Nfld. & Labrador

Most Regatta rowers are women. Why are most of its hall of famers men?

About 75 per cent of the racers who enter in the regatta are female, but no women were inducted into the hall of fame this year.

Fewer than 12 per cent of the hall of fame inductees are female

The Dawe and Burke team rowing in the 199th Royal St. John's Regatta on Aug. 2, 2017. (Ryan Cooke/CBC)

Seventy years after they first began rowing competitively in the Royal St. John's Regatta, women now dominate the annual event but that's hard to tell by looking at the names listed in its Hall of Fame.

About 75 per cent of the rowers who enter the Regatta are female, but no women were inducted into the Hall of Fame this year. 

"It's just a lack of applications," said Chris Neary, president of the Regatta Committee. 

"We would be more than happy to have an increase in people applying, certainly female participants applying to the Hall of Fame."

Chris Neary is the president of the Royal St. John's Regatta committee. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

In order to get into the Hall of Fame, an athlete must be nominated by either someone else or themselves.

According to the names listed on the Regatta's website, less than 12 per cent of the Hall of Fame inductees are women. 

"It may have something to do with the fact that women are just not as self promoting in the sense of how that [application] process occurs," said Siobhan Duff, who has rowed in about 25 Regattas and is a Hall of Fame inductee.

"Women, I just don't think historically have done that as well maybe as men have."

Duff said it was also the work of certain individuals, like rowing advocate Dee Murphy, who made sure women were being acknowledged in the sport.

Siobhan Duff has rowed in the Royal St. John's Regatta about 25 times. She was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001 as part of the 1994 Oz FM female crew. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

"Most of the female nominations were admissions that were in the Hall of Fame as a result of his specific and personal efforts."

But without someone like Murphy, who has since passed away, Duff said tweaking the application process might be something to look at. 

And her message for other female rowers?

"Don't be afraid to put your name out there … Don't be afraid to be proud."

New course names

Duff extended her congratulations to this year's inductees in the Hall of Fame: the 1985 Outer Cove/Regatta Ford Intermediate Crew, former Regatta Committee member Francis Dinn, and long-time Regatta participant Graham Roche.

The Hall of Fame ceremony was held Wednesday, one week before the Regatta. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Not only is it the 70th anniversary of women participating in the Regatta, it has also been 40 years since the first female championship race. In honour of that milestone, the Regatta committee has changed the name of the races to "ensure all participants are recognized equally."

What was previously the female course is now called the half course, and the previously named male course is now the full course.

The committee has also agreed to alternate the times of the championship race between men and women. 

Gail Malone, past president of the Regatta Committee and also a member of the Hall of Fame, said women are being well represented in the organization and Hall of Fame.

The new Hall of Fame monument stands outside the boat house at Quidi Vidi Lake. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

"Women's active participation has only been in the last 60 to 70 years, which is just a portion of the time that the Regatta has existed," she said, at the Hall of Fame ceremony Wednesday. 

"There are many, many, many Regattas yet to come where we will have lots of opportunities to be members of our Hall of Fame."

Malone, who was honoured last year with an award in her name, said the committee works hard to acknowledge women's participation.

"We are doing our best to improve rowing experiences for all of the crews."

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About the Author

Meg Roberts is a video journalist with CBC Newfoundland and Labrador, based in St. John's. Email her at meg.roberts@cbc.ca.

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