Bainbridge Island Rowing
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Survival guide

Regattas on the Horizon: Your Survival Guide

The spring regatta season is about to begin, with the first event, the Salt Watta Regatta, scheduled for this Sunday, March 10, at home. (An earlier regatta against Holy Names has been postponed.) If you’ve never been to a regatta, you need some help.

A regatta is not like other sports events you may have attended. Take a cross country meet, for example. You pick a place to stand, probably near the finish line, and when the runners charge past, you yell. At a cross country meet, you might watch two to four races that way: JV girls, JV boys, Varsity girls, and Varsity boys. Then you go home.

Here’s where the regatta differs:

  1. The place you pick to watch might be really far from the rowers, and so the rowers don’t really go charging past you.
  2. When you yell, they might not hear you.
  3. You don’t watch four races. You watch anywhere from 10 to, say, 65.
  4. When you’re watching a race, you probably have no idea what race you’re watching.
  5. When you see two boats neck and neck, they might not actually be neck and neck. (More on that later.)
  6. You don’t go home for a while.

You might be wondering why, given those differences, you’d even want to watch a regatta. Read on.

What Makes a Regatta Great

Imagine a music festival with no music. That’s what a regatta is like. People gather on blankets or lawn chairs, they line up at vendor’s booths, they grab food from the team kitchen tent, they look for friends or teammates, and they train binoculars on the stage or, in this case, the water.

Everyone feels the anticipation of the next act—or race. Everyone is united in a communal purpose: in our case, supporting a rower.

You could say that the terrific part of a regatta happens in the spaces between the races. It’s about the preparation and excitement for what’s to come or the complete and happy exhaustion after.

Showing up is a key part to what makes a regatta great. Experience proves that, even if you hardly speak to one another, your rower wants you to be there, somewhere along the race route.

How to Make Your Regatta Better

Three things will make your regatta better.

The third most important thing is to go to bed early the night before. All regattas involve early rising. There’s no other way to get the whole shebang wrapped up and done by sunset. You’ll feel better if you have sleep.

The second most important thing is to bring the right gear, which we will get to in a moment.

The first most important thing you can do to make your regatta better is to sign up for a volunteer assignment. That job—whether it’s helping to load and unload the boats, cooking food in the team kitchen, tying ribbons in the rowers’ hair, or taking photos for the team website—is what’s going to make the time pass and get you through.

Want to sign up? Click here.

The Regatta Gear You Need

This is a list of the eight key items you need in your regatta gear bag:

  1. If you drink coffee, you will need it.
  2. If you hope to see anything at all, bring binoculars.
  3. The hunger really kicks in around 10 a.m., even if you’re just a lazy toad spectator. Gather food.
  4. There will be downtime. Like crossword puzzles? Bring them. Don’t forget other forms of entertainment: a book, your tablet, your smart phone. Don’t forget a charger. Prepare to make small talk.
  5. You can’t stand for six hours. You need a chair, a vehicle comfortable enough to hang out in, or a blanket.
  6. Depending on the weather, you will either need a down coat and hat or sunscreen and hat. Or  an umbrella.
  7. Most regattas happen in beautiful places. Bring your walking shoes so you can explore.
  8. Cheering at a regatta is exhausting. Lug a cowbell. It sends a clear message with low effort.

Remember when we talked about boats being neck and neck in a race? Here’s what you need to know about that. If you’re watching a sprint, then, yes, the boat at the front is the one that is winning. A head race, however, involves a staggered start. So when you see two boats neck and neck, one is actually quite a bit ahead of the other. The problem is that you might not know which one.

Get ready. The regattas are coming. Want to know more and when? Check out our spring regatta page and click through to the BIR Parent Leadership’s Regatta Guide for each race. Also check out our BIR Rowing 101 page.

Photo by Sarah Lane.