The Saratoga Rowing Association (SRA), in Saratoga Springs, New York, home to Skidmore, will host the Head of the Fish Regatta this weekend. Head of the Fish is one of the larger venues, so all of the sights and sounds of rowing are intensified. Yet even so, every launch site is as much the same as they are different. Except for a dry 2013, Head of the Fish is all about trudging through the muck. Saratoga is an elegant resort town known for summer horse racing, but for me it conjures images of mud and rowing under a large bridge filled with spectators cheering at the finish line. But before the race even begins, you are already weighed down from dragging yourself and your gear through the dense thick mud, without a single gleaning of grass in sight to save you from the quicksand. Mud gets everywhere seeping deep into your boots as the cold wet earth weighs down the heavy layers that try to keep you warm.
The SRA website is well organized and offers a lot of information, maps and an aerial photograph to become familiar with the course. Attending the Coach and Coxswain meeting is vital because of the S curve course. Coxswains need to carefully steer and direct rowers because the S curve course easily disqualifies boats for brushing too close to the buoys. To save time you need to get as close to the buoys as possible, your oars can go over the buoys but the shell cannot cross the buoy line. Row through the finish line as instructed before the bridge being careful of inexperienced boats stopped in exhausted excitement causing other boats to pile up in the same space. Coxswains need to instruct their boat to continue to row under the bridge and around the sitting boats. My favorite bit of rowing advice may be urban legend in the warning to stay on course as coxswains have gotten lost ending up on the Erie Canal!!!
R2R quick tips:
Set your watch to regatta time, the Regatta Officials are abruptly punctual.
Wear boots to cross over miscellaneous boards covering deeper puddles on the trek from the parking lot to your team’s site to unload the trailers and assemble boats.
Bring extra washers; they are
easily lost in the mud.
This course is known for having a lot of weeds. Rowers need to clear weeds off their blades and coxswains need to make sure there are no weeds on the skeg.