The Kings County Record, Sussex, N.B., Wednesday, May 3, 1978

Rowing week launches Renforth season

Click here to see full size. Getting Ready - Sally Hutchinson, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Hutchinson of Renforth, gets ready for rowing season. [Photo by Bill Hart].

This is National Rowing Week and to mark the event members of the Kennebecasis Rowing Club took to the water off the Renforth wharf Sunday for their first full scale workout of the season.

The week May 1-7 has been designated National Rowing Week by the Canadian Amateur Rowing Association in order to get more young people aware of and involved in the sport of rowing.

Rowing has a very special place in the Village of Renforth because it was as a result of a special racing event in 1871 between a Saint John crew and one from Newcastle-On-Tyne, England, that the village got its name.

It all goes back to 1867 according to Don McGowan an executive member of Kennebecasis Rowing Club Inc. In 1867 a crew from Saint John was "showing its heels" to the elite of the European rowing fraternity in the world's championship four-oar rowing class in Paris.

As a result of their win the crew picked up the name "the Paris crew" and reigned as world's champs 'til 1869. In that year they rowed against a crew from Newcastle-On-Tyne at Lachine, Que., but a winner was never declared.

However, that meet set the stage for a "once and for all decision" with the world's championship to be decided at a race on the Kennebecasis River at The Chalet in 1871.

Members of the press from Europe and all across North America thronged to the scene and thousands of people lining the banks of the river for miles on the day of the big event. Betting was high and the odds were big for the race.

Just as it got underway, the stroke of the English team, James F. Renforth had a seizure. While race officials got him to shore alive, he died a short time after.

The village known as The Chalet then became the Village of Renforth in honor of the young sportsman.

"This community is very different," said Mr. McGowan. "Some say it is because of the spirit of Renforth."

In 1971 a re-enactment of the Great Boat Race was staged at Renforth. At that time rowing enthusiasts promised that if they were supported they would try to get rowing started again.

And get it started they did, and started several young people on their way to gold medals in rowing competition.

For the 1971 race the club started off with a "cast off" boat from the Mic Mac Rowing Club in Halifax.

Then in 1973 former Canadian Olympic rowing champion Jerry Leinert moved to the community and started the club members off on an improved training program and on their way to the top of the competition.

In heavyweight pairs a crew of David Allan and Mark Allan of Renforth won gold medals at the Canadian Henley, the biggest rowing regatta in North America.

The two brothers also won the gold in national competition at Montreal and then teamed up with Andy Messer and Wayne McConnell to take the straight fours competition at Montreal.

A girls crew of Margot Inches, Sally Hutchinson, Mary Ellen Guidry and Patty Keiver took top honors in a rowing regatta at Buffalo, N. Y., on their way to the Henley, only to be beaten by the Mexican national team in Henley competition.

A former member of the club, Andy Messer, son of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Messer, has 'excelled" in rowing and went on to Ridley College in Ontario where his crew gained a gold medal in the National Youth Championships. After training with Ridley crews Yale and Harvard Universities in the U. S. wanted him for their crews with Andy deciding on Yale for his education and racing activities.

Keith Ratcliffe is coach of the boys crew. Gary Hunter coaches the heavyweights and Lorne Kilpatrick is coach of the girls crews.

Mr. Kilpatrick has eight girls in training now with the possibility of three more being added. "We have also had a couple in college who have expressed an interest in rowing," he added.

Of those now involved three have rowed for two years and two have rowed part-time, but have never competed.

The boys and girls start their training in January and do not let up until October. Conditioning is one of the keys to success in rowing and to maintain top condition the crews spend most of their free time weight lifting and running.

Their training includes the proper handling of a boat, getting it in and out of a boathouse, getting in an out of the boat, and the use of the oars in water.

Mr. Kilpatrick said that with the three crew members left over from last year, he expects "a much better crew this year."

The club will be rowing against crews from Ontario, Nova Scotia and Quebec in the Renforth Regatta, July 15; the Dartmouth Regatta, and the Fredericton Regatta.

If the crews "fare well and the times are good" they will be competing in national competition in Montreal Aug. 5 - 6 and in the Canadian Henley Regatta to be run in St. Catherines, Ont.

The "real downfall of racing," he said, "is: that crews must train from January to the middle of October and they get to compete in five regattas. There is not much reward for all that work except the self-satisfaction."

Members of the club's executive are: Dr. C. H. Bonnycastle, president; Robert Hutchinson, vice-president and William Gardner, secretary-treasurer.