The Kennebecasis Rowing Club

A Story of Hard Work . . . And of Dedication

By John Foley, Staff Writer

The success of the Kennebecasis Rowing Club at nearby Renforth is a story of dedication, confidence, personal sacrifice and hardship.

It is the story of young athletes aspiring to become the best in their field. It is the story of the men and women who make the club one of the finest in a gruelling sport.

The story really started in 1970. It started with an idea that became a reality in 1972 when the Kennebecasis Rowing Club was organized. It was started through hard work, work organizers hoped would return Renforth to rowing prominence.

There goes a story in Renforth of how the tiny village got its name. Itís one that has been passed down through generations.

In the challenge match on the Kennebecasis River in 1871 between the "Paris Crew" and the English club, James F. Renforth, an oarsman in the English boat suffered a heart attack during the race and later died. The village was later named after Renforth.

There was also a regatta organized in later years to mark the memory of Renforth's death and is still held today. The Renforth Regatta is one of the more prestigious invitational regattas in Canada.

The Kennebecasis club entered its first boat in the Renforth Regatta in 1972 and the crew consisted of Tim Frink, Lorne Kilpatrick, Charles Fawcett and Ivan Langille, coached by international rowing coach Gerry Lienert.

Kilpatrick today coaches the club's girls teams while Keith Ratcliffe, a Northampton England native coaches the boys' squads.

Under Lienert's coaching subsequent crews went to compete in the Royal Canada Henley and placed in the finals. Also in the coaching scene was Frink, who coached the lightweights.

Ratcliffe took over coaching duties from Lienert in 1975 and the next summer teams again competed in the Henley when they showed fine form, but out of the medals.

It was also the first year for women rowers. The club had two women's team made up of the only all-sister crew in North America of Mary-Beth, Patricia and identical twins Rosalie and Joanne Barry. Kim Tremblay, Mary Ellen Guidry, Nancy Loewen and Sally Hutchinson made up the other women's team.

After a hard winter of indoor training last year in preparation for the Henley, Butch Gaunce, Wayne McConnell, Dave and Mark Allan missed out on a gold medal in the straight four race but the Allan brothers were not to be denied in the pairs without cox final, to bring the club its first gold medals.

The womenís team of Guidry, Hutchinson, Margo Inches and Patti Kieffer competed in a beat race with five other boats but were beaten by a boat length by the Mexican National crew.

Other former oarsmen later turned to coaching and the club this season is hoping to hit the waters after an extensive winter training program next weekend. The club will also be holding boys and girls rowing camps for school-aged persons this summer.

Last year at the national rowing championships in Montreal the Allan brothers walked off with gold medals in the pairs competition and repeated that performance at the Henley while teaming with McConnell and Gaunce to win gold medals in the straight fours race.

Andy Messer of Kennebecasis Park is considered the club's most successful member.

Messer began rowing at the age of 15 in 1974 under the coaching of Lienert and was approached the next year by Ridley College in Ontario to attend their College and train for the national youth team. Messer attended Ridley in 1975 and competed in the American School Boy, Canadian School Boy and Strothebury Regatta, coming second in all three events.

In 1976, Messer was chosen to row for the national youth crew that won the gold medal in the American Youth Regatta Championships in Ontario, Canadian Championships, Canadian Henley junior fours, senior fours and senior eights.

He also rowed on the Canadian team in the world youth championships in Yugoslavia in 1971 where the team finished fourth behind the powerful East German, Russian and West German crews. He was a member of the Ridley Heavy Eights in the 1977 which won the Princess Elizabeth Cub in the Royal Henley Regatta in England.

Messer accepted a rowing scholarship at Yale Univerisity last year.

He rowed for the Kennebecasis Club in the nationals in Montreal last year, replacing the injured Gaunce and won the straight fours.

While the club has enjoyed recent success, it cannot all be attributed to only the rowers and coaches themselves. The club is a community venture, and all financial drives are spearheaded by a committee of Renforth residents.

The club's boathouse (approximately 40 x 18 feet) houses one single-man craft, one pairs, one straight four, one straight four without cox while a new eight-man craft is on order from England. The eight-man craft is being purchased at a cost of approximately $7,OOO and is the first for New Brunswick.

There are approximately 15 oarsmen on both the menís and womenís team.

And it doesnít cost anything for the rowers to train or compete within the club. Itís all paid through fund-raising campaigns.

The Kennebecasis Rowing Club will be one of many across Canada to celebrate the first National Rowing Week, starting today and ending next Friday.