticeable dip in the number of participating crews, the Regatta committee realized that to keep the event healthy they needed to encourage young people to take up the sport. A Learn to Row Program was developed, and Chevron became the sponsor.
Regatta Fast Facts
The Royal St. John’s Regatta draws crowds of up to 50,000 people annually. It is widely known as “The Largest Garden Party in the World” because it has been about socializing as much as amateur sport.
The Royal St. John’s Regatta is:
- The only civic holiday in North America to be declared by a committee of persons not associated with a government body.
- The only civic holiday that is dependent on the weather.
- One of the last fixed-seat rowing competitions known to exist in the world.
- The only competition where teams have to round buoys and return to the start line in order to finish the race.
- One of only four organizations in Newfoundland and Labrador to be granted the Royal Designation (the others are The Royal Newfoundland Regiment, The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and The Royal Newfoundland Yacht Club).
“The Chevron Learn to Row Program has been integral in the advancement of our mandate to further grow the sport of fixed-seat rowing, with 2017 showing 100 teams competing for the first time in decades,” said Paul Rogers, president of the Royal St. John’s Regatta Committee.
In fact, 30 percent of participants in the 2017 event were 16 and under, the highest youth participant rate in years. “We are very appreciative of Chevron's generosity, as without the Chevron Learn to Row Program, this would not be possible,” Rogers said.
“It’s great to see the Learn to Row program encouraging young people to take up the sport,” added Mark Williams, a senior facilities engineer for Chevron in St. John’s. “Rowing is great exercise, develops resilience, and is at the pinnacle of team sports. Teams really have to work together in training and racing.”
The Chevron Learn to Row Program is open to participants aged 10 and up. The goal of the program is to provide a free opportunity for community members to try fixed-seat rowing and potentially establish a team to compete in the Regatta.
Through the program, participants learn the fundamentals of fixed-seat rowing and gain a comprehensive understanding of the rowing operations at Quidi Vidi Lake. This includes individual and group sessions, rowing and boat orientation, technical rowing instruction and on-water mentoring.