In the south, rowers are fortunate enough to have rowable water all winter long however all good things must come to an end as the Head of the South typically marks the end of the southern fall rowing season. This year’s regatta had an early fall feel to it with cool temperatures in the morning and warm to hot conditions for the rest of the afternoon. The low winds, a more challenging course due to low water levels, and nearly 500 entries, made the Head of the South a very compelling regatta.
With junior rowing, it is often difficult to gauge a team’s speed since some programs value different boat classes. Some programs place their top athletes solely in small boats, while others focus on the traditional 8’s and 4’s. This year, there was a large influx of junior rowing programs from Florida. Generally, the fastest programs in the southeast come out of Florida and that was proven yet again by Jacksonville Episcopal men’s 8+ who took 1st in the junior men’s 8 by 1 second over Montgomery Bell Academy. This year however the team points trophy for juniors did not come from a Florida program, but a rising power in the region, Ashville Youth Rowing. Asheville’s men with a very young squad of underclassmen were able to take 1st in the 4+ and 3rd in 8+, while Asheville’s women took gold in the junior women’s 8+ and 4+. Row2k was able to catch up with Martha Williams one of Asheville Youth Rowing’s coaches after the race. Williams stated, “We have done really well today. Junior rowing is becoming much more competitive. Programs in states that had almost no high school rowing (like North Carolina) are starting to become quite competitive. We love this race and we will be back next year.”
Typically, the championship events at a regatta attract the “best of the best” however; the Head of the South sometimes flips the script. For whatever reason, the club events more often than not, are more competitive than the championship events. There really isn’t a rhyme or reason to it. It just seems to be what people sign up for. VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University) has a relatively small squad yet proved to be very competitive despite their small numbers. VCU brought home gold in the men’s champ single, light 4+ and champ 8+ ahead of the College of Charleston who won the Club 8. In the men’s lightweight 8, it was a battle between Clemson and VCU who both finished a couple of minutes ahead of the next shell. Both crews remained bow ball to stern deck for seemingly the entire second half of the race, however Clemson was able to come home with the gold. For the collegiate women, UGA (University of Georgia) was able to win the championship and club women’s 8+. William and Mary, a newcomer to the regatta this year, was able to take gold in the club women’s 4+ over Clemson. Clemson however was able to win the overall team point’s trophy.
Clemson made an impression this year for more than simply their performance on the water. A few years ago, some of their rowers began decorating shirts for the Head of the South since it was their final regatta of the fall. This year however Clemson kicked it up a notch by wearing very distinct costumes in every boat. The costumes ranged from fireman, to pirates, to 101 Dalmatians, to the Wizard of Oz. In the words of Rob Burgundy “that escalated quickly.” Row2k spoke with Clemson’s president Dylan Sontag about the costumes. “The outfits today were pretty fantastic. The men’s and women’s 8’s coordinated their outfits without talking about the costumes ahead of time. The men were fire fighters and the women were Dalmatians. It was the greatest thing ever! Our team likes to have fun at this regatta while still being competitive.”
Masters rowing, like junior rowing is often difficult to wrap ones head around since the focus for individual teams is different for every program. Catawba Yacht Club had a strong showing at the South finishing the regatta with the highest team points total for a master’s program. CYC was able to win gold in the men’s 8+ and women’s 4+. Row2k spoke with Nancy Teaff who is a rower for the Catawba Yacht Club and a coach for Charlotte Youth Rowing. “We love the Head of the South. It’s a celebration of rowing for us. We have boats that have practiced together all season and other boats that haven’t practiced together at all. Today we medaled in everything we entered. The men’s quad was particularly proud because they would have medaled in the youth division, but luckily our youth quad (Charlotte Youth Rowing) was slightly faster, winning gold in the event. What makes Catawba unique is the fact that they actually get along with their junior program, Charlotte Youth Rowing. Anyone who has spent any amount of time around rowing knows that typically, junior programs and masters programs sometimes butt heads. Many of the master rowers coach the youth team. It is a 100% volunteer coaching staff. We are a very close team.”
The South's Future
As the popularity of the Head of The South continues to grow, the obvious question is; What’s next? This year, there was a large influx of teams from other states, particularly Florida high schools. According to Tim Jannik of the Augusta Rowing Club, “Some of it is to do with the Hooch and getting some of their entries cut off. Additionally we are fairly convenient, so it’s not that far for many of the teams compared to other major regattas.” Tim added that for the future, the Masters National Head Race may come to Augusta. The event coordinator for US Rowing was in attendance to scope out the South for the possibility of hosting the Masters Nationals Head Race on the Sunday after the Head of the South. In summation, the 2013 Head of the South was a great day for racing and it sounds as though next year, the party may continue for an additional day.