Head of Vermilion – Wind, Waves, Weeds, and Weird Trophies

Hosted by the Lakeland College & Lakeland Rowing Club, the Head of the Vermilion is a 3000m head race on Vermilion Park Lake. Although it only happens once every three years, this year marked a big milestone, the 20th anniversary. Head of the Vermilion was the first race of the fall season for the ERC and for some, the first race ever. All of our programs came out in force; Masters, Sport, Competitive, Junior, and the U of A Novices all fielded boats. Quinn had to play Tetris just to get all the boats on the trailer.

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The calm before the storm

Regatta day started far too early for the head coaching duo of Quinn Brandly and Amanda Cinnamon. Thanks to a few gallons of coffee, the ERC trailer had the best spot at the regatta. The first boats to hit the water were the two novice women’s 8+. Having just picked up an oar for the first time at the beginning of September, they were eager to test their mettle in a racing environment. The ERC fielded a third women’s from the Sport program, expertly coached by Simon Lewin. This is the first time Sport has raced a women’s 8+ at a head race in over five years, an exciting step forwards for the program. The Competitive women’s team decided that they needed two oars each and split into two quads. Not to be outdone by the ladies, the men had a strong small boat showing with four doubles, three pairs, and four singles.

On land, rowers could be heard furiously exchanging different race strategies on how best to avoid the weedy patches littered along the river. The women’s 4x of Georgie Hyland, Sahara Duffett, Lara Habashy, and Emily Dolphin chose to treat the race as a power strokes session, picking up weeds in the first 500m and leaving them on their fin for the entire race. The men’s pair of Audla Buchan and Mike Blair decided to traverse the entire river to locate weed-free patches. That, or they still have not figured out the fine art of foot steering. A third, rather ingenious approach perfected by a Bryce Kneller in the single was to stop rowing, back a stroke mid race, then start off again… at double the pace. Whatever the approach, the ERC had an immensely succesful first flight, claiming victories in the novice women’s 8+, open women’s 8+, open women’s 4x, men’s 2-, open Men’s 2x, master’s men’s 2x, and men’s 1x. The men’s 2x of Connor Stephens and Ben Altman posted the fastest time of the first flight. Impressive work from everyone in adverse conditions. One of the trademarks of Head of the Vermilion is the eclectic collection of trophies to pick from after a win. The women’s quad of Lara Damen, Mallory Turner, Stephanie Thornton, and Patricia Juarez brought home the bacon and were quick to claim the coveted pig trophy. Rumour has it, Mallory was so smitten with the trophy that she might hang up her oars and take up competitive pig herding.

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The U of A novices had a strong showing at their first ever regatta [Photo by John Aspden]

After a few rigging changes and last minute checks, the boats were ready for a second battle with the weeds and the elements. The second launch saw the boatings reversed: the men in big boats and the women in the small boats. First out of the gates and chomping at the bit were the two Novice Men’s 8+. Like the women, these University of Alberta students just started rowing in the beginning of September. Coach Torrin Lemire has done an great job getting them ready to race in a mere three weeks. Also taking to the water: two men’s fours, a quad and the reunited TOG 8+. The women focused on sculling for their small boats, racing in four doubles and two singles. Also in their debut head race was a Junior Women’s Quad coached by Camil Teodorescu. Facing difficult conditions, the girls decided to go for a casual swim at the start line. Not liking what they found, they hopped back in their boat and blazed down to the finish line.

After one go at the course, crews thought they had the lake mastered. But the afternoon presented new and exciting challenges. Between launches a strong tailwind wind picked up, creating some choppy conditions and raising up white caps in some parts of the lake. The ERC crews kept their cool in the wind and waves, again collecting many (repurposed) trophies from second flight wins. Selecting a second hand trophy from Lakeland’s collection were: the men’s 4x, men’s 4+, novice men’s 8+, masters men’s 8+. women’s 2x, women’s 1x, and masters women’s 2x. From his perch in bow seat, A-A-ron the last airbender turned the wind to his advantage, steering the men’s 4x of Ian Smith, Scott Elgersma, Andrew Stevens, and Aaron Harrower to victory and posting the fastest time of the entire day.

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The speedy combination of Connor Stephens and Ben Altman posted the fastest time of the first flight [Photo by John Aspden]

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Athletes from every ERC program made the trip out to Leduc. Here, masters rowers Rob Swart and Steve Fitzjohn rig boats side by side with U of A novices Emma Stephens and Cody Lich [Photo by John Aspden]

Congratulations to all the athletes who participated. It was an awesome regatta and it was great to see the entire club so well represented. Thank you to Lakeland for hosting another excellent regatta. An extra big thank you to all the volunteers who made the races possible. The ERC look forward to returning for the 2019 Head of Vermilion Regatta.

 

For more photos of the event, visit John Aspen’s website and Camil’s website.

 

-Press Officers Cinnamon, Brandly, and Lemire

 

The entire ERC team gathered at the end of a day of great racing.

The entire ERC team gathered at the end of a day of great racing.

 

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The Sport women’s 8+ putting their boat in the water, the first time the program has fielded an women’s 8+ in over 5 years [Photo by John Aspden]