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Edward Vincent Winchester 1970 – 2020

BY ED MORAN
PHOTO BY SPORTGRAPHICS

Just a few days ago Rowing News editor Ed Winchester was talking about the impact the loss of the regatta season was having on the rowing community. Listening to him speak, it was clear that he loved the sport and felt the void was hard to fill.

But in the face of the mounting tragedy the world has been enduring since the onset of the COVID crisis, Winchester felt there was one thing he could do; he could train, he could erg, and by rowing on his Concept2 ergometer, he could remain hopeful.

And as a journalist, he could pass that hope along.

Winchester rowed nearly 20K every day and was so buoyed by the simple act of pulling, he fiddled around with the memory capacity of his ergometer over the weekend until he found the dial that recorded every single meter he had rowed on his basement machine – 26 million meters as of Monday morning.

“And that doesn’t count the meters I rowed at the Dartmouth boathouse, or the miles I put in on the river,” he joked during an April 20 morning staff call.

“And that doesn’t count the meters I rowed at the Dartmouth boathouse or the miles I put in on the river,” he joked during an April 20 morning staff call.

Edward Vincent Winchester loved rowing. He loved the act of rowing, the challenges it brought him, and he made it his life. He won a gold medal in the Canadian men’s lightweight pair in the senior world championship in 2000 in Zagreb, Croatia with Ben Storey, and represented his country as a spare on the men’s team at the Sydney Games that year.

And then he made rowing his career outside of competition as a journalist. He wrote one of his earliest columns for the Globe and Mail in 1999 while on the national team about having to submit a urine sample. He titled it “Giving My All for Sport Canada.” He was so proud of that piece, it hangs in a frame in the bathroom of his Hanover, New Hampshire home.

For the last 20 years, Winchester has written about rowing, covering the athletes and the regattas they rowed in. He wrote for the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) web site while on the 2000 Olympic team, then the Abbotsford Times in British Columbia when he retired from rowing, and then for the Rowing News when it was a newspaper. He was later named editor when the publication became a magazine.

As editor, he helped shape the stories that are published every month, and he made sure his voice – and his love of the sport – was heard. He wrote this for the May issue that is just now being mailed to rowers all over North America:

“Training is an optimistic act. Implicit in every erg workout and weight session is the idea that you can always get better—that who you are today doesn’t have to be who you are tomorrow. This is what drew me and so many others to our sport, and what keeps me coming back year after year.

“This year, of course, is different. The loss of the rowing season is trivial in the grand scheme of what the world is facing. But it was a loss nonetheless, and it raised fundamental questions for the athletes and coaches whose seasons—and in some cases, careers—were cut short. The sudden end to on-water activities was also jarring for those of us who cover the sport. For the first time ever, we were forced to contemplate what rowing would look like without racing. 

“After a month of social distancing and stay-at-home orders, we are starting to find out. Yes, there was some initial disappointment over what could have been this season, but very quickly we summoned our collective optimism and got back to work.”

Ed Winchester, 49, died suddenly this morning of natural causes. He was in his basement in Hanover, on his erg, doing what he has done most mornings.

“We’re all in shock,” said Rowing News publisher Chip Davis. “He died at home doing what he loved. We miss him already and can’t believe it. He was more than a great oarsman and writer, he was a great guy and he brightened the day of everybody he came in contact with.

“He was a funny man, and his humor was a light for the world. He was a world champion oarsmen and a writer of equal caliber and his professionalism in journalism elevated the rowing media and everyone who worked with him,” Davis said.

The Rowing News team in January.

Born in December 1970, in Saint John and raised in Rothesay, New Brunswick, Canada, Winchester began rowing as a junior, and rose through the ranks of Canadian lightweights, racing on five Canadian national teams.

He attended the Ryerson University School of Journalism and began writing about rowing as a career. Working first for the Canadian Broadcasting Company, he wrote columns about his Olympic experience.

Winchester used his voice to share his passion for rowing – and he was always honest about how he felt and his achievements. While in Sydney, Winchester wrote about his Olympic journey and his personal experience.

“I’ll only see the light of (the competition) if there is an injury,” he wrote in one CBC column, and in which he recounted his five-year national team journey.

“Along the way, I’ve been outstanding, solid, mediocre and inconsistent,” he wrote. “Twice, I’ve stunk up the joint. I have two world championship medals and a slew of international appearances in the lightweight fours. But for the Olympics – maybe my only chance to make it on CBC without tape-delay – I’ve been named a spare.”

He was not a spare in the very small world of career rowing journalists, and under his editorship, Winchester has guided Rowing News, and the writers and photographers who work there, with passion, professionalism and always – always – with a love for the sport, its athletes, and the community that he served.

We will miss him.

Winchester (stroke) rowing at the 1990 Head of the Charles Regatta.

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