After a one-year absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the popular Head of the Nicomekl rowing regatta is set to dip its oars back into South Surrey’s Nicomekl River.

The competition – which is hosted and run by the Nicomekl Rowing Club – is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 25. In a typical non-pandemic year, the event, which is now in its 26th year, sees about 100 boats and up to 300 total competitors take part, with many coming from Vancouver Island, the B.C. Interior and Washington.

This year, with non-essential travel still discouraged – and the Canada/U.S. border only open in one direction – organizers expect a smaller turnout, but already 50 people have signed up to compete.

Derek Pattison, a coach with the host club, told Peace Arch News that the number will surely rise, as many people often wait until the final week before the event to register.

Regardless of how many registered participants end up showing up, Pattison noted that the club is simply happy to have their event back up and running again; the Head of the Nicomekl is one of the first events to be sanctioned by Rowing BC since COVID-19 restrictions began to loosen earlier in the year.

As in previous years, the regatta will include a variety of races. At 11:05 a.m. (with a scheduled 9:50 a.m. boat launch), the ‘class’ races begin – in which competitors compete only amongst others in their same division, be it singles, doubles, quads or eights. Following that, at 2:45 p.m. (with a 1:30 p.m. launch), the trophy race will be held, in which a variety of competitors take part, and results are handicapped by age, gender and boat size in order to determine an overall winner and Head of the Nicomekl champion.

The course is about six kilometres long – it begins at the dam at Elgin Road and the finish line is near the Crescent Beach pier.

Prior to the 2019 event, co-chair of the event Avril Loft told PAN that the course is one of the most challenging on the local rowing circuit “because the river is so (twisty).”

At the 2019 event, which was the last one to be held, the overall Head of the Nicomekl title was awarded to a men’s quad open division team from Victoria City Rowing Club. The foursome – Alexander Watson, Graham Peters, Spenser Thomas and Scott McDonald – finished the six-km route in a time of 19 minutes and 14 seconds, which was a course record.

In second place was a Vancouver Rowing Club pair that finished in just over 25 minutes, while third place went to another Victoria City crew – an eight-person women’s masters team led by Mimi Drabit.

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