Making history in sport

On August 4, 2022 women were finally allowed to race the full course at the Regatta. Known previously as the men’s course, the long course is 2.45 kilometers compared to the short course of 1.225 kilometres.

A person holds a paddle with water and sunlight in the background. Photo by Diego Gennaro on Unsplash

The Regatta started in 1816, and 40 years later women were allowed to race for the first time, but only the short course. Historically, there’s been no reason available for women not to be allowed to race the long course. except for sexism.

The recommendation to eliminate gender-based distances came in January after the race committee elected its first female president and vice president. While the short and long course races will have segregated teams for now, the gender markers for distance are no more. The committee confirmed its decision to include women in long-course competition after a trial run in June.

There were four women’s teams signed up to race the long course while no men’s teams signed up to race the short course. The winning team in the women’s long course race set a time of 10:28.70, still better than the fifth place finisher (10:43:31) in the men’s long course championship race.

I rowed for two years in the Regatta. It’s a great sport and I learned a lot. While women have been dominating the sport for a while, even in the early 2000s, I heard lots of snide comments that women participated only because it was a social event or a way to get fit. One sports writer even went so far as to say the only serious races were the morning ones and the championship races; the rest were social rowers.

The short course is a hard and fast row, averaging between five and six minutes, compared to the long course. It makes sense that different strengths, different training approaches, and different racing strategies are required. None of that is gender-based. It would be like saying only men can run a full marathon and only women can run a half. Both lengths have their own merits and records and any gender can run either.

There’s a saying that children learn what they see, and at the boathouse, children, especially girls, the message learned was that endurance was a men’s skill. That’s simply not the case. In training, women, elite and amateur, rowed the long course to develop strength. Yes, it could be a slog, depending on pond conditions, but we weren’t ready for our fainting couches at the end of it either.

Yesterday’s long course race for women proved once again that gender does not limit ability.

MarthaFitat55 believes gender is not a reason to not try anything.