In 1981, the Atlanta Rowing Club organized a head race on the Chattahoochee River in Roswell, Georgia. This event was known as the Head of the Chattahoochee. By 1997, the regatta had outgrown the shores of the Chattahoochee and moved to the Olympic rowing venue in Gainesville, Georgia. The regatta continued to grow and by 2004, event organizers realized that the “Hooch” was yet again too large for its current venue. For the 2005 regatta, the Atlanta Rowing Club teamed up with Chattanooga’s Lookout Rowing Club and moved the event to its current location, Chattanooga, TN. The event officially changed its name from the Head of the Chattahoochee to the Head of the Hooch.
This year’s Head of the Hooch attracted many new faces and quite a few old, but the main story of the Hooch began long before the first trailer arrived at Ross’s landing. From the very first day of registration, the number of teams who wanted to participate in this mammoth event was “overwhelming” according to one of the event organizers. So many teams registered for the Hooch early that some events were waitlisted months ahead of the entry deadline. A few other regattas this fall even advertised “Unable to get an entry for the Hooch… come to our regatta instead.” However after quite a few scratches, many on the wait list were able to get their entries and the 2013 Head of the Hooch was a go!
As the sun rose on Saturday morning, it appeared as though race conditions would be perfect. With minimal current (for Chattanooga) and warm temperatures, it looked to be a great weekend of racing. For the junior events, OKC River Sport brought a formative armada of ladies 800 miles from Oklahoma. OKC River Sport took 1st and 4th in the youth women’s 8 and 1st in the youth women’s 4. On the men’s side, Capital City rowing out of Tallahassee, FL was able to come out of top in the youth 8+ while Westerville took the top spot in the youth 4+.
By mid-day, the primetime events were making their way down the Tennessee River. The field of Champ 8s this year had a slightly new look to them. Some of the previous champions decided not to attend the regatta this year and a few of the new comers looked to make their mark. FIT (Florida Institute of Technology) made their first trip to Chattanooga under Coach Jim Granger, now in his 7th season with FIT. FIT was easily able to dominate the field at the Hooch taking 1st with their varsity 8 and 5th with their freshman 8 in the Champ 8+ event. FIT followed up on this success later on in the Champ 4+ taking 1st and 2nd. Row2k caught up with coach Granger right after the race. “We always have goals for our program, this year our roster is much larger than it has been before. We have 20 new faces on the team and I think everyone has come in with the right attitude.” “The work being done has been really high quality so far and I think the results have been bearing that out. “ When asked how he thought the race progressed for his rowers Jim said “I think they did really well. We had our little bobbles, but it’s just going through the learning process.” “The conditions were a little windy as they came through the final turn, which upset them a little. They did the job that they needed to do and they got the good results.”
The University of Miami came into this regatta under slightly different circumstances. Head coach Dave Sanderson took the head coaching position at Miami less than two months ago after coach Andrew Carter’s departure for Iowa. Despite the challenging time constraint, coach Sanderson seemed to have his crew ready to compete this weekend. The hurricanes took 1st in the Champ womens 8+ and 1st in the open 8+ on Sunday. “Training has gone pretty well, we have developed a bit through the fall and we are definitely taking better strokes today than when we started” said coach Sanderson. “Today we wanted to focus on what we had been doing in practice and to do that to the best of our ability.” “From what the rowers said when they got off the water, it was a pretty good piece and I think it was a good performance.”
As the afternoon progressed, a stiff head wind continued to build which made an interesting finish line experience for rowers and coxswains. The combination of a brisk tail current and a strong head wind, lead to some significant white capping however the regatta soldiered on. These conditions proved to be a bit too much for one junior crew who has the misfortune of flipping their 4+ right in front of the finish line. Thousands of spectators watched as the crew flipped after colliding with another 4+ in their event. After a bit of shouting from the crowd to get the rowers out of the water as fast as possible, the ladies in good spirit were pulled from the water and waved to the cheering crowd as they made their way to the dock.
The first day of racing came to a close and the venue began to slowly empty. A large portion of the trailers had pulled out and a generally relaxed feel fell over the venue. The main day of racing had come and gone without a major hitch (No waiting until the next day for results this year, they were impressively prompt this year actually!). The Head of the Hooch appears to finally have hit it stride in Chattanooga. At the same time, organizers are yet again contesting with the popularity of the event vs. the amount of available space to host it. While the Hooch will stay in Chattanooga for the foreseeable future, be on the lookout for a few logistical changes. Changes to what entries are accepted for the regatta and possibly an expanded spectators and trailers area may be on the horizon (maybe a few years down the line). The Hooch has become one of the premier rowing events of the fall and it doesn’t appear to show any signs of slowing down.