RCN rowers get “Great Eights” experience

Peter Mallett
Staff Writer

A team of women’s rowers from CFB Esquimalt celebrated their fifth-place finish at the Elk Lake Spring Regatta as if it were a victory.

The eight military members completed the regatta’s Masters Sprints 8s competition on March 3, finishing at 5:46.86 on the 1,000m course against a field of four other teams.

The results were well-received when the team arrived dockside, says Acting Sub-Lieutenant (A/SLt) Erin Steele, their coach.

“Competing in this race was a major accomplishment for the crew who hadn’t touched an oar before February,” explained the Naval Warfare Officer of HMCS Venture. “We knew we were up against experienced athletes going into the competition, so our goal was to gain valuable racing experience and that was achieved.”

Rowers from CFB Esquimalt participate in the Masters Sprints 8s competition thanks to the Learn-to-Row program.

A team from the Victoria City Rowing Club won the race with a time of 3:51.04.

A/SLt Steele has years of experience as a competitive rower and knows it takes patience and persistence to build a winner. She previously competed for the University of San Diego and the University of Oklahoma and coached rowing at Queen’s University before joining the Canadian Armed Forces.

CFB Esquimalt’s participation in the regatta was made possible by the Learn-to-Row program, funded by the Canadian Armed Forces Women in Sport initiative. The group of ten trained for five weeks with other military members of the Gorge Narrows Rowing Club’s Masters Cohort.

A/SLt Steele says the program aimed to increase women’s participation in sports, provide a team-building experience, and boost the morale of military personnel.

“The overall goal of the Learn-to-Row program is to help the participants continue to develop their familiarity with the sport and to also lead a healthy lifestyle,” said Steele. Rowing is unique as it is a late-acquisition sport and can be picked up at any time. It is also an incredible outdoor experience that offers a social outlet and low-impact exercise to support cardiovascular health.”

Corporal (Cpl) Erika Moore, Financial Services Assistant at the Base Orderly Room, another team member, had previous experience as a canoeist in B.C.’s central interior but thoroughly enjoyed her first rowing experience.

“I really felt the energy of my teammates,” she said. “I could not stop smiling in training as we made our way up and down the Gorge Narrows during each practice session and our coach A/SLt Steele was instrumental in our success, and constantly provided valuable learning points.”

In the future, A/SLt Steele and Cpl Moore hope to receive official club status through Personnel Support Programs (PSP) and form their own rowing club. The interest is there, A/SLt Steele says, noting she recently fielded more than 60 emails from female members expressing specific interest in the Learn-to-Row program. Equipping a rowing club or team with its own gear does not come cheap—A/SLt Steele says rowing shells and equipment can range between $10,000 and $80,000, depending on the boat and its condition.

Despite the cost, she believes the recent success and interest in rowing at CFB Esquimalt is too great to ignore.

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