While everyone else was enjoying the warm weather on Saturday April 18 & Sunday April 19, seven Ontario umpires were inside reviewing their knowledge. Six candidates from across Canada, including Mélanie Bryce (Ottawa), Andrew Smith (London), and Derek Ventnor (Toronto) are being considered by Rowing Canada Aviron to be nominated to sit the FISA umpire exam (July 12-13, 2015).
The process to become a FISA umpire is long and arduous—once Rowing Canada Aviron recognizes a domestic umpire as a potential candidate, that umpire must then prove, through a rigorous selection process, that they are ready to sit the FISA umpire exam. The FISA umpire exam is held over the course of two consecutive days and consists of a written and a practical evaluation. The written evaluation tests candidates’ knowledge on the bylaws and statutes as well as the FISA rules of racing. If candidates pass the written exam, they are permitted to continue on to the practical evaluation. During the practical evaluation, a mock table course is set up and candidates are evaluated as they demonstrate processes and procedures that FISA umpires need to know, such as the start and umpire boat positioning.
Recognizing the preparation time that each potential FISA umpire must put into getting ready to sit the exam, Rowing Canada Aviron and ROWONTARIO have taken steps to help them progress. In August 2014, Rowing Canada, with funding support from the Pan American Games, hosted a 1-week training session for all Canadian candidates during the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta. ROWONTARIO strongly encouraged all Ontario candidates to participate, providing them with travel support.
The most recent session in April was hosted by ROWONTARIO to help to further prepare Ontario candidates and increase their potential for success. The session was opened to candidates in other provinces, and Alain Rochon from Quebec was a great addition to the workshop. The session was generously facilitated by current FISA umpires Wes Kuran, Dave Derry, and William Donegan who shared their international experiences with the candidates. Donegan, who has umpired at the World Rowing Championships and the World Cup in recent years, explained that he became a FISA umpire to “contribute back to the sport and collaborate with fellow umpires, rowers and organizers from around the world”.
Kuran, who retired in 2008 after serving on 15 international juries, including the Beijing para-Olympics stated that the key take-away from the workshop was “the large volume of information that the current potential FISA umpiring candidates have to learn. It’s a complex process.” In fact, Tom Blacquiere, a qualified FISA umpire, also attended the session as a refresh in preparation for his first international race. He explained, “I felt very fortunate to listen to the experiences of the Senior FISA umpires as I prepare for my first assignment overseas at World Cup 1 in Bled, Slovenia. It gave me a great opportunity to see how the FISA rules of racing are applied in real life situations. Knowing the rules is important but knowing how to apply them correctly is also essential.”
Despite the intense preparation that the candidates are facing in their efforts to become FISA umpires, as Andrew Smith pointed out that “all of the candidates are very dedicated to being as prepared as possible in order to become FISA umpires.”
Mélanie Bryce shared her thoughts on undertaking the daunting task of preparing for the FISA umpire exam. She said, “the whole rowing community, from ROWONTARIO to Rowing Canada Aviron to mentors and fellow umpires, friends and family, have been behind me in this umpiring project. I’m very grateful for ROWONTARIO’s support this past weekend in preparation for the exam. [The facilitators] were also very generous with their time and always ready to share their expertise. Having a weekend dedicated to the exam preparation helped me asses my progress over the last few months and helped me identify areas that need review.”
Front Row Left to Right – Tom Blacquiere, Melanie Bryce, Wes Kuran, Derek Ventnor
Back Row L to R – William Donegan, Dave Derry, Andrew Smith, Alain Rochon
Photo Credit – William Donegan