One of the largest sporting events in the world to be hosted by a single school, the Brentwood Regatta is always a highly anticipated event, at Brentwood College School, in the rowing community, and throughout the Cowichan Valley.
There is an additional level of anticipation this year. Not only does the 50th edition of the Brentwood Regatta run this Friday to Sunday, but it has been three years since the school has been able to host the event.
“There’s a big buzz on campus,” Regatta chair Spencer Manton admits. “It’s an interesting energy with so many unknowns from a student perspective.”
According to both Manton and Head of School Bud Patel, there are only about 70 students on campus who have experienced a Brentwood Regatta. The rest are new arrivals since the last one was held in 2019.
“We almost have to reteach the traditions to the students,” Patel said. “Every student and every staff member is involved with Regatta. It might be boat-holding, or livestreaming, or litter pick-up. All of us play a role.”
Nearly 20 clubs are expected to take part in this year’s event. Most are from Vancouver Island or other parts of B.C., but four are making the trip from Washington, with one each from Portland, Ore. and Berkeley, Calif., and another from Barrie, Ont.
This is an opportunity for Brentwood to help showcase the Cowichan Valley, Patel says.
“For us, it is really important to take a leadership role in the community,” he explains. “This is a way we can contribute, not just economically, but to share it with the entire world.
“We are very proud of the Cowichan Valley, and we want to show it off as best we can.”
As busy as the Regatta is over its three-day run, there are many chances for visitors to explore the rest of the area while they are here.
“There are lots of gaps between races, so if someone’s child is not in race X, they can wander around the Valley, and we encourage that,” Patel says. “It’s a gem and it’s a jewel, and it deserves that.”
Manton rowed at Brentwood as a student, graduating in 2013. This is her third year back at the school as a coach, and her first time chairing the regatta. In addition to a great weekend of races, she is excited to see the school’s three focal points — arts, athletics and academics — come together to make it all happen. Beyond the races themselves, there is a live stage showcasing student and community talent, a food court run by Entrepreneurship 12 students, and a student art show.
The teams, Manton adds, are looking strong in the run-up to the Regatta, with a large number of novice rowers eager for their first competitions.
“They could have rowed for three years but never rowed down a race course, so they would still be considered novice,” Manton explains.
There are also some fast juniors, and seniors looking for post-secondary rowing opportunities who will want to catch some eyes.
Patel hopes that students and visitors to campus appreciate and respect the ability to hold the Regatta again in what he terms a “post-COVID world.”
“The privilege we have to be in person on campus together, the Regatta highlights that: that the school, the Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, B.C., even Canada, are allowed to do that,” he says.
There are still some precautions being taken: there will be sanitizing stations at the school, athletes will do daily health checks, and visitors will be asked to wear masks indoors.
After two seasons without the Regatta, this is a big moment for Brentwood, Patel emphasizes.
“It is a moment of return for us as a school.”
Races will run on the 1,500m course in Mill Bay this Friday from 2-8 p.m., Saturday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday from 7-11:45 a.m.