Matt Foley has 27 years as Placentia Rowing Club coxswain

Melissa Jenkins
Published on July 29, 2014
Matt Foley of Placentia has been a coxswain with the local rowing club for the past 27 years.
Photo by Melissa Jenkins/The Compass

Year after year, Placentia rowers of all ages practice on the waters of Southeast Arm in sweep boats for their moment to shine in the town's annual regatta.

For 27 of those years, Matt Foley has been a dedicated coxswain to many teams.

Several years ago, he led 14 teams and was in every race. This year, he took on six, and changed his shirt six times to match each one of his teams.

But how can one person take responsibility of so many teams each year?

Matt, who the rowers call Mattie, spends over four hours a day, seven days a week on the water. When he finishes work at Sobeys in Placentia, he makes the four-kilometre trek to the floating docks and gets right down to business.

"I just love the sport," Matt told The Compass after the town's 51st annual regatta July 19.

Each year, Matt says he will decrease his number of teams or retire from the volunteer position, but each year he steps back on those docks.

"A lot of people count on me to do it," he explained. "I keep saying I'm going to cut back, but I can't."

Dedicated coxswain

At the regatta, gold and silver medals are given to first and second place teams for each race.

Matt received four gold - Marquise Heavy Equipment, Collins Contracting, Woodmar Construction and Barry's Value Grocer - and two silver - Caregivers and Fabulous You - this year to add to his collection of over 600 medals.

"I'm quite happy with the results this year," he elated.

But would the teams be so successful if Matt didn't put in the time he has?

Many of the rowers and regatta supporters don't believe so, and they openly make it known.

"(Matt) is an asset to this community, and inspires many young athletes to follow their dreams," a young man in the boathouse was overheard saying.

Several people, including Matt, heard the comment. He smiled.

Although he has been the coxswain for many of the teams, Matt also took the time to acknowledge others, including Tony Woodman.

"Tony also has several the teams, and (the regatta) wouldn't happen without him either," Matt said.

Busy man

The regatta is a big part of Matt's life, but his passions don't end there.

For the fourth year in a row he will participate in the Tely 10 road race in St. John's. He says it's because he loves to run.

Matt also loves to help people in need, which is evident from his involvement with the Avalon North Wolverines Search and Rescue group in Bay Roberts. When there's an emergency, and extra hands are needed, Matt is ready and willing to drive an hour away to assist any way he can.

He is also one of a group of people from the Placentia area who are taking part in a fundraising effort for a neighbour and friend who was diagnosed with cancer.

If anyone would like to donate to the walk, they can contact Matt at Sobeys in Placentia.

As for the regatta, coxswains, like Matt, are always in need. If you or anyone you know is interested in becoming a coxswain in Placentia for future rowers, call the president of the Placentia Rowing Club, Gene Collins, at 227-3579.