It has been six years since Amy Durnford of Harbour Grace started taking her daughter Lauryn to Lady Lake to become a member of a children’s rowing team.
At that time, Durnford was one of more than a dozen parents who were encouraged to help start a children’s team to compete in the town’s annual regatta. The plan was to boost participation in the province’s second longest sporting even that is now 152 years running.
The regatta was not an event Durnford was interested in attending for many years, until Lauryn competed.
“It was the first time I had been at the regatta since I was a kid,” she told The Compass at the boathouse Monday, July 28, two days after the event.
The following year, Durnford began rowing with a senior ladies crew. Her other daughter, Jenna, started rowing a few years later.
For five years Durnford has been a member of a rowing team, but this year she decided to take on a new role — coxswain.
“I’ve wanted to do it for a couple of years,” she explained. “They were a fun crew. These girls were perfect for me.”
This was a big year for the novice coxswain. She not only helped her team, Dave’s Tire Mart, earn a silver medal, she went home with the prestigious coxswain of the year award.
When her name was called late in the evening July 26, tears of happiness ran down her cheeks.
With Durnford being chosen over seasoned coxswains like Bud Chafe, and coxswains of championship calibre teams like Lenny Williams, she was shocked at the honour. And her modesty had her questioning if it should have been her.
But the overwhelming support she received after the announcement made her proud to be the recipient.
Fellow Dave’s Tire Mart teammate Georgina Adams was also at the lake when Durnford was discussing her win, and she was very supportive of her friend and coxswain.
“(The award) was really well deserving,” Adams said, sitting next to Durnford on the stage beside the boathouse.
Organizers and rowers discussed the award after the announcement July 26, with several noting how Durnford’s dedication, passion and want for the event to succeed added to the decision.
When asked about how she felt about those kind words, Durnford shed a few more tears, adding, “I’m very passionate about this event.”
Growth and success
The regatta isn’t just about rowing to Durnford. She believes it should be an event to bring communities together and allow people to work together.
Throughout the years, hundreds of people have come from far and wide to the regatta to see the races and take part in the games and activities. But the interest has decreased.
For the last few years, the number of children’s teams have dominated the docks, with women’s crews not far behind. There are no men’s teams at this time, although there is discussion about the addition of one next year.
Durnford said the success that has been seen is all thanks to those who dedicated so much of their time to keep the event going.
“It would be so awesome if we could see this event grow,” Durnford said. “If everybody saw what all of them saw, this place would be blocked.”
With so many people trying to help keep the regatta alive, the addition of new blood is expected to help grow the event and encourage more teams to get involved.
“We have to get more people involved,” Durnford explained. “We need to bring in more teams, and we need to bring in more coxswains.”
Durnford will return next year, and hopes the event continues to grow, and take on more participants.
“I’d like to see this event grow, and have so many people participate. I think it has the (potential) to do that,” she added.