A record number of competitors – many of them first-timers – dipped oars into the water at the Head of the Nicomekl Regatta Saturday, but it was a repeat champion who once again took top honours at the end of the day.
Maureen Harriman of the Whistler Rowing Club was named the overall Head of the Nicomekl champion after her peformance in the women’s singles division. In total, 84 boats – including singles, doubles, quads and eights – and nearly 220 rowers took part in the 5.7-km Saturday morning race, which began at 11 a.m. and included a staggered start of rowers take off from the start line near the Nicomekl dam and finish near the Crescent Beach pier.
At the end of the race – hosted by the Nicomekl Rowing Club – a weighted points system, which handicaps by age, gender, and boat type, is used to determine who wins the overall title.
The win is the third straight Nicomekl title for Harriman, and fourth in the last six years, having also won in 2012. The veteran rower is preparing for the prestigious Head of the Charles race in Boston, said Nicomekl regatta chair Mary Tisdelle.
Many rowers from the Pacific Northwest use the Nicomekl event as a tune-up race for the Head of the Charles, due to the two courses’ similarities, Tisdelle added.
“The distance and the (layout) of our race is very similar to the Charles, which is one of the most prestigous races in North America,” she said.
Participation in Saturday’s event was larger than ever, she said, and included rowing clubs from throughout the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island, and from as far away as Seattle and 100 Mile House.
“It was significantly more that we expected – I had expected about 150,” Tisdelle said. “It was really great to have that many people come out.”
Despite having to accomodate more rowers on the water, the competition went off without a hitch – save for a flipped boat, or two.
One quad rowing team – made up of four teenage rowers – had their boat flip when it collided with a navigational buoy on the river, Tisdelle explained, while adding that none of the four competitors were hurt. Another boat – a single – also flipped as it approached the finish line, but the rower was able to right himself and complete the race.
“The wind picked up a bit by the end, near the pier, and because the wind opposed the tide, the water got a little bit choppy,” Tisdelle explained.
The tide was tricky for some rowers to deal with, she continued, though it serve as a bonus for those who played it right.
“If you’re with the tide, you can gain some speed and some time, but it can also propel you past your turns. But if you plan your turns well – and here, there are a lot of them – you can really use it to your advantage,” Tisdelle said.