A frosty, foggy morning gave way to sunny skies Saturday afternoon just in time for a competitive day of rowing on the Savannah River. The 15th annual Head of the South Regatta brought more than 1,300 participants, 400 boats and at least a dozen colleges to Augusta’s riverfront.
“We started out a little icy, and the fog was so bad we couldn’t see South Carolina for 15 or 20 minutes,” regatta director Tim Jannik said. “But we’ve been real pleased how it’s turned out.”
The morning events were delayed until the fog lifted. Among the rowers who braved the cold early in the day was Appling’s Nick Fahrion, who won gold for the Augusta Rowing club in the Men’s Junior 1x. The homeschooled senior won the 5,000-meter event by 51-hundredths of a second.
“I started first, so I didn’t have anyone to pass, and I thought he was going to beat me,” he said of Kevin Coyle, of Stanton-River Bank Rowing. “You just have to make sure you settle in to an all-out pace.”
Fahrion was one of 56 local competitors representing the Augusta Rowing Club. The one-day regatta attracted several clubs, including many from Northern states, where early winters prevent rowing events.
The Head of the South Regatta featured fewer than 100 competitors in its first year, but the event has grown. “If we got any bigger, we might have a hard time getting everybody in here with parking and everything,” he said. “I think part of it is the weather. There was a larger regatta two weeks ago in Philadelphia canceled because of snow. We don’t have to worry about that here.”
The event also drew several major college clubs, including Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and at least four Atlantic Coast Conference schools.
Among the novice competitors was Lakeside senior Stephen Reimche, who recently gave up competitive swimming to row. He competed with teammates J.D. Landrum, Holden Usherwood and Ruben Moroeno.
“I got into swimming really young and just got tired of it,” Reimche said. “This is definitely something different. It’s the same work ethic as swimming; you still have to push through pain. With this you have to work as a team.”