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It's About Time You Knew What A Regatta Is

Maddie Meyer / Staff

“Did you win your game?”

“How was your tournament?”

“Did you score any points?”

“Which team won?”

As much as I appreciate when people ask me about my sport, as a rower, the same terminology as other sports does not always apply. We have no “games.” We have no “points.” Just ranks of which boat crosses the finish line first, and how fast it took to get there.

Rowers have no “matches” or tournaments on the water. Instead of a referee running after us with a whistle, we have an official chasing after our boat with a megaphone in tow (which is much more intimidating if you ask me).

We cannot always hear our coaches and parents cheer from the sidelines - only the tiny person in the front of the boat making sure we do not crash, and the pounding of blood in our ears.

So when people ask me about the competitions my team enters and the results, an explanation of what a regatta is, is usually the first step.  

Webster’s Dictionary describes a regatta as: “a rowing, speedboat, or sailing race or a series of such races.” Basically, a regatta is a rower’s version of a tournament, game, or match. What this definition fails to take into account, however, is how regattas are the most fun, rewarding, and delicious part of rowing (yes, delicious).

Regattas are the most fun, rewarding, and delicious part of rowing (yes, delicious)

Sure, beating a personal record on an erg test is all good and fun. Sure, breakfast after a hard practice with your teammates is great bonding while you fuel your body. And of course, the friendships you make with the people on your team are immeasurable and valuable and supportive - but the food.

Tucked on the “sidelines,” or the banks of the river you are racing on, are usually tents full of some conglomerate of tables full of food for your team. Spreads of bagels and banana bread, coffee and granola balls, applesauce and fruit platters, and lots and lots of peanut butter. Regattas are a time when, after you race your heart out, you get to eat all this delicious food (usually graciously made by the parents or team supporters), and cheer on the rest of the team.

Due to the nature of the sport of rowing, races that are 6,000 meters long can last anywhere from 12-25 minutes depending on the ability of the people in your boat, and the weather and course conditions on that particular race day. Races that are 2,000 meters are much shorter, lasting from 5-8 minutes usually.

Team tents are parked on the “sidelines,” or right up against the water to see the boats go by and cheer them on. (The best seats are right by the finish line where teams are really “emptying the tank” and giving everything they have for the last few meters. Anything can happen in the last 500 meters...

It all comes down to those few minutes that you hear your team, parents, coaches, supporters, yelling hysterically from the sidelines, cheering you on.

Races finish just as quickly as they start, though when you’re one of those actually rowing the boat, it can sometimes feel like a lifetime. Regattas are so unique in that all the hard work you put into rowing - every single morning practice, lift session, extra workout on your own - it all comes down to those few minutes that you hear your team, parents, coaches, supporters, yelling hysterically from the sidelines, cheering you on. And that’s what makes it all worth it.

Well that, and the food of course.