Rowing team loses half its fleet

Over $100,000 in damages caused by storm

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The Salt Spring Island Rowing Club is facing a major hurdle after the Dec. 20 windstorm caused over $130,000 in damage to the team’s fleet.

“It’s a bit devastating,” said coach Stacy Mitchell. “It’s nothing that we can’t come back from, but we had a much brighter future before [the storm]. Now the focus goes from training to win to back to refocusing. I thought we had turned a corner, but now we got smacked back down.”

During the storm, one branch broke off a nearby tree and fell on the bows of six of the team’s boats. Three doubles, valued at $30,000 each, and two quads, valued at $60,000 were destroyed in the storm. One additional quad has a leak and takes on water, but had less damage than the others. The damaged boats make up over half of the club’s seats, which means that most of the rowers are unable to practise until new boats are acquired.

While the team had planned on sending a crew of rowers to nationals this season, the damage may prevent that from happening.

Mitchell has reached out to neighbouring clubs for assistance and has been able to borrow enough boats to keep the team training for the time being. Teams from Nanaimo, Maple Bay and Victoria have donated boats to keep the Salt Spring rowers afloat until replacements are found.

The team has also put out a call to the island community to help pay for the new boats. A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help cover the costs. Repairs are an option for at least one boat, but the others are too damaged to be fixed.

Rob Pingle is a rowing club parent and helped spearhead the GoFundMe drive. He said that even though the amount of money to be raised is high, attaining it is still within the realm of possibility.

“Rowing is a tight-knit community and I think that if the word spreads within that community… $100 here or there is nothing,” Pingle said. “There are thousands of rowers all over the world. Hitting that number is not impossible.”

For more on this story, see the Jan. 9, 2019 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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