published Sunday, November 4th, 2012

Hundreds cheer rowers in Chattanooga: Hooch visitors praise venue

Rowing teams move into place on the Tennessee River.
Rowing teams move into place on the Tennessee River.
Photo by Allison Love.

IF YOU GO

What: Head of the Hooch Rowing Regatta

Where: Ross's Landing

When: Today, 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

Cost: Free

Information: www.headofthehooch.org

Thirteen-year-old Marin Parisi's hands are covered in blisters — proof that she spends three hours a day, five days a week practicing with her Sarasota, Fla., rowing team.

But she shrugs the blisters away; she still loves rowing.

"Right when you are trying to pass a boat and you have to fight for that spot, it's really tough and it's really intense," she said. "But the minute you come through the finish line and you know you had a good row -- that's like the best feeling in the world."

Marin raced in Chattanooga on Saturday during the Head of the Hooch Rowing Regatta, which attracts nearly 15,000 rowers, spectators and support personnel from all over the world.

It takes a little more than 20 minutes for a novice girls rowing team like Marin's to reach the finish line in a 5K race -- they sit on sliding seats and use their legs as much as their arms to propel the boat through the river.

"Being on the water is a cool experience," teammate Sophia Schumacher, 14, said. "When we were at the very end and heard everyone yelling, 'Go, Scullers,' I felt like the boat moved a thousand times faster."

Hundreds of spectators lined the riverside Saturday to cheer on their favorite crews. Brian and Debbie Umbarger traveled to Chattanooga from Kansas City, Kan., to watch their daughter row for the University of Kansas. They try to get to most of her rowing competitions.

"This is one of the nicer ones," Brian Umbarger said. "At some of the regattas we go to, you are literally standing on a rock shoreline watching them go by, because that's all that's there."

Debbie Umbarger added that the downtown attractions help to fill time when they're not watching a race. Her daughter was scheduled to race twice this weekend. Each race lasts about 15 minutes, and spectators usually catch the boats right at the finish line.

"You come a long way and wait a long time to say, 'Here they come and there they go,'" she said. "But they put a lot of time and effort into that 'Here they come and there they go.' The attractions are really nice for people from out of town."

University of Arizona women's head coach Larry Davis said the Head of the Hooch is also an ideal location for rowers.

"It's just a great place to row," he said. "You can see what Chattanooga has done to upgrade the waterfront and make it a really good experience for the athletes. Not every venue is like that. To have one this close that has that kind of support for the athletes, you can't beat it."

Regatta director Daniel Wolff said Saturday's events went smoothly.

"The regatta is on time, and we have had no major crises to speak of," he said.

He added that single races kick off early this morning.

"In the single, you are rowing by yourself so you have nobody else to blame or congratulate if you win or lose," he said. "We'll have about 175 boats launching in about 45 minutes. It's a sight to be seen."

about Shelly Bradbury...

Shelly Bradbury covers police and crime in Chattanooga and Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She's been with the paper since 2012, working first as an intern and then as a business reporter. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint ...

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