Despite being delayed by a day due to weather concerns, the shores of Quidi Vidi Lake were busy for the championship races of the historic 204th Royal St. John's Regatta on Thursday night.
It was the first time since 2019 where vendors and spectators were back at the lake.
The veteran Hyflodraulic Limited crew won the ladies championship race with an official time of 5:11:35.
"Everyone's super excited. Everyone's elated. We're stating to cool off now," Hyflodraulic rower Teresa Butler told CBC News moments after receiving her medal.
"I loved the passion and the cheering because we didn't have that last year with all the COVID stuff. I was just sitting there soaking it all up."
Roebothan McKay Marshall finished second with a time of 5:23:46, Cahill Group finished with a time of 5:25:47, Smith Stockley with a time of 5:29:50 and Steers Insurance Ladies with a time of 5:42:45.
In the men's championship race, the NTV crew took victory with a time of 9:46:91.
Capital Home Hardware placed second with a time of 9:52:78, NL Power finished with a time of 9:56:72, Fine Stokes Plaster and Painting Limited finished with 10:06:24 and Penney Kia finished with 10:43:31.
Meanwhile, four women's crews made history Thursday morning, becoming the first to row the 2.45-kilometre long course since 1816.
The Verso crew came in first place with a time of 10:28.70.
In previous years, the long course has been reserved for men, but that changed this year.
"A lot of the people on this crew have been pushing for this for a long time," said Verso rower Steph Davis on Thursday. "It's really, really nice to see it finally come to life, come to fruition and have so much incredible support."
Take a look at the sights and sounds of the 204th Royal St. John's Regatta:
Men are also now able to row the short course, though no teams signed up this year.
Ashley Peach, regatta committee vice-president and captain of the course, said she hopes more men's teams will sign up next year.
Regatta goes ahead, one day late
Peach announced the regatta would go ahead Thursday at a news conference shortly after 5:30 a.m. triggering the weather-dependent St. John's holiday.
The first race began around 8:20 a.m. with two senior women's races, followed by two senior men's races.
The regatta committee postponed the event Wednesday because winds were set to reach 20 km/h gusting to 40 km/h. The event goes ahead only if the committee determines weather conditions are appropriate for rowing on Quidi Vidi Lake.
Environment Canada is forecasting periods of drizzle Thursday morning and a mix of sun and cloud later in the day, with winds of 20 km/h. Temperatures are set to reach 27 C, with a humidex of 30.
Peach said she's hopeful lower wind speeds and gusts will make for better rowing conditions than on Wednesday.
"The decision this morning was a lot easier," she said.
Olivia Neary and Elsa Loveys, both 10 years old, are part of the J&E Enterprises Limited squirt team, a crew of nine- and 10-year-old girls.
Olivia said her dad, former regatta president Chris Neary, inspired her love of rowing.
"He's a great cox," she said.
Elsa and Olivia said their goal for the regatta is to do their best — and have fun.
Chris Neary said the team may have some future champions.
"They're having a ball," he said.
Spectators, vendors return
The regatta is welcoming back dozens of vendors and thousands of spectators for the first time since 2019. Organizers say crowds around the lake have numbered between 30,000 to 50,000 spectators in previous years.
Peach said rowers are prepared for the higher temperatures, but spectators should remember to bring water and seek shade during the hot part of the day. She suggested attending the event earlier in the morning, when the temperature is cooler.
St. John Ambulance will located around the lake to help in case of emergencies.
The Anchormen Barbershop Chorus is one of the groups fundraising at the event. President Steve Martin said the regatta is the group's No. 1 annual fundraiser.
"We put a lot of energy into it, but we truly enjoy it. It's very rewarding," he said.
In addition to prizes like plush toys, members of the group will also take song requests, Martin said.