Over 600 rowers per day, ranging from community members to National Training Centre athletes, will descend upon Elk Lake this weekend as the UVic Vikes women’s rowing team are set to host the 44th edition of the Elk Lake Spring Regatta on March 3-4.
A jam-packed schedule of racing will see the full breadth of the rowing community participating this weekend, with the opportunity for everybody from junior to masters to race at the same time.
The regatta also offers the Vikes the chance to see how they stack up against some top competition from both the national and university ranks.
A number of Vikes who are carded at the national level will be rowing against their National Training Centre counterparts and the inter-team competitions promise to be a highlight of the regatta.
“There is a pretty big entry from the National Training Centre,” said Vikes head coach Rick Crawley. “In the Varsity eight race there will be a national team eight and all of our athletes that are candidates for the national team will race for us, so that sets up a really good rivalry with their teammates on the national team.”
The other rivalry to watch throughout the weekend will be between the Vikes and the UBC Thunderbirds. The two rowing powerhouses from the West Coast are once again set to square off in what will be a preview of the upcoming Brown Cup race.
“The last few years UBC has had our number at Elk Lake Spring but they’ve been really close races,” said Crawley. “Part of the issue with this regatta is that we host it, our athletes are doing a lot of extra work so they are tired before they have to race and that sometimes has led to us being narrowly beaten.”
The two crews have swung back and forth in recent years with the racing advantage changing hands multiple times.
“UBC had a pretty good eight last year and we were kind of rebuilding, so they had our number last year,” said Crawley. “So far this year we have had their number, so it’ll be interesting to see how our crews stack up this weekend.”
This will be a busy weekend for the Vikes who are trying to get their competitive feet back underneath them. With the cancellation of the Head of the Shawnigan regatta due to inclement weather, this will be the first chance for many of the Vikes to race outdoors since November.
“It was unfortunate that Shawnigan didn’t happen because all of our development team would have raced there,” said Crawley. “We are trying to get races for everyone this weekend.”
Heats are set to begin at 8 a.m. on both Saturday, March 3 and Sunday, March 4 at what will be the lone home regatta of the spring season for the Vikes.
“It’s going to be an interesting weekend, will be a lot of fun for people and we will start preparing for the San Diego Crew Classic after this weekend,” said Crawley.
For Crawley, who is retiring at the end of the season, this will be his 35th and final Elk Lake Spring Regatta as the Vikes head coach, though his history with the regatta goes back even further than that.
Crawley won a gold medal in the double at the very first edition of the Elk Lake Spring Regatta that was held in 1975 and if you asked him then whether or not he would be back, the answer was a pretty resounding no.
“There were maybe 30 people racing and it snowed. We set up a 55 gallon drum full of wood and we all stood around that to try and get warm between races,” said Crawley. “I remember thinking, ‘I’m never coming back here.'”
Not only did Crawley return to Elk Lake but he has been at the helm as the regatta has transitioned from its humble beginnings and acknowledges that the regatta needs to continue to evolve to remain one of the premier events of the spring racing season in the Pacific Northwest.
“I didn’t start the event, but I evolved it to where it is now and Aalbert Van Schothorst (Vikes men’s head coach) has added touches here and there to it and it’s important to keep evolving the event,” said Crawley. “I’m happy to see that it has stayed fairly steady over the years, where it has gone from 30 people to around 1,000 people and pretty consistently features really good racing.”