2015 Rideau Ferry Regatta



For the first time since its resurrection in 2007, The Rideau Ferry Regatta will be holding officially sanctioned races at this year’s regatta Aug. 15-16.  Locals are reminiscing about the old days, when the regatta would attract as many as 10,000 spectators.

The Can-Am Canadian Championship races will be held along with the normal exciting display of vintage and antique race boats at the regatta site on Lower Rideau Lake. The 16 to 19-foot flat-bottom boats have 450 hp engines. These racers push up to 140 km an hour, love choppy water and look like they’re flying, with only their props in the water. Actually, there is still a skeg holding them to the course. They have the capacity to thrill a crowd as they occasionally flip.

There is a growing North American trend for those who covet these old boats, most of them woodies; one of those being Miss Canada IV, a boat that first reached the 200 mph (320 km)-per-hour mark at Picton in 1950. The history of the boat is a wonderful love story. Just Google it. The world speed record is now 316 mph, held by an Australian boat.

Miss Canada IV was rescued from the back of a museum in Ingersoll about four years ago and underwent a restoration that exceeded $250,000, including the Rolls Royce Merlin engine capable reaching 3500hp. It was bought by Bobbie Genovese, a Gravenhurst philanthropist who restores old boats “because I can.”

Genovese will also have a replica of Miss Canada III at the regatta, where he says he’ll likely fly in to see the action—maybe take a ride around the oval course.

Since its resurrection in 2007 the regatta has been growing every year, probably because it caters to families. You can go for a swim on the beach, as long as the boats aren’t running. There are paddle-making sessions. You can participate in a canoe-building challenge. The build starts on the Saturday of the event and by Sunday at noon, the canoes are in the water racing.  There’s toy wooden boat building for the young ones & many nautical and boat business related displays. 

The regatta also has a sense of humour. At the 2013 event politicians from the townships in the area participated in a cardboard boat race. None capsized, to obvious crowd disappointment.  Maybe this year? 

The regatta will have more than 60 race boats on site, including home built sea fleas. Participants are from all over Canada, the United States and Australia. 

It is also getting co-operation from another boating organization, The Manotick Classic Boat club. Their members are holding an on-water display of beautiful wooden boats in Portland the week before. Some of their members will stay around for the Rideau Ferry event. In fact, one of them, Buoy oh Buoy oh Buoy, built by three self-described Rideau Rats, will be part of the opening ceremony. They’ll circle the course three times with the 26-foot Hacker flying the Canadian, American and Australian flags in honour of the participants.

Scott Cameron, vice-commodore of the regatta board, says he was doing back flips when he got confirmation that the Can-Am races would be held in Rideau Ferry. Another step, he says, to putting Rideau Ferry on the map of North American vintage and antique race boat events.

Cameron, 57, was just a kid when the regatta went into hibernation in 1976, mostly because of steep insurance premiums and liability problems. But he remembered his dad, uncle, other family members and friends participating. They were always hyped. When he talks about it today, he says he knew the history would disappear if someone didn’t make an effort to revive it.

So, back in 2006, Cameron and childhood buddy Steve McVeety were sitting around in his man cave reminiscing When the meeting adjourned they’d agreed to attempt to revive it.  

The club is now collecting regatta memorabilia, dating back to is start, 1897. Its history, by its presence, is being restored.

Cameron says he was reading a book on the history of Jeffrey boats just before the meeting. “The author talked about the regatta’s history and said, ‘If someone doesn’t do anything about this history, it will be lost forever’.” 

Because of Cameron and now, a whole lot of other volunteers, the regatta is again becoming a destination every second August. 



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