When Venice is Sinking


So, what do you get when you put three Canadian rowers, one German rower (who speaks English and is new to rowing) and one French citizen who speaks ZERO English but has been rowing for decades all into an old Dutch wooden quad and let them row in the 44th Annual  Vogalonga in Venice, Italy? You get a great story that legends are made of.


On Sunday, May 20th, 2018, Shawna Pereira, Shelagh Baker and CK Andrade met up in Venice, Italy to row in the 44th Annual Vogalonga. The Vogalonga is rich in history and spirit. Originally, it started off as a protest by non-motorized boat owners who had had enough of wakes and fast speeds in and out of the canals of Venice by speed boats and motorized water taxis. In true European fashion, fed up boat owners descended upon St. Marks Place in their non-motorized boats and an annual regatta was born.

The Vogalonga is held on the third weekend in May and covers a distance of approximately 35 kilometres.

Did I mention that approximately 2,000 boats participate in the event?

So back to our boat story.....we now have an international crew of three Canadians, one German and one French citizen. We had never met before and our rowing styles were all a little different, but with attitudes and enthusiasm high, we set out to take on the day.

Our bib number was 1912 (to be noted the year the Titanic sank). Once in the boat, we quickly set off to the start of the race. Shawna Pereira started as coxie, with a plan to switch out during the day. Navigating through the tight (and busy) canals of Venice was a bit of a challenge but there were no major incidents to report at our on-water switch stop. Now in command was Hanlan's own Shelagh Baker. Shelagh guided the boat safely though the waters around the Venetian islands. At out next switch over, CK Andrade took on the coxie seat, for her second time ever. With confidence and ease, CK guided the boat though the next leg of the row. At some point our German teammate made it known that she was not comfortable navigating our quad, and since our French teammate was in first seat, it was decided that CK would coxie the remainder of the course.


So, we row and row and row. The sun is hot and beating down on all participants. As we approach the end of the course we are faced with the "hurry up and wait" scenario. Meaning 2,000 non-motorized boats have all converged at the mouth of the main canal at one time. And we are taking all sorts of non-motorized boats -- canoes, kayaks, paddle boards, gondolas, sculling boats, stand-up crazy peddling concoctions -- if it could float and it was non-motorized it was there ready to enter the main canal towards the finish line.

The beauty of the Vogalonga is the madness of the waiting to enter the canal. It's sheer controlled chaos. Boats so close, you could easily walk from floating boat to floating boat. Oars! Oars in ribs, oars in other boats, oars in your face. All of this madness was taken with a grain of salt by participants and the air was light and easy going as we all waited patiently for our turn to enter the mouth of the main canal. 

Once we were in the canal, it was a straight row to the end of the course. Along the way, people were clapping, drinking, cheering, drinking and clapping us onto the end. Finally....after about eight hours in our quad we reach the finish line. As per protocol, you line up your boat in front of the medal tents. Packages of medals and certificates are thrown into your boat and back you go to row your boat BACK to where you initially launched.


So, at this point our crew had a decision to make. Take the DVP (the main canal, now open to regular boat traffic) back, to drop and de-rig the boat. OR…take Leslie Street (the outside channel around the Island of Venice) to take the boat back and de-rig.

After a lot of back and forth in the boat, it was decided to take the channel home. We saw other boats taking the channel route, but what we didn't know was exactly how wavy and open the water was.

As we slowly inched our way towards our boat drop, we were constantly battling high waves and whitecaps. There was a lot of back-and-forth discussion as to what our next step was going to be when suddenly we all heard "you can stop talking as we are going DOWN."

Within two seconds, a giant wave swamped our boat and all of a sudden, the beautiful wooden quad that we spent the entire day rowing in was now under water.

It didn't take long for people to act. Our German crew mate immediately inflated her life jacket and abandoned ship. She swam safely to shore and waited our arrival. The remaining crew managed to flag down a speed boat that picked up our French rower, however not before he swam back to pick up our participation medals that he left in our sinking ship.

The Canadians representing Hanlan stayed with the boat that was eventually towed into shore by Marine Rescue. Once on dry land we were then approached for our passports and information. The Harbour Master needed to file a report for the live rescue and the fact our sunken boat was now blocking a canal (or, in the way Venice works, a road).

So in the end, everything worked out. People were rescued, everyone was okay and no one was hurt. Our boat was salvaged, de-rigged and was sent back to Holland to assess the damage. We have yet to hear back as to what our damage owing really is.

And, most importantly, thanks to our French rower, we have our medals and proof that we actually finished the 44th Annual Vogalonga.  Now that the story is at its end, we can say that adventure was had and that we now have a story worthy of sharing with a little advice to go along with it. Even if your boat number is 1912, the year the Titanic sank, all you can do is laugh and appreciate that adventures in rowing are priceless. 


Toronto Islands Tour 2018

Toronto Islands Tour

Sunday, July 8th, 2018

Come row with us from the Hanlan Boat Club to the Toronto Islands for a BBQ/Picnic with a beautiful view of the city.  If the weather cooperates and we get going early we may be able to row around the outside of the islands, but otherwise we head for the sheltered inside routes.  Either way, it is always a popular and well attended tour.  We always have a safety boat in attendance to make sure all goes well, and to carry provisions. 


•         9:00 am – Meet at Hanlan Boat Club, 6 Regatta Rd, Toronto.

•         9:45 am – Leave dock and travel out to the islands to assess route

•         Noon  – Picnic on the islands (included in price)

•         1:30pm – Head back to Hanlan Boat Club

•         3:30pm – Wrap up



There is adequate parking on the road in front of the club.


Cost is $45 total, which includes boat rental, BBQ and safety boat.  Water and juices are provided but feel free to bring additional beverages if desired.  The safety boat will transport them to the BBQ.  The registration form and your payment should be sent to Hugh Fletcher at 3 Walder Ave, Toronto, Ontario, M4P 2R4 or interac email to hugh_fletcher@sympatico.ca.   The tour usually sells out so please submit your registration as soon as possible.  If you have any food allergies please let us know and we will attempt to accommodate.  If your club is not a member of OAR there is an additional $10 registration fee ($55 total).


Any questions about this tour please contact Hugh at the email above or at 647-229-0055.


Fall Racing Summary

Compiled by Eric Szonyi, Club Captain (One caveat, I had to check Regatta Central for these results so apologies if I left out any names that I couldn't verify.)

Head of the Welland - Racing happened on one of the hottest days in September. The sun was blazing all day and the first racers had to also battle an explosive growth of weeds along the course. This didn't stop Jacob Giesbrecht from placing 2nd in Lwt 1x. Eric Szonyi placed 1st in Masters C1x, and Paul Gogan finished 5th in the Masters D1x. John Sherrick finished 3rd and Avtar Dhanota 4th in the Masters G1x. Francis Shein placed 2nd and Harlan Hutt placed 22nd in the Jr Mens 1x. Alison Collins-Mrakas finished 2nd in the Masters D1x and Siobhan Fahey finished 2nd in the Jr Womens Novice 1x. The Mens Junior 4+ of Ben Givertz Steel, Chris Willcocks, Alexander Quinn, Rupert Davies and cox Surin Rao finished 7th and the UCC crew of Max Hardisty, Dane Halkiw, Raphael Berz, Matthew Thompson and cox Simon Osak finished 3rd. Hanlan had two boats compete in the Jr Womens 4x and they placed 13th and 14th. Those two boats consisted of Lauren Large, Ana Featherstone, Rihanna Whittaker, and Leo Hache in one quad and Siobhan Fahey,Alex Featherstone, Alex 2.0, and Olivia. There were three crews representing in the Master 2x. Melanie McNeill and Megan Bayley won gold in their age category and placed 15th overall, Kelly Brigley and Lissa Mangano won silver in their age category and placed 18th overall, and Nicola Worsfold and Susannah Walker raced as an exhibition crew and would have come 19th overall based on their finish time. In the Jr Mens 2x Liam Simpson and Laurier Summers placed 2nd and Adam Steiner and Carter MacLean placed 8th. In the Jr Mens 4x Bjorn Viebrock, Karl Viebrock, Alexander Hwang and Fraser placed 11th, and the foursome of Harry Griffith, Mathieu, Forrest Currie and Thomas Gogan placed 13th. The Jr Mens 4x+ Laurier Summers, Liam Simpson, Carter MacLean, Adam Steiner and Thomas Rusaw placed 4th in their event. The Open Mens Rec 4x were probably expecting a little more competition in this event than themselves, but placed 1st. Well done to Keith Stewart, Andrew Snowball, Geoffrey Church and Jay Veerapen. In the Mixed Open Rec 4+ the crew of Zandra Malinson, David Landry, Louis-Phillipe Gallan-Caron, Mardi South and cox Franklin Drebin placed 2nd. Finally in an exhibition race that was a last-minute scramble to enter, Bella Givertz Szonyi, Callista Chialtas, Ellie Stevens and Sam Shaw rowed their first head race and came a respectable 3rd. 

Head of the Rideau - Only two Hanlan rowers travelled to Ottawa. Mick Malowany placed 2nd in the Open 1x and Richard MacFarlane placed 9th in the Master 1x (60+)

Head of the Trent - This regatta took place under cool conditions but the temperature rose as the sun got higher. The Welland head race claims to be the largest head race in Canada, but Trent must come in a close second. There were a lot of competitors at the two launch sites. There were 5 divisions and the singles went first. Mick Malowany and Jacob Giesbrecht placed 5th and 6th respectively in the Championship 1x. Francis Shein and Craig Thomas placed 11th and 12th respectively in the Club 1x. Eric Szonyi placed 1st and Paul Gogan placed 6th in the Masters 1x. John Sherrick placed 19th in the Grand Master 1x and Alison Collins-Mrakas placed 4th in the Womens Grand Master 1x. Later in the morning Mick and Jacob raced in the Club 2x and placed 2nd. Juniors Liam and Laurier raced to a 9th place finish. In the Recreational 8+ the Hanlan United crew placed 4th. The Club 4+ crew with crewmate Matt Foley placed 8th. Havergal raced in Women’s Club 4+ and placed 6th. Hanlan fielded three boats in the Women’s Masters 2x. Kelly Brigley and Jeanette Herrle placed 5th, Nicola Worsfold and Susannah Walker placed 9th, and Melanie McNeill and Lissa Mangano placed 10th. In the second to last division, Hanlan’s Juniors raced in the Men’s and Women’s High School 8+. The boys placed 8th and the girls placed 4th. Lastly, the Recreational 4+ placed 6th. University of Toronto fielded 15 crews and in list format here are the results:
Hwt Men 1x - 8th
Lwt Men 1x - 5th
Lwt Women 1x - 7th
Hwt Men 4+ - 7th
Hwt Men 2x - 10th
Lwt Men 2x - 4th
Alumni Women 8+ - 6th
Hwt Women 8+ - 3rd
Hwt Men 8+ - 5th
Club Women 2x - 14th
Club Men 8+ - 1st
Hwt Women 4+ - 5th
Lwt Women 2x - 3rd
Novice Women 8+ - 3rd
Novice Men 8+ - 2nd

Brock Invitational - This was the second sprint race for UofT held in St. Catharines and a good lead up to the OUAA Championships in late October. 

Head of the Genesee - UCC sent its two fall youth fours to this event in Rochester as well as a number of Hanlan Juniors to compete. The Havergal fall four also travelled. Francis Shein came 2nd in the Mens HS 1x. UCC placed 2nd and Hanlan placed 4th in the Mens HS 1V 4+. These two fours then combined to form an eight and raced to a first place finish. The Hanlan Junior quad of Nicholas O'Brien, Jamie Cleghorn, Sam Maconco, and Caz Wydrzynski raced to a 4th place finish in the Mens HS 4x. The other Hanlan coxed 4x raced in an exhibition race without any other competitors and got some good experience. Four Hanlan Mens HS 2x crews competed. Liam and Laurier placed 2nd, Carter and Adam placed 4th, Jamie and Nicholas placed 5th, and Sam and Caz placed 7th. Havergal's Womens HS 1V 4+ placed 4th.

Head of the Charles - This year the trailer was packed as tightly as I've ever seen it with boats from Hanlan, UCC, a newly formed club of UCC Old Boys called Alumni Blue, Havergal, Argonauts and Toronto Sculling Club. The weather in Boston was absolutely spectacular, with little if any wind and warm sunny weather. It turned out that many course records were broken on that weekend. On Saturday Alison Collins-Mrakas raced in the Grand Masters 1x and placed 25th out of 36 crews. Eric Szonyi and Dave Fisman raced in the Senior Masters 1x and placed 22nd and 31st respectively out of a field of 36 rowers. Mick Malowany placed 8th out of 22 rowers in the Championship 1x, and Jacob Giesbrecht had a great race and would have placed 8th but he got a penalty for going through the wrong arch of the Anderson bridge and his added time dropped him down to 15th place. The University of Toronto Womens Alumni team placed 13th out of 43 entries and guaranteed a place in next year's race for a second consecutive year. The old boys crew of Alumni Blue Rowing Club placed 22nd out of 57 crews and guaranteed their place for next year as well. This crew was made up of former Olympians and national team members from the 80s including gold medal winner Pat Turner from the '84 gold winning Canadian 8+, Peter MacGowan, Jim Relle, Ted Gibson and John Houlding. On Sunday the younger crews raced. UCC's top 4+ placed 14th out of 86 competitors to earn a berth for next year. Hanlan's Youth 4+ placed 36th and will also have a place on the starting line next year. Hanlan's Youth Coxed 4x placed 17th out of 32, barely missing a guaranteed spot, but they had a great race and hopefully can get a spot in the lottery next year. Havergal's Youth 4+ placed 54th out of 84 crews and are hopefully proud of their efforts. Canadian crews who shared our trailer came away with a couple of medals. The Argos Masters 8+ (40+) placed 1st in the event and had former Hanlan rowers Liz Taylor and Tara Hunter in the boat. This crew also had former Olympic Gold medallist Marnie McBean in 7-seat, so they had power! The Argo Women's Youth coxed 4x placed 2nd in their race behind Dons and ahead of St. Catharines so it was an all Canadian podium finish in that event.

OUAA Championships - University of Toronto is bringing its Varsity, Junior Varsity and Novice team to St. Catherines to go up against the best crews in the province including McGill and we wish them well for fast racing over 2000m. JV and Novice crews raced on Friday as well as heats for Varsity events with all Varsity finals going on Saturday.

CIAU Championships - Traditionally the top varsity athletes are selected to compete at this event, held this year in Burnaby BC. We wish those crews representing U of T fast racing as well.