World rowing will be boon to Henley course
There is plenty of work ahead after the City of St. Catharines, in partnership with St. Catharines World Rowing and Rowing Canada Aviron, was awarded the 2024 World Rowing Senior, Under 23 and Junior Championships.
Awarded this past Monday following a vote by delegates at the FISA Congress in Austria, the championships will be well worth the effort required.
“The nice thing about the championships is there are a bunch of reasons why we want to host,” said, Bill Schenck, co-chair of St. Catharines World Rowing.
St. Catharines has previously hosted world championships in 1970 and 1999.
“What we have been able to do with the championships is do major improvements to the course or keep the course up to world standards,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to do that and when you have events such as this you can do it.”
There are several improvements organizers hope to make.
“The finish tower has become a focal part of any of these major championships and we are going to be redoing the finish tower,” Schenck said. “That is the one major expense.”
Improvements to the docks are also high on the priority list.
“As we keep moving forward and the facilities age, you saw that firsthand during Henley how the dock by the grandstand sinks in a few spots,” he said. “We did some repairs on it but it is reaching the end of its life.”
Other smaller improvements include: new outside racking on the island to increase the capacity to 700 from 300 boats; and, rebuilding the wooden aligner shack at the start area.
The Canada Summer Games will see the construction of a new training centre on Henley Island and the world rowing committee will be able to build off of that.
“That will be part of the experience as well,” Schenck said.
There was a major dredging of the course to stage the 1999 worlds and that work still has the course in good shape.
Another reason for hosting the event is to help attract new volunteers to the sport of rowing.
“As you know, volunteers are the key to any event,” Schenck said. “Canada Games is 2021 and this being 2024, Sy. Catharines has always stepped up when it comes to different events with volunteers and it’s an opportunity to renew or attract new people who aren’t normally involved in the events.”
It is estimated 400-500 volunteers will be required to make the regatta run smoothly.
A third reason for hosting the championship is the alterations to the course aid competitors at annual events like the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta and Canadian Secondary Schools Rowing Association championships.
“They all benefit from the improvements that we put into the facility and it keeps those regattas on the forefront of some of the best regattas around.”
The final reason for staging the event is to give Canada’s national team a chance to compete at home.
“Similar to what happened with the Pan Ams (2015) and the worlds before that, they are able to compete in front of the hometown fans instead of them having to travel abroad,” Schenck said. “They get a lot better crowd and a lot better experience.”
Landing the world championships was a year-long process that started with getting approval from Rowing Canada. Once that was received, the bid committee went through a lengthy application process, including a bid that took eight months to assemble.
“It was a pretty detailed document that were very fortunate that we had the cooperation of the City of St. Catharines who helped pull this whole thing together,” Schenck said.
St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik described it as a true St. Catharines team effort.
“There have been a lot of people working hard to secure this bid led by Bill Schenck, Chair of St. Catharines World Rowing,” he said.
When St. Catharines first submitted its proposal, it was in competition with bids from Australia, Italy and Linz, Austria. The former two eventually bowed out leaving St. Catharines and Linz as the only two bidders.
“The bid from St. Catharines was of the highest quality,” said Matt Smith, the executive director of FISA, rowing’s governing body.
“We were impressed by the care and commitment we witnessed in the attribution process and we are pleased to be looking forward to another successful World Rowing event in Canada,” Smith said.
The event will feature junior, under-23 and senior rowers. The seniors will be competing in non-Olympic events.
About 2,000 athletes will take part in the event. The exact dates of the regatta have yet to be determined but Schenck expects it to be held the two weeks in August following the Henley.
As of right now, Schenck has no idea what the final budget will be for the championships. Funding will come from all levels of government and sponsorships.
“It is a moving target at this point in time,” Schenck said. “We are pretty confident that we will be able to reach our goals with the budgeting we would put in place.”
Now that the bid has been successful, the next steps are to start putting together all the various committees that will organize the event
Schenck is already looking forward to 2024.
“I am excited about the whole event,” he said. “I still have great memories of 1999 and how wonderful it was when everything came together.
“And as you know, I am an events person and I like to pull events together.”
His excitement will build when the first race comes down the course.
“If Canada is in the first race, that makes things even better,” he said.