Wigs, Warm Weather, and White Water – Head and Tail of the Gorge Day 1

Feeling the absence of some whitewater racing in the racing calendar, the ERC made their annual trip out to Victoria for Head of the Gorge and Tail of the Gorge. The race takes place on a tidal inlet near downtown Victoria and features a raging current through a narrow gap (the “Gorge”) midway through the course. Head of the Gorge traditionally falls closer to Halloween, so crews are encouraged to wear costumes during the race. Leading the costume charge this year were the men’s double of Josh Shire and Ian Smith, who donned wigs and rose-tinted glasses to become hippies. Masters rowers Charles Rannells and Frans Slatter had flashbacks to their younger, wilder days touring the country with their Grateful Dead cover band.

At Head of the Gorge, making your way to the start line is as much of an adventure as the actual race, having to row through the narrows against the current. It’s not uncommon for boats to be spun around and spit right back out. Being seasoned veterans, all the ERC boats made it through on the first try. The masters women’s double of Sheila Findlay and Allison Secord was the first boat on the water, and ended up spending near three hours in the warm up loop as they waited for the rest of the field to make their way to the start. Next year, Allison plans to launch a full day ahead of time, to ensure a “proper” warm up. The lengthy warm up paid off as the duo cruised to victory in the masters women’s double. They went so fast that they would have finished fourth in a very competitive open women’s double event.

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The hippies were the best dressed of the ERC contingent. Groovy, man!

The ERC had two other boats in the morning flight. The TOGs (Tall Old Guys) fielded a masters eight of Charles Rannells, Glenn Rollans, Bill Sabey, Steve Fitzjohn, Frans Slatter, Doug Lynass, Rob Swart, Martin Crowder, and cox Jenny McGuiness. Former ERC rower and Victoria native Ray Mckall attempted to infiltrate the TOG eight, but his fake mustache could not fool Jenny as she kept the eight in top racing condition. Not taking the attempted sabotage lightly, Ray will henceforth be known only as “Terry Mckall’s father”. Even the UVic announcer has adopted the new nickname. Terry’s father’s Vic City boat went on to win the masters men’s quad. Stroke man Charles commented that the TOGs spent the whole race about two beats higher than was comfortable for him. Despite repeated attempts to calm things down, the rest of the boat was keen to push the pace right to the line. The higher rate paid off and the TOGs held their own in the masters eight category.

The Mckall family had split allegiances at the regatta this weekend. UVic alumni Terry “TP” Mckall dug out his ERC unisuit, joining Aaron Harrower, Torrin Lemire, and Quinn Brandly to contest the open men’s quad. The foursome crashed their way through several masters eights enroute to a decisive gold medal. The quad lived up to TP Mckall’s hometown reputation, winning the open men’s quad for the second successive year.

After winning two out three morning events, the ERC split up into some small boats for a second run in the afternoon. The hippies, Josh Shire and Ian Smith made their Head of the Gorge small boat debut. Long locks flowing in the breeze, Josh commented that he had never felt so free. Ian on the other hand tried to eat his wig midway through the race and had to perform a quick haircut before attempting the narrows. Back on land, Ian discarded his wig on the ground, where a few innocent passerbys mistook it for a dead muskrat and ran away in fright.

Terry, Aaron, Torrin, and Quinn prepare to navigate the narrows on their way up to the start line.

Terry, Aaron, Torrin, and Quinn prepare to navigate the narrows on their way up to the start line.

Karah Harvey and Steve Wong took to the Gorge in the mixed masters double. Karah picked a gorgeous location for her first ever competitive race. Caught up in the excitement of racing, she pushed the rate through the roof to stay ahead of the boat creeping up behind them. Up against some much larger age handicaps, they had a very respectable middle of the pack finish.

In the masters men’s double, Bill Sabey and Steve Fitzjohn built upon their success earlier in the season at Vermilion, hurtling to another gold medal in the masters men’s double. Their rival with the winning masters women’s double of Sheila and Allison only built up the suspense for the next day’s showdown in the mixed doubles, where Sheila and Steve would face off against Bill and Allison. More importantly than medals, bragging rights were on the line.

The men’s quad closely follows the TOG eight through the raging narrows

 

Torrin Lemire and Aaron Harrower teamed up in the open men’s double. After giving it their all in the quad that morning, the duo ran out of beans towards the end of the race and settled for 7th out of 15 boats. Over dinner that evening, Torrin commented that he was “just about as tired as he was last weekend after coaching, but now everything hurt.” Torrin will be sure to attend the budget meeting this year to make sure that next year’s priority is hiring a team masseuse.

The other half of the quad, Quinn Brandly and Terry Mckall, also raced in the open men’s double. Their revolutionary new training strategy is currently taking the world by storm. No more need to actually train in a rowing boat, just hold a secret bicycle training camp the week before the race. Quinn and Terry’s secret strategy paid off and they finished in a solid 3rd place.

 

Read about Day 2 HERE.