Canoe-Kayak Community Clubs

HIGH ACHIEVERS: Petrie Island Canoe Club gets clubhouse funding; Rideau’s Kieran Graham wins third national gold

HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic

By Martin Cleary

If Sarah Kennedy could have had one wish this week, it would have been to be in two places at once. That wasn’t possible, but by Friday she hopes to have reached her goals over the span of a week.

Kennedy is head coach, founder and commodore of the Petrie Island Canoe Club in the Orleans sector of Ottawa.

She has spent the past number of days in Nova Scotia for her brother’s wedding and visiting her large family. But this week also is the highlight of the canoe-kayak sprint season with the Canadian championships virtually in her backyard and being staged by the familiar Rideau Canoe Club on its Mooney’s Bay racecourse.

Petrie Island Canoe Club. Photo:

“I wish I could be in two places at once,” she said. “My brother (Kevin) got married on the weekend and I haven’t seen my parents in two years. You don’t get a lot of opportunities to leave the area when you run a canoe club.”

But during her time this week in Nova Scotia, Kennedy has kept an eye on the national championships through Canoe Kayak Canada’s live streaming of the daily finals.

Kennedy plans to return in time to watch Petrie Island’s Gabriel Bazinet-Gill and Jed Hill compete in the boys’ U16 K1 races over 1,000 metres (Friday), 500 metres (Saturday) and 200 metres (Sunday).

She also has kept an eye out for four Petrie kayakers who transferred this season to the Rideau Canoe Club for their development: Emily Best, Tyler Chenette and Victor Savulescu, all in the U18 class, and Maria Tierrafria, U17.

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Paddling was a major part of Kennedy’s childhood, whether she was at the Cheema Aquatic Club or the Orenda Canoe Club. When she started the Petrie Island club, she fashioned it after Orenda: community-oriented, family-friendly.

When Kennedy, who raced at the 1995 world junior championships, moved to Orleans in 2011, she discovered Petrie Island was “a little pocket of paradise,” with no recreation programs. She started a learn-to-kayak program in 2013.

That program, which had Rideau Canoe Club support, quickly sparked a waiting list and there was encouragement to start a club, which happened in February 2016, when Kennedy put together all the necessary pieces.

In six years, Kennedy has developed young coaches, created summer camps, brought in three shipping containers for boat storage, and watched kayakers win provincial medals and attend national championships.

And now for another milestone. Petrie Island Canoe Club has received a grant of $609,000 from the Canada Community Revitalization Fund to start constructing its first clubhouse.

Phase 1 of the project, which will focus on building seven boat bays out of concrete, also has received $50,000 each from Ottawa city councillors Laura Dudas, Matthew Luloff and Catherine Kitts.

The basic structure will have no washrooms and no electricity, but will have minimal lighting using solar panels. It will be “super low maintenance,” according to Kennedy, with some artistic touches for the cold concrete.

Phase 2 will be “the beautiful part,” as Kennedy puts it. The plan is for the clubhouse to be a gathering place for club members, celebrate weddings and events and have a wrap-around balcony.

Petrie Island will continue to grow this winter with its indoor program. Kennedy will be assisted by young coaches Julia Kennedy, her daughter, Emily Best, Victor Savulescu and Tyler Chenette.

More nationals hardware for local paddlers

On the third day of the Canadian canoe-kayak sprint championships at Mooney’s Bay, host Rideau Canoe Club and Cascades Canoe Club added to their medal collections, while Carleton Place Canoe Club earned its first.

Rideau’s Kieran Graham won his third gold medal, taking the U18 men’s C1 1,000 metres. He scored a photo-finish win over Austin Pigeon of South Niagara Canoe Club – 4:09.737 to 4:09.903. Rideau’s Peter Bradley took bronze in 4:14.034.

Cascades’ Sophia Jensen and Anna Roy-Cyr powered their way to the senior women’s C2 500-metre title by 3.161 seconds over silver medallists Ella Hodgson-Pageau and Amelia Wojtyk of Rideau. It was Jensen’s third medal.

Natalie Davison and Courtney Stott, representing Rideau, placed second in the senior women’s K2 500 metres, while Rideau’s Ydris Hunter and Matthew O’Neill were third in the senior men’s C2 500 metres.

Carleton Place Canoe Club scored its first medal in the final race of the day, when Aidan Dumont and Alexander Hoferek placed third in the senior men’s K2 500 metres.

After three days at the seven-day national championships, Rideau has six gold, five silver and three bronze medals. Jensen has recorded all of Cascades’ three medals – two gold and one silver.

Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 49 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.

When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at

Martin can be reached by e-mail at and on Twitter @martincleary.

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