In January, the organizers of the 10th annual Head of the Fort rowing competition in Fort Langley decided to change the event date, moving it a week later than originally planned.
It was a good call.
The weather conditions on Saturday were sunny and warm, perfect for the regatta held on the Bedford Channel by the University of the Fraser Valley rowing program.
“Wow” said UFV rowing program head coach Liz Chisholm.
“Aren’t we lucky? It’s funny because we’ve had so much ice, and cold, cold, weather and rain. We actually were slated for last weekend, and in January we made a decision to move it to this weekend.”
The event featured junior, university and Masters crews competing on a 6.5-kilometre course.
Competitors came from all over the Lower Mainland, including the Simon Fraser University men’s and women’s teams.
One team came from Seattle.
“Everybody loves this race,” Chisholm said.
“They love the way the students enjoy themselves.”
She said visiting teams also like the “valet boating” service to help rowers navigate the extra-steep ramps down to the water when they carry their boats to the water.
“Its quite nerve-wracking,” Chisholm said.
“So we ‘valet’, we take over for them, and help them with their boats down and back up the ramp.”
This year’s Head of the Fort had three launches – at 9:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. with boats sent off every 20 seconds.
Crews raced east, keeping to the starboard shore, with slower crews expected to allow faster boats to pass.
The UFV Cascades were represented by four women’s and three men’s boats, plus a pair of alumni boats (a men’s four and men’s eight).
Highlights for the host Cascades included a first-place finish (by raw time) for Erin Steele in the women’s single (29:08.96).
It was just the second time Steele had competed in the single – the first being the previous weekend at the Elk Lake Sprints in Victoria.
Mitchell Wierks and Clayton DeVries were third in the men’s double.
Complete race results can be found online at regattacentral.com.
Since Chisholm began the UFV rowing club in 2001, under her coaching, six former Cascades have been selected to represent the province at the National Rowing Championships, four have been sent to Rowing Canada’s national development team, and two represented Canada at the 2013 U23 World Championship and 2014 Pan Am Games.
The most decorated graduate of the program is Langley resident Lisa Roman, who became the Cascades’ first-ever Olympian in the summer of 2016, earning selection to the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Roman and fellow Langley resident Kristin Bauder helped Canada to a silver-medal showing at the 2017 rowing world championships in Sarasota, Fla.
Roman has won multiple international medals in the women’s eight.