The Five Bridges Classic is happening in Welland again this year. Held on the fourth Saturday in September, the Head of the Welland (HOTW) Regatta is the largest single day head race in Canada, according to South Niagara Rowing Club President, Kevin Fuller.
“Head races are rowing races that typically take place in early autumn. Boats begin racing one after the other with a rolling start at intervals of 10-15 seconds and are timed over a set distance, in this case, fifty-two hundred metres,” explained Fuller.
The South Niagara Rowing Club hosts this regatta each year and is expecting over 300 crews to sign up and compete.
The club is well known for its coaching mentorship and skills training, and, looking to the future, has plans to build a training and development centre, with the vision to become the top learning and development centre in Canada, for rowers and coaches alike. The club’s location, coupled with its waterway, are ideal for this type of centre, according to Fuller.
Fuller went on to say that the South Niagara Rowing Club is fortunate to be located on and to have the HOTW held on the former Welland Canal, now the Welland Recreational Canal. “The waterway is well protected from the wind and the HOTW course runs under five bridges, which adds some additional navigational challenges and needs a certain skill level from the rowers,” said Fuller.
The South Course of the recreational canal is home to the South Niagara Rowing Club and has 4000 metres of straight waterway which includes a six lane, two-kilometer long race course. The South Course is commonly used by the Canadian national rowing team and many other international teams to train. “It’s widely regarded as one of the top waterways in North America, for rowing,” said Fuller.
The rowing club is also fortunate to have the use of the Welland International Flatwater Centre as the finishing line for the HOTW race. The centre was built for the 2015 Pan Am games and has bleachers, washrooms, change rooms, and a finish tower, to make it a top-quality venue for events. Fuller added that there will be food and other vendors there as well, to add to the fun and entertainment on race day.
“We welcome everyone to come and watch the race,” he said. “The crews typically take 20 to 30 minutes to complete the HOTW course and there are plenty of viewing areas on the walking/cycling paths and bridges along the canal, or viewers can come watch from the bleachers at the finish line. We offer free parking, which is not typical, and the event is free to attend. It’s also held the same month as the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival, so folks can come and make a weekend of it. And, it’s always sunny in Welland!” he laughed.
For more information on the Head of the Welland Regatta, go to the website here.
And, check out the following Head of the Welland video here.