|W1x Dash at Canadian Henley (Photo: B. Kitch)|
Canadian Henley, which began in 1880, is one of the longest running traditions in our sport, and I can now say that attending the regatta as both an athlete and a spectator is an unique experience. The regatta course, which was used for the 1999 World Rowing Championships (click here for a great race in the LM4- from that regatta), and which continues to be maintained as a FISA-level regatta venue, gives up and coming club athletes a chance to experience what it is like to line up at an elite level international regatta. The volunteers and regatta organizers run the event in much the same way as their FISA counterparts, and manage to host a huge number of events without deviating from the schedule (weather permitting), which helps to increase participation as well as interest. While the timing of the regatta usually prevents members of the Canadian and US senior national teams from racing at the regatta, there have been exceptions (as with last year, when the late date of the World Championships in Karapiro meant that the Canadian men's eight could race in St. Catharines without interrupting their preparations for Karapiro), and there are a number of internationals at the regatta each year, helping to elevate the standard and broaden the experience for younger athletes. This is perhaps most clear in the small town of Port Dalhousie, which is nestled between Lake Ontario and the foot of the rowing course, occupying a narrow strip of land that is absolutely taken over by rowers during the regatta. Much like its British counterpart, Canadian Henley provides an atmosphere in a relatively small area for rowers from many nations to gather and intermingle in the local restaurants, bars and clubs, though without any of the formal restrictions of the English event.
For more on the history of Canadian Henley, please visit Stan Lapinski's website, where Stan has compiled a great deal of information regarding the earliest stages of the regatta, and regatta records (click on the 'Additional Information' link for historical notes on the regatta).
Much more to come as we draw closer to the 2011 World Rowing Championships in Bled, Slovenia.