Excitement was at fever pitch! The pistol shot rang out and the two crews burst out of the starting position. It seemed as though the lake held its breath in the excitement of the neck and neck race between the fiercely competitive Outer Cove and Torbay teams. The smooth surface of Quidi Vidi Lake’s crystal clear water mirrored a brilliant blue sky. This was a challenge of the fittest as the Outer Cove Team in the Blue Peter, and the Torbay Team in the Red Cross raced bow-to-bow in an effort to gain an advantage. The Outer Cove crew was a strong, able-bodied team of fisherman. Their bodies soaked in sweat, muscles straining against the brute force they put into every stroke; these were men accustomed to harsh physical work.
When the two teams reached the buoys at the top of the lake, Outer Cove got their big break. Their coxswain, Walter Power, suddenly gained a half a length over the Torbay crew. Outer Cove maintained their advantage, as Power pushed his superbly conditioned crew to hold their position in the race back down the lake. The screaming crowd had no idea they were watching history in the making. As the Outer Cove crew crossed the finish line, the official time was recorded at nine minutes, thirteen and four-fifth seconds, a record that would not be beaten for eighty years to come.
“Ah, Din boy, we did it!”, shouted Denis McCarthy to his friend and fellow fishing companion Denis Croke. “That we did, my son”, Denis Croke replied. “Twas a grand race indeed.” The crowd went wild, as the Outer Cove team was announced the winner of the annual St. John’s Regatta for 1901.
At the age of twenty, unknown to my grandfather, a very humble Denis Croke, his name was to be included in the history annals of the annual Royal St. John’s Regatta. The 1901 crew from Outer Cove, just outside of St. John's, set a time record that stood for 80 years. More than a century later, the existing mark, 8:57.14, is a mere 17 seconds better. And that's despite lighter boats - and vastly improved techniques.
By Annabel Sheila