Augusta is known worldwide for what takes place during the first week of April. The Garden City, however, is home to another event that attracts guests from just as far.
The 2017 Head of the South Regatta, the 21st of its kind, is an annual rowing competition held by the Augusta Rowing Club. Teams ranging from club to collegiate levels from across the country and the globe travel to the Savannah River every fall to compete.
Teams from Florida to New York to Ukraine, along with many from the southeast, comprised the 63 teams in the regatta. While great for the sport, Augusta Rowing Club head coach Brad Holdgren believes the success of the event will be equally beneficial to the city of Augusta.
“The more people we can bring into town, the better it is for everybody,” Holdgren said. “We grow the event and grow the economic impact to the city, the Convention &Visitors Bureau will say it’s not just about heads in beds, it’s the rest of it that goes in. Because it’s people in local stores and people in local restaurants, it’s filling up the hotel rooms and money that works its way into the community.”
An interesting aspect of this race is that junior (under age 18) clubs compete against the adults. The Augusta Junior Crew gets a chance to see what competition will be like as they advance in their careers.
“I think it’s fantastic, because they compete with other youth rowers from around the area and around the nation,” said Tim Grupp, a member of the adult rowing club. “They also get to see how the collegiate and higher levels row and learn from them and see what it takes to get to that level.”
The opportunity for youth to gain experience from regattas such as this is not lost among the members of the junior crew, either. Kate Snowberger, who is in the middle of her fifth season with the junior crew, recalls the dangers of the sport which some may take for granted.
“People will tell you rowing is not dangerous, but it really is,” she said. “My first regatta, my second race of the day, my friend didn’t realize the turn to the bridge was so sharp and got my oar and my hand caught on the bridge. I have scars on my knuckles from the cutting. People have gotten concussions from getting hit with boats. You have to be well aware of your surroundings to do this sport correctly.”
Alexandra Yu, one of the newer members of the junior crew, did not need many words to describe how she felt about having this regatta in her own backyard.
“I actually really like it a lot more because I know the river. I know the boathouse,” she said. “It’s home.”
For an event that continues to grow annually, Holdgren believes the sky is the limit.
“The future is going to be huge,” he said. “There have been discussions of taking this event into multi-day weekend. We’ve talked about the possibility of adding an outdoor concert on a Friday night, turning this into a two-day race.
“We’ve even talked about adding a marathon event – a 26-mile rowing race, which is really rare in the country. There is only one in the United States. So this event is going to grow. The more success we have growing this one, the more likely we are to try and launch other events, as well.”