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At the Elk Lake Spring Regatta, Rowing BC had a chance to catch up with Chanel Ghesquiere about her journey to umpiring.

What was your background in rowing before you started umpiring?

I started rowing with VCRC’s novice program in 2017 after my first year of university. I rowed with VCRC’s competitive program during my undergrad. I also coxed for the masters, including the 2018 World Rowing Coastal Championships. 

When and why did you become an umpire? 

Honestly, I took the level 1 course during the pandemic (2020) because I wanted to feel connected to the rowing community when we couldn’t be on the water. I continued along the umpire pathway while on a break from rowing when I moved to Vancouver and started my MSc (2021). I loved that umpiring connected me to the rowing community but was flexible enough to work around my busy grad school schedule. 

What interested you most about becoming an umpire?

I started out just wanting to enhance my knowledge and understanding of the rules of racing, but as I learnt more I realized that umpiring would enable me to contribute to the rowing community in a more meaningful way than the occasional boat holding. 

What has surprised you the most about the role of an umpire and is there anything you’ve learned that people outside the umpire community would find interesting about the role?

I supposed what “surprised” me the most when I started umpiring was the dedication and level of commitment that so many umpires have for the rowing community. For an unpaid and technically and physically demanding volunteer role, it really only attracts people who genuinely want to enhance the athlete’s experiences. Also, the umpires are first on and last off the water! 

In terms of what people outside umpiring would find interesting, I’d say there’s a number of things: it is a highly trained role with regular evaluation and re-certification (every 3 years), once you reach a certain level of certification you can travel (for free!) to regattas across Canada and internationally (we have a strong cross-border exchange with the northwest USA), and lastly, the umpire community is full of supportive and respectful people who want to help build the next generation of umpires to better represent the rowing community. 

What role during a regatta do you enjoy the most?

For head races I enjoy start marshal, because you get to interact with athletes before they start racing and help set them up for a positive racing experience. For sprint races (my preferred racing), I’d say race umpire. That’s where all the action is! Although I find it the most demanding role as an umpire, you get the best view of the race! Also, as a rower and coxie, I find it gives me a great opportunity to learn by watching others. 

What advice would you give to new umpires or someone thinking about becoming an umpire?

Just try it! There’s no downside to taking the free courses, and the training is quite flexible in terms of timing (it’s almost all self-paced). 

Even if you don’t see yourself or your experiences reflected in the current umpire population, know that this is an incredibly supportive community with a welcoming and inclusive environment that is working hard to diversify our community.

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