The regatta, set to be held on Langley Pond in Aiken County, will be celebrating its 30th year of spring competition, and this year’s event should prove to be an exciting one, Augusta Rowing Club head coach Michael Cobb said.
“We’re going to basically have all of the events there are, say, at the Olympics,” he said.
Despite being held on Langley Pond since 1997, the Augusta Invitational traces its roots back to the Savannah River where the regatta first took place in 1984. The change in venue was due, in part, to the currents of the Savannah River giving some crews an advantage, Cobb said.
“The river is not fair,” he said. “If you are along the Georgia side, the current is much faster vs. the South Carolina side. No matter what, you would know who would win so long as they were in lanes one or two toward (Georgia’s side).”
Now on the much calmer waters of Langley Pond, this year’s regatta will feature 14 crews, many of which come from the Southeast. Many of the major collegiate crews, including those from Clemson, Georgia and Georgia Tech, will miss out on the regatta due to spring break.
While that number might be down from last year’s count, regatta director George Fry Jr. said there has been a significant increase of entries per crew this year.
Among those crews will be the Augusta State University Crew, competing in its first event since the Head of the South Regatta this past November. Only having practiced for just more than two weeks, the crew will use the Augusta Invitational as a measuring stick to see how it stacks up, said Augusta Rowing Club assistant coach and Augusta State University Crew member Brad Scammon.
“We deal with so many different schedules with students – from the (medical) school, communications majors, part-time students – that we didn’t get to start practicing until about two weekends ago,” he said. “This weekend is kind of a practice run for us.”
The Augusta Rowing Club, which will also be competing in its first race of 2013, will have crews racing at the junior and masters levels of competition. Cobb said he sees the potential in this year’s junior crew.
“I think the high school team is going to be excellent,” Cobb said. “I think this is the best team I’ve had down here, all the way across to the varsity rowers. We’re probably looking at most of them making it to the national championship this year. I have high hopes for them.”
Preliminary heats begin at 8 a.m. Saturday, and finals are scheduled to start at 12:30 p.m.