Albert College – Where Rowing in Belleville Began
Community News/ May 17

Albert College – Where Rowing in Belleville Began

In the Fall of 1985, Tim Powell accepted a teaching position at Albert College in the city of Belleville, ON. The headmaster of the school, Roy Napier, used to teach at Ridley College in St. Catharines and was familiar with Powell from the time Powell rowed at Ridley as a high school student under head coach Neil Campbell. He wanted him to launch a rowing program at Albert College, a small high school with 180 students. The challenge was great, with few athletes and many sports offered at the school. Initially it was difficult to secure athletes who were interested in trying out a new sport and who could commit fully to rowing.

Powell was on the first Queen’s University men’s crew and subsequently went on to coach both the novice men’s crew and the women’s varsity program, in addition to coaching at the University of Victoria as well as the Shawinigan Lake School in BC. His history with legendary Queen’s Coach John Armitage, who was a dear friend, helped Powell tremendously in the early days of the program, as they were able to borrow boats from the Kingston Rowing Club. In addition to Armitage, there were several people along the way who helped Powell launch the rowing program at Albert College, including Ian Morch, the owner of Morch Marine in the Belleville Harbour. Morch was a supporter of the school made available secure storage space for the two four-person shells and loaned Powell a coach boat. Everything was now in place for start of the Albert College Rowing Club, which was officially launched in September 1985.

It was an afternoon radio announcer at a station on South Front Street that really established the Albert College Rowing Club presence in Belleville. He wasn’t sure ‘what’ he was seeing on the water but described his viewing as ‘long, skinny’ boats being rowed through the harbour. After hearing the news on the radio, Belleville residents began looking for these boats along the harbour, and started contacting Morch Marine about how they could try them out. They were passed along to Powell, who began teaching people in Belleville how to row from the Albert College Rowing Club on weekends and when he had available time. The popularity in the sport of rowing in Belleville grew tremendously in the Fall of 1985, capping off a successful first season on the water for the new club.

In the winter of 1986, Frank Zielski, a 1960 Olympian in rowing contacted Powell along with other rowing enthusiasts in the area about the idea of starting a community rowing club in Belleville. Powell, with his new responsibilities at the school and its newly launched Albert College Rowing Club offered his guidance and advice. In the spring of 1986, Powell was contacted by Jim Joy, the Executive Director of Rowing Canada Aviron, who was familiar with him from his days coaching in BC. He invited Powell to join the Canadian National Team as one of its coaches. In the summers of 1986, 1987 and 1988, Powell was busy training crews in St. Catharines before going to the Worlds in Germany, the Pan-Am Games and the Pan-Pacific Games in Australia. His new duties made him unavailable to assist with new club discussions during the summers but was always just a call away for Zielski, who founded the Quinte Rowing Club in the summer of 1986.

Powell continued to grow the rowing base in Belleville throughout the Fall of 1986. He launched a Sculling Program at the Albert College Rowing Club, as he became the Canadian Rowing Representative for Laser International, the manufacturer of a fibreglass single scull. He subsequently purchased the molds and tooling for the Laser Rowing Shell and Kayak lines and began manufacturing the lines in Trenton, ON, where they were shipped throughout North America and the Caribbean. Powell Enterprises became the manufacturing and distribution entity, and a program called ‘Row for Fun and Fitness’ was born in the Spring of 1989. With summers off, and no rowing tours, Powell and his wife trailered a complement of rowing shells throughout Ontario’s cottage country teaching anyone interested in learning how to scull.

The Albert College Rowing Club was a hub of activity for several years, introducing students and local Belleville residents to the art of rowing. Katya Herman, a former national team lightweight oarswoman learned how to row at the Albert College Rowing Club and is the first Belleville oarswoman to make a national team. Herman became one of the top-ranked lightweight rowers in Canada and competed for Canada at the World Rowing Championships in Poznan, Poland in 2009, the World Cup in Lucerne, Switzerland in 2010, and was named Rowing Canada’s Female Sculler of the Year in 2011. She continues her involvement in rowing as a Level 3 certified coach, while publishing extensively and participating in public outreach and advocacy around issues related to physical activity and health.

By 1993, the two loaned shells from the Kingston Rowing Club were getting old, fundraising for new shells would be challenging and Powell was pulled into other areas of responsibility at the College, effectively ending the rowing program at the school. The Belleville Intelligencer and the City of Belleville are planning to celebrate 40 years of rowing in the Quinte area in September 2025.

Thank you to Tim Powell for providing the information for this story.