By Jordan Press
After winning three medals at the provincial championships, Ryerson’s rowing team returned home only to find vandals had trashed their boathouse.
On the night of Nov. 4, vandals broke into the boathouse at the Bayside Rowing Club and caused $50,000 in damages to 65 of the club’s boats. The team’s volunteer head coach, Dominic Kahn, is the president of the club and uses it as the base for the rowing team.
Looking at the heap of splinters and metal last week, Kahn and the team were shocked. Men’s captain Andy Guiry described the scene as if a bomb had gone off.
“To look at something like that, it hurts,” Guiry said. “You can’t really be angry or sad, it’s just shock.”
Someone methodically yanked each boat from the wall, and crashed them together, Kahn said. However, the person — or people — who did this took care with the better boats. Details like that led investigators to believe the vandals were from the rowing community.
“The whole community is upset someone from within the family could have done this,” said Kahn. “The sad part is, you start to question every person, every action.”
Kahn doesn’t want to put the whole rowing community on trial.
There were handprints around the boathouse, but police were unable to lift any fingerprints, Kahn said. Kahn and Guiry believe police won’t catch the perpetrators.
Bayside doesn’t have insurance on the damaged boats. Last winter Bayside’s insurance company, which only charged $2,000 a year, closed. Kahn couldn’t find a new policy for less than $20,000, well out of the club’s price range.
Kahn said he doesn’t know if Bayside could ever afford $20,000 a year. He said he’s still looking at al the options.
Most boats got away with only hull scratches. Others weren’t so lucky.
Vandals damaged one boat made fro a team of eight so badly it couldn’t hold any weight. If anyone sat inside, it would fold in half like a piece of paper. Replacing it will cost $30,000.
Another boat has a two-metre long hole. It will cost $2,000 to fix, but it won’t skim across the water the same again.
The perpetrators tossed six of the team’s coach boats into Lake Ontario to drown. Police retrieved four of the boats and towed them back to Bayside.
One, nicknamed White Whale, is now a wreck on the lake floor.
The other, Big Red, washed ashore Thursday morning.
“Like a defiant warrior, Big Red showed up,” Kahn said. “It was the most beautiful sight I have ever seen.”
The future of the rowing team is safe. The vandals didn’t touch the team’s racing boats. Most of the boats damaged are used for recreational programs and training.
“The varsity team will be all right, but development crews possibly won’t have eight to row,” Guiry said.
To raise funds to replace and repair the damaged boats, the team is planning to hold a fitness challenge at the RAC on Nov. 29. It will cost $10 for Ryerson students. The event is part of Bayside’s fundraising project aptly named Project Phoenix, after the mythical bird that rose from its own ashes.