The South Niagara Rowing Club crew of Kevin Fuller, James Madronich, Rob Fowler, and Shane McReynolds took the silver medal in the Masters Men's Quad at the Head of the Welland - Five Bridges Classic Regatta, held on September 25. DON RICKERS

Two year drought due to Covid comes to an end

With competitions curtailed for almost two years due to the pandemic, rowing enthusiasts were pleased to see the return on September 25 of what has grown over the years into the largest single day “head race” in Canada.

The Head of the Welland – Five Bridges Classic has taken place in the fall for almost 40 years, attracting crews from across Ontario and beyond. The 5.3 kilometre race takes the rowers through the heart of Welland, traveling under five bridges that span its banks at Main, Division, Lincoln, and Broadway streets, plus the historic Railway Swing Bridge.

Kevin Fuller, President of the host club, South Niagara RC, in Welland, was pleased at the athletes’ compliance with Covid protocols during the regatta, and had praise for the 75 volunteers (including Rowing Canada umpires) who donated their time to make the event possible.

The regatta attracted 217 entries in categories including singles, doubles, fours, quads, and eights, with almost 400 men and women taking part. Fuller said that the regatta drew “roughly half the participants of what we would normally expect in non-pandemic times. In 2019 we had about 50 entries from the United States—Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York. But the Covid testing protocols made it difficult and expensive for them to cross the border this year.”

Fuller said that the event took in about 60 percent of the entry fees from 2019, “which is pretty much what we anticipated.” A contribution from the event’s flagship sponsor, Bertie and Clinton Mutual Insurance Company, in Welland, helped offset the loss of revenue.

Gold, silver, and bronze medals were awarded to crews competing in various age groups and boat configurations. St. Catharines Rowing Club led the field in podium appearances with 15, followed closely by Don RC (Mississauga), Toronto Argonauts, Niagara Falls, Notre Dame (Welland), and South Niagara. Clubs from Leander (Hamilton), Hanlan (Toronto), Western (London), Ridley College and Ridley Graduate (St. Catharines), Barrie, Georgian Bay (Midland), and Tillsonburg also won medals.

The oldest participant in the regatta was masters competitor Conrad Andreychuk, of Leander Boat Club, age 86.

Upcoming Welland regattas include the Ontario Universities Rowing Championships on October 30, and the Canadian Universities Rowing Championships on November 6. Both regattas will take place on the South Course, a section of the old Welland Canal in Dain City that was decommissioned in 1973, and is regarded today as one of the nation’s premier rowing waterways, known as the “Great Dain.”