The Georgia Tech Rowing Club has had a successful ride over the past year, but it took a unique turn Saturday with an experience it won’t forget.
The club had the opportunity to take the Stämpfli Express out onto the Savannah River during the Head of the South Rowing Regatta. The boat is known as the world’s longest rowing shell with 24 rowers and a coxswain who guides the crew.
The boat is 144-feet long and divided into five sections that require attaching together while in the water. When Georgia Tech was able to push away from the dock and get its oars in sync, it resembled a centipede working its way through the water.
“It was cool just to see the feat of engineering, especially coming from an engineering school,” said Allison Rapoport, who was in the fourth seat. “It’s something we appreciate, and it was cool to see how everything attached and how it fit together.”
Georgia Tech received the opportunity by winning the points total at last year’s Head of the South. The crew successfully ran the length of the course and maneuvered it back to the dock.
“It didn’t seem like a big deal, then you’re out there thinking about the fact that you’re in the world’s largest boat,” said Liza Joyce, who was in the fifth seat. “Turning it was hard, but we got the hang of it.”
The Stämpfli Express is on its first U.S. tour. It was built in Switzerland by three-time Olympian Melchior Burgin, who attended the regatta with his boat.
Georgia Tech coach Jay Skuban said there were friendly arguments among the team members about who would get to row the boat, but he said it was a great chance for his crew to participate in something so unique.
“To see something like that designed, conceived and built is really quite wonderful,” Skuban said. “It’s certainly visually striking. It gives them a story they can tell a lot of people, and very few people will be able to match it.”
The rest of the participating crews at the regatta had another difficult time matching Georgia Tech, as the club team won 11 events.
Skuban had nothing but praise for the regatta, which is the crew’s last before going inside for winter training. He said he lets his team go all out in the final event of the season, and it shows with Georgia Tech making up the most entries among college clubs.
The regatta continues to be a hit with clubs traveling across the country to participate. This year’s event featured more than 2,800 rowers from more than 60 clubs.