PHOTOS AND STORY BY LUKE REYNOLDS
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When dense fog coated downtown Chattanooga and the Tennessee River this morning, it wasn’t a surprise to most.
Not even to the rowers who have traveled from far and wide to attend the annual Head of the Hooch Regatta.
“That’s part of the character of this race,” Samantha Christen said.
Christen is a volunteer PA announcer and, if you’ve been to the Head of the Hooch in the past decade, her voice is the one that calls crews to the launch area, alerts them of schedule changes, and reminds crews that they cannot launch without oars—or riggers.
“I love it. I rowed in this event when it was on the Hooch [Chattahoochee River] and then when I moved back to Chattanooga I had the opportunity to get involved as a volunteer and it has been amazing. I’ve been volunteering since I moved back in ‘08. I’ve been venue announcing for 10 or 12 years now.”
Despite the gray start, the fog finally capitulated mid-morning allowing crews to finally launch and begin the row upstream to the starting line. As the day progressed, fog gave way to sunshine, light winds, and very little flow. As Christen’s often humorous approach to enforcing regatta rules rang out over the loudspeaker system, the racing was off and crews were finally battling the clock.
Racing took place across 45 events including the men’s and women’s youth U19 and U17 eights, men’s and women’s collegiate eights, men’s and women’s master’s eights.
In the men’s and women’s U19 eight, the crew from the windy city had no problem handling the lack thereof. Chicago Rowing Foundation won both events. In the men’s eight, coxswain Ellen Ariathurai led Liam Dooley, Andrew Wilkinson, Adam Ziegelmueller, Christopher Rowney, Liam White, Ago Ghiso, Zachary Wexler, and Xander Mesires to victory. In the women’s eight, coxswain Logan Roeder led Nora Goodwillie, Ashley Whipple, Lily Pember, Bella Korellis, Cillian Mullen, Grace Taylor, Abbie Diemer, and Maeve Heneghan to their win.
In the men’s collegiate eights, it was Vanderbilt who bested the Stars of Oklahoma City by eleven seconds for the top spot. There was a bit more excitement in the women’s competition where the top spot went to both Clemson and Florida after a disruption in racing caused the two crews to split first place with a tie.
Vanderbilt’s Gemma Miller, Adam Levin, Habeeb Kazimuddin, Daniel Ingber, Ryan MacDonald, Ryan Sullivan, Jason Garrett, John Misey, and Brandon Lai made up the winning crew on the men’s side.
The women of Three Rivers Rowing Association pulled out the W in the women’s master’s eight with an adjusted time of 14:32.975. Atlanta had the fastest raw time with 15:25.781 but finished in fifth with an adjusted time of 15:08.121.
In the men’s master’s eight, Catawba finished first and had the fastest raw and adjusted times in the event.
This year’s event had some changes including an adjustment at the start line which made the course 4,500 meters, as well as an adjustment to number of penalties a crew could be hit with.
“This year, we tried to consolidate some of the penalties and group them together so that it would be easier for us to log them if they occurred,” Head of the Hooch Chief Referee Doug Jones said. “Previously we had a list of 13-16 errors and we will probably streamline them again next year.”