Nfld. & Labrador

Regatta season on hold due to restrictions related to COVID-19

Many major events in Newfoundland and Labrador are uncertain as the province combats COVID-19, with the Royal St. John's Regatta season officially postponed.

Rowing shells will not hit the water on May 4 as previously planned

Bradley Power, president of the Royal St. John’s Regatta committee, stands in the boathouse at Quidi Vidi Lake in this file photo. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Uncertainty surrounds many major events in Newfoundland and Labrador as the province combats COVID-19, and the Royal St. John's Regatta season is officially postponed. 

Committee president Brad Power announced Tuesday the rowing season on Quidi Vidi Lake will be postponed until further notice, with other local rowing clubs like Harbour Grace and Humber River following suit. 

"Consistent with public health orders and the advice of provincial and federal health officials, we [won't] be reopening on May 4," Power said. 

He said staff were told a couple of weeks ago they wouldn't start in early April due to the COVID-19 virus, and the boathouse has been closed for weeks.  

Tuesday's announcement comes a day after Health Minister John Haggie said "the writing's on the wall" when it comes to whether big summer festivals, including the 202nd regatta, will go ahead in 2020.

Crowds line the shores of Quidi Vidi Lake in 2018 for the 200th annual Royal St. John's Regatta. It's not yet clear if the 2020 regatta will go ahead. File photo. (CBC)

The season's first official event, an IceMeltErg indoor rowing challenge set for May 2 at the Paul Reynolds Community Centre is cancelled, with that facility closed as well due to the virus. 

But Power said it's too early to cancel the rest of the season, including the rowing races and event that draws thousands of people to Quidi Vidi Lake the first Wednesday of August — weather permitting.

"There's so much uncertainty that we want to make sure that we put full consideration into any decision that's made related to future events," he told CBC News. 

Update coming

Power said they don't yet have a deadline to make the final call on the regatta, but the board of directors and regatta committee are considering rowers and sponsors. They're also working on a business continuity plan regarding the long-term effects of COVID-19. 

"We would never open our facilities without the advice of the public health officials. Right now, the best advice we're all being given is to stay at home, help flatten the curve, and do our best to remain in our bubbles until such time as they say we're good to go."

Considered the longest continuous sporting event in North America, the regatta was cancelled from 1915 to 1918 due to the First World War and in 1940 during the Second World War.

"The Royal St. John's Regatta is one of the longest standing traditions. It's a very, very important thing for our city and our province and all of us. And we want to make sure what we do moving forward is well thought out," Power said, promising an update "in the coming days and weeks."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Meg Roberts

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