Hanlan Competes on Lac St Jean

Story by Brian Singleton Lac St Jean

Hanlan's Jean-Christophe Marly and Brian Singleton of Hanlan’s raced to a first and fourth place finish in the Coastal Rowing Regatta on Lac St-Jean at Alma, Quebec the weekend of July 13.  The week-long Festirame event featured a beautiful town and lake and a first-class regatta.  JC and Brian teamed up with Quebec City rowers to place first in the coxed quad and then were fourth in their double.

Festirame is celebrating its fortieth year as a regatta.  Initially conceived as a marathon swim and rowing race for public security personnel, the event has evolved into a ten-day series of rowing events, concerts and community activities under the umbrella of the Festivalma organizing committee.  This year, in addition to the fortieth anniversary celebrations of Festirame, the Saguenay-Lac St-Jean Region is also celebrating the 175th anniversary of European settlement in the region.

The highlight of the week is,  however, the rowing marathon across Lac St-Jean from Desbiens on the south shore to Dam-en-Terre on the lake’s outflow into the Saguenay River.  Conducted in a variety of launches, including the completely unique open-water rowing “chaloupes rames”, the race (lasting as long as five hours) is an exhausting marathon of competitive rowing under challenging marine conditions.

Those participants in the region enjoy a deserved stature and esteem in the community.  Crews and boats in the chaloupes-rames class benefit from significant corporate sponsorship.  The boats, painted in corporate liveries, are displayed outside local businesses with the crew’s results.

Jean-Christophe and Brian participated in coastal rowing events which are now in their third year of inclusion in Festirame.  As a part of the regional interest in open-water rowing, the Festirame organizers, the Club d’aviron d’Alma, and numerous other clubs in Quebec are adopting and supporting the FISA standard coastal rowing format of boats and races.   Rowers from across Quebec as well as from Toronto and Charlottetown participated.

Boats were assembled for the regatta from clubs in Quebec in the single, double and coxed quad classes.  The race was planned on an eight-kilometre course that tacked through buoys set out from the shore of Pointe-Taillion Park on the north shore of the lake.

The coastal rowing regatta at Festirame is sanctioned by Rowing Canada Aviron.  Race organizers and RCA officials held a lengthy meeting with participants on the eve of the race to clarify the format and organization of the races.  An extremely capable and enthusiastic number of experienced community volunteers handled everything from on-water safety and security to trailering the boats at the end of the day.

Coastal rowing races often start from a floating start line.  However in this regatta, organizers opted for a beach start with rowers leaping into their boats at the starter’s horn like an Australian surfboat race.  Similarly, the course was completed by rowers beaching their boats and bowseat running about 5 metres up the beach to touch a flag.   The race required rowing skill, seamanship and crew coordination.

Lac St-Jean2The race for the title of men’s double champion was won handily by a crew of competitive, senior men rowers from Montreal R.C.  However the race for positions 2 through 5 was a much more closely fought contest with only two minutes separating all four boats over the 40-odd minute course.  J.C. and Brian’s time was 41:00 even in the double.  In the quad, they clocked in at 39:59 with Patrick Charbonneau, Christian Guerin, and coxswain Jean-Philippe Migneron of the Club d’aviron de la Capitale.

Race conditions were hot, sunny and increasingly breezy with a southerly wind driving the rowers to the finishing area on the final leg of the course.  Unfortunately for coastal rowing enthusiasts, the waves that day were not challenging and the rough-water capabilities of the coastal shells were not tested.

J.C. and Brian would like to thank the Chair and organizing committee of Festivalma,  and the volunteers of the Festirame Coastal Rowing Regatta.  They were impressive in running the event under challenging conditions.   One or two of the volunteers were treated for incremental heatstroke.  In particular, J.C. and Brian would like to thank Catherine Paquin of Festirame, Michel Tremblay of the Club d’aviron d’Alma, and Charles Hauss of Club d’aviron de Lachine in Montreal for helping to facilitate key aspects of their entry by patiently answering e-mails in the weeks preceding the regatta.

Hanlan Boat Club currently has two coastal rowing doubles on loan from RCA, with a third, privately-owned boat soon to be delivered.  Hanlan B.C. members are free to use the RCA boats.  (Members are asked to have 3 people carry the boats to and from the water as they are heavy.) They are very seaworthy  and capable of handling the variety of challenging conditions we sometimes face in the Outer Harbour.