The rowing season in the US has a few big dates that have a way of marking the beginning and the end of the sprint season, and since 1973 the San Diego Crew Classic has served as the unofficial start of the season.
There are sprint races that run on the collegiate and high school levels prior to Crew Classic weekend, but they are mostly college duals, or large early season high school and scholastic events that draw regional crews. None have the national attraction, size, or prominence of the annual spring festival on Mission Bay in San Diego, California.
It's always better to be there in person - especially for rowing fans that live in the parts of the US that are just starting to thaw after the long winter indoor season - but there is no reason to miss the action that begins early Saturday morning and ends Sunday afternoon.
So, for those who can't be there, and those that can, here are a few key tips to enjoy the show:
The start line
Saturday: Most of the racing on Saturday is scheduled to set up the Sunday finals. With 414 crews scheduled to race, packed in some cases into events that have up to 18 entries, it takes nearly the entire first day to sort out who goes to the finals.
Those races begin at 7:20 AM. There are some finals on Saturday - all of them in the masters and alumni crew events. There are 10 on the schedule and they run from about 3 PM till 4:30.
Sunday: After all the sorting has been finished, it's all about the medals and trophies. The first final goes off at 7:20. The last is scheduled for 3:30.
Races to watch: Any athlete racing this weekend will consider a win here, or a competitive performance, a good way to start the season. But for a few crews, particularity on the high school and collegiate levels, this is a good chance to renew rivalries and gain some momentum for the championships that are still months away.
The high school field, especially the eights, is loaded and this is likely the most competitive event that will be raced before the season ending national championships. West coast schools have the most entries in these events, but some of the most competitive clubs from the East make the trip, including the women's silver medalist from Saugatuck, CT. Marin is the defending champion. There are 20 crews in that event.
On the men's side, there are 18 crews on the schedule. California power house, Newport Aquatic Center is the defending champion.
For collegiate fans, the main events are the men's Copley Cup Invitational and the women's Jessop-Whitter Cup Invitational. Cal took both last spring. There are 11 crews entered in the women's event, and racing should be pretty fierce.
For the men, this year will be a showdown between Cal and Yale, the only two crews on the docket in the Copley Cup.
Freedom Rows and adaptive events, added to the regatta over the past several years, has expanded and there are a block of four events that will run Saturday.
A US national team exhibition event will be run Sunday.
The complete event schedule can be found here.
Live results can be seen here.
Watching the Racing
The cameras will be on!
For those who can't make the trip, the event will be live streamed both days. Click here for the link to the live feed.
Of course, it is always more fun to watch the racing live in the California sun. Between race watching, there are plenty of vendors for shopping and eating and - of course - a beer garden. Information for venue events, and opening and closing times, can be found here.
Best viewing areas - on the beach of course, in the last 500 meters.
There is also a new VIP area; here are details:
Club ’73 in the Champions Pavilion
The San Diego Crew Classic is excited to announce the grand opening of Club '’73, the on-the-grounds VIP experience at our regatta.
A nod to 1973, the year it all began. Get access to exclusive finish-line seating, free coffee, and craft cocktails for sale in the big tent, known as the Champions Pavilion. Club '73 is the perfect location to meet and mingle during the regatta and escape the sun throughout the weekend. Grab a snack from one of our top San Diego food trucks, a seat within the large tent, and enjoy all the excitement that the top-level racing brings. Watch the races come down the course on one of our multiple big-screens then see them fight it out the final 250 meters from your private seat on the finish line.
Don't miss the regatta closing party on Sunday. Club '73 will be offering the VIP tent experience in addition to live music and pizza, compliments of San Diego Rowing Club, beginning at 4pm. Grab your friends, fellow alum, and enjoy a new experience offered at the San Diego Crew Classic.
Saturday: 7am-5pm: $20
Sunday: 2pm-7pm: $10
Club '73 is a 21+ ONLY event. Anyone under the age of 21 will not be permitted. Re-entry will be allowed with a valid Club '73 wristband.
Vendor and beach viewing areas
Parking: The parking is free for spectators in the lots near Ski Beach. Shuttle service runs throughout the day, ending at 6 PM.
The gates open at 6:00 AM for spectators, racing begins at 7:20 AM, and the beer garden opens at 10:00 AM - which is 6pm in London, so it is definitely 5 o'clock somewhere.
Spectator site map:
Complete spectator information can be found here.
For more complete information, go to the events site here.