Champions of the canoe

Derek Montague
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River Rats, Cruisers, defend titles at annual Regatta

The River Rats and the Air Labrador Cruisers proved that they’re still the teams to beat at the Labrador Canoe Regatta.

Both teams claimed gold and beat their competition by many boat lengths over the weekend of Aug. 2-3.

In the men’s division, the River Rats — made up of paddlers from North West River — won their ninth championship in a row, defeating the Lab Ceramic Grinders and the Viper 8.

For River Rat Collin Baikie, this means he is only one championship away from his Canoe Regatta goal.

“It feels amazing. Ever since I paddled with the River Rats, the goal was 10 straight and then I was going to retire and teach the next generation,” said Baikie. “I've been paddling for 14 straight years now.”

The name ‘River Rats’ is synonymous with Canoe Regatta success. Since the early days of the event in the 1980’s, different generations of competitors from North West River have won championships under that banner.

Baikie attributes a lot of the team’s success to members of past River Rats crews, who coached and mentored the current team for many years.

“A lot of our success comes from my dad, Leander, Hayward Michelin and John Goudie,” said Baikie. “As well as the experienced old rats like Tyler Powell, Rory Blake, and Joseph Townley.”

The 2014 Labrador Canoe Regatta was also a special event for the Air Labrador Cruisers, who won their second women’s championship in a row. Their incredible time of 24:20:50 also beat two of the men’s teams times that day.

“This is a hard race to finish,” said Cruiser Rebecca Ramey. “It is a great accomplishment in itself. To get the time we did and win is a bonus.”

This year’s Regatta turned into a family affair for two members of the Cruisers. Three original team members couldn’t make it, leaving Ramey, Megan Bennett, and Ashley Eddy in need of new members.

Ramey and Bennett decided to get their mothers to participate, while the final spot was taken by Stephanie Richardson, a masters student from New Brunswick who is in Labrador for her work term.

“Megan's mom, Cathy, was an instant yes,” said Ramey. “It took some convincing for my mom (Stacey), because she had paddled in the past and knew how tough it was. But she came around and did a great job keeping us on course with her steering.”

Ramey said it’s hard to rank the three championships, since each feels so satisfying after an exhausting race.

“The most challenging part is the race itself,” said Ramey. “For 20-25 minutes you are pulling against the water with all you got and it's hard work. Staying on pace is tough, too, but our team gelled from the first practice which I think helped us achieve the success we did.”

The 2014 Labrador Canoe Regatta also featured a brave young team in the women’s race. The TSI Terminators, despite being young enough for the juvenile division, raced against the other women and finished with a respectable time of 31:23:74.

Below are the official times from the Labrador Canoe Regatta men’s and women’s championship races:

Men’s race

  1. River Rats — 23:02:73
  2. Lab Ceramic Grinders — 24:24:43
  3. The Viper 8 — 24:51:94


Women’s race

  1. Air Labrador Cruisers — 24:20:50
  2. Melville Crushers — 25:25:54
  3. Parrott’s Paddlers — 25:47:52
  4. Green’s Girls — 27:04:46
  5. Sugar Sweeties — 29:36:09
  6. TSI Terminators — 31:23:74

Organizations: Air Labrador Cruisers

Geographic location: North West River, Labrador, New Brunswick

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