By Jim Hynes
No champagne bottles were harmed when the McGill Rowing team held a boat christening on lower campus Saturday, Sept. 17.
“If these were our old wooden boats the champagne bottle would have definitely lost,” said Philip Hedrei, head coach of the team. “But these new boats are too fragile for that,” he laughed.
Instead of the traditional smashing of a bottle over the hull of larger vessels, Hedrei, the team members, and the assorted family, friends and alumni who gathered on lower campus for the celebration, settled for a gentle pour, leaving enough left over for a toast instead.
With six new boats to christen, Hedrei and company could have used a case of bubbly. The boats (and one other which has yet to be named) were purchased by the team over the past 18 months with a little help from their friends.
Insured for a combined replacement value of $196,000, the boats, which individually cost between $15,000 and $40,000, were acquired as a result of alumni donations, combined with team fundraising efforts and assistance from McGill Athletics & Recreation, which helped pay for one boat and extended the team an important loan.
“It really does reflect how the Athletics department is supporting us more and more,” said Hedrei, a paediatric emergency doctor at the Montreal Children’s Hospital in his third year as the team’s head coach. “I was especially delighted that Drew Love (Director, Athletics and Recreation) and Lisen Moore (Manager, Intercollegiate Athletics ,Athletics and Recreation) came to the ceremony. The two of them have been really supportive of our efforts.”
The boats that were named include a Vespoli Millennium women’s eight, a Vespoli lightweight women’s eight, two Vespoli men’s coxed fours, a Fillippi lightweight men’s double (McGill’s first sculling boat), a Hudson middleweight men’s eight and a Vega Lightweight men’s single. The new acquisitions doubled the team’s fleet to 14. The team, which has an annual operating budget of $60,000, no longer has to rent equipment from other teams, thereby reducing its operating costs significantly.
“It will make a huge difference in how we compete too,” Hedrei said. “You can’t rig the older boats the same way, and make the detailed adjustments that maximize the rowing stroke. And because they are so much lighter they move much more quickly through the water.”
Although the team has been competing with the boats for some time now, the ceremony was delayed until the process of naming them was complete.
A group of rowing alumnae decided to christen the boat purchased through their efforts “Eight for ‘08,” the name of the fundraising campaign they ran. Also honoured with boats named after them were Rob Baxter, one of the modern team’s founders, Doug Vandor, a current member of Canada’s national rowing team, and Senator Alan Macnaughton, the longtime Mount-Royal MP and former Speaker of the House who bequeathed money to the team when he passed away in 1999. The other boats were named Redemption and Stroke of Luck.
You can keep tabs on the McGill Rowing team and their new boats at www.mcgill.ca/athletics/varsitysports/teamshome/rowing/ or on their own website at www.mcgillcrew.com.
-With files from Earl Zukerman, McGill Athletics & Recreation