For anyone to whom rowing is little more than what happens at the gym or in a row boat, it can be hard to relate to the fervor with which rowing fans anticipate and watch rowing’s biggest events, but in Canada, rowing fanaticism has been part of the country’s fabric since the 1860’s.
Started in 1880, the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta has been a premier rowing event for well over a hundred years. Initially, intended to be just a championship competition for the Canadian Amateur Rowing Association, over the years, the event has become of one of the most treasured competitions in the sport.
While the spirit of the event has remained the same over the years, changes have occurred. For instance, until 1903, the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta changed venues regularly, but near the turn of the 20th century, it was decided the event should be hosted permanently by the St. Catharines Rowing Club where it could take place in a portion of the Welland Canal at the St. Catharines Port Dalhousie’s Martindale Pond. 1947 was the first year women competed, while today sees roughly the same amount of women competing as men. Also, the original distance of the race was one mile and 550 yards — the same as England’s Henley Royal Regatta. That distance was changed to 2,000 meters in 1964, which is the standard distance in international competition.
This year’s competition will bring together over 2,400 rowers from as many as 150 rowing clubs. If you’re curious about the sport, there aren’t many events on par with the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta. If you’re on the fence, here are three reasons — beyond the fantastic races themselves — why you shouldn’t miss this year’s Royal Canadian Henley Regatta.
1. The Opening Ceremonies
Held the evening of August 3, 2015 from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., the opening ceremonies are fun, family-friendly, and they won’t cost you a dime. Vendors, music, rowers, and more will all gather at the Grandstand to celebrate the start of race week. The evening will finish with a fireworks show over Martindale Pond.
2. Henley Friendly Deals
Businesses in the area love the Regatta, which is why you can find “Henley Friendly” deals in St. Catharines and the surrounding Niagara area. Coupons can be downloaded off the official website for savings on everything from appetizers to bowling and boat tours, and many of the local shops offer incentives for tourists during the races. If you’re looking for a way to take a unique Niagara vacation, and save some money at the same time, take advantage of the Henley Friendly deals. Companies offering discounts include:
- The WORKS Gourmet Burger Bistro
- The Keg Steakhouse + Bar
- Parkway Lanes Centre
- And more!
3. The City of St. Catharines
From music and theater to sports and craft beer, the city of St. Catharines is a fantastic place to spend part of your Niagara vacation. St. Catharines boasts a thriving downtown that hosts a great farmer’s market, plenty of excellent restaurants, a fantastic museum, award-winning wineries within a short drive, and much, much more. For an experience of the Niagara region that has nothing to do with the wonderful Falls, St. Catharines is hard to beat.
Grab yourself a Niagara vacation that can only occur once a year, and attend the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta August 3 through August 9.