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Cool skies for St. John's Regatta

An overcast day at Quidi Vidi Lake.
An overcast day at Quidi Vidi Lake.

Jill Colton, staff writer

August 3, 2011 — One of the most popular events for Newfoundlanders -- The Royal St. John's Regatta was off to the races today, despite the cool weather.

Sunny skies for the Royal Regatta in 2000.
Sunny skies for the Royal Regatta in 2000.

Steeped in Newfoundland tradition, the Royal St. John's Regatta is one of the most popular and weather dependant holidays of the year.

The unique holiday always takes place on the first Wednesday of August. And it's on this day that hundreds of rowers and tens of thousands of spectators gather at Quidi Vidi Lake.

“It being a holiday and the middle of the week -- we get anywhere from 40 to 50,000 people that come down for several hours,” notes Sandy Hickman, a long time member of the Royal St. John's Regatta.

At 185 years young -- it's one of Canada's oldest sporting events (dating back to 1816) but the weather plays a big role in its success.

“The direction of the winds is a factor. And I would say anywhere from 50 to 60 km/h would be enough to cancel in those conditions -- maybe less.”

And with St. John's being a fairly windy city this is a rather common occurrence. “More often than not, every four or five years we'll have a really windy day and have to postpone it until the next day,” says Hickman.

Conditions for this year's regatta haven't exactly been ideal.

“They're dealing with an onshore flow -- which essentially means ocean winds off the Atlantic,” explains Gina Ressler, a meteorologist with The Weather Network. “It's also helping create foggy conditions, light drizzle and low visibility,” she adds.

Temperatures were down right cool for the lake event. Ressler says a blocking pattern in the Atlantic is helping keep conditions chilly and below seasonal at 13 degrees.

Nonetheless, the lack of strong winds and heat wasn't enough for organizers to call off the Newfoundland tradition. A decision was made by the committee at 6 a.m. Wednesday morning to get the boats on the water.

But the weather wasn't the only concern. A scary incident put the races on hold for a short period of time. A boat capsized after a collision during the early morning hours of the event.

An entire rowing team ended up in the water when the racing shells crashed at the turning of the buoys.

A rescue boat arrived on the scene with one member jumping into the water to save a rower who was in distress. Thankfully everyone involved in the accident made it out of the water without any major problems.

Regatta Day is a civic holiday in the St. John's area, and most businesses and offices close.

The Royal St. John's Regatta is a unique event in Canada, as it's the only public holiday that can be declared by a non-elected group.

With files from

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