HEAD OF THE HOOCH

November 5, 2017


It’s a wonderful thing when your city offers entertainment and events for citizens and visitors.  Chattanooga, Tennessee is famous for doing just that—things to get people downtown to enjoy all that’s available within a very short walking distance.  One such event is “Head of the Hooch”.  This two-day race is occurring right now, with Sunday being the final day of the race.

HISTORY:

The Head of the Chattahoochee is a rowing regatta held in Chattanooga, TN every year on the first Saturday and Sunday of November.

It is definitely one of the world’s largest rowing regattas, with two thousand (2,000+) boats racing over a two-day period.  More than nine thousand (9,000) seats are rowed.  Twelve hundred (1,200) boats compete on Saturday alone, more in one day than any other regatta. Participants come from over two hundred (200) different organizations. In 2012 alone, the regatta welcomed crews from twenty-seven (27) different states. The Head of the Hooch has seen a growth in entries from other countries also with teams from Canada, Germany, Sweden and Australia.

The Head of the Hooch event has been recognized by national magazines as the regatta to attend: the weather is nice; the city is great and the racing has the largest number of entries per event of any major regatta. The regatta is organized and hosted by the Atlanta Rowing Club, Roswell, GA and Lookout Rowing Club, Chattanooga, TN.

The regatta is a head race – competitors row a five thousand (5,000)-meter (3.1 mile) course on the Tennessee River ending at Ross’s Landing Park in Chattanooga. As mentioned earlier, races are typically held the first week in November.    In this form of racing all boats start sequentially by event and race against the clock.  The race course map is given as follows:

The Head of the Hooch, also known as the Head of the Chattahoochee and ‘The Last of the Great Fall Regattas’, was run for the first time in 1982 by the Atlanta Rowing Club.  The first year there were two hundred twenty-five (225) rowers filling one hundred and five (105) boats.  For sixteen (16) years the regatta took place on the Chattahoochee River in the Roswell River Park located in Roswell GA. In 1997 the regatta had outgrown the park.  From 1997-2004 the regatta was held at the 1996 Olympic rowing venue in Gainesville GA.  The course there was located on the upper part of the Chattahoochee River.

In 2005, due to the large increases in entries each year, the regatta moved to the Chattanooga Ross’s Landing Riverfront venue. The venue and city have the capability to accommodate the continuous increase in rowers and spectators each year. Each year since 2005 The Hooch and the City of Chattanooga have welcomed over six thousand (6,0000) rowers and more than fifteen thousand (15,000) spectators.  I just came from the venue and there are thousands of people on the Veteran’s Bridge, the P. R. Olgiati Bridge and stationed along the Riverfront Parkway.

watching the rowers traverse the course in the Tennessee River.

The Hooch is a unique event.  It attracts athletes, family, alumni, local residents and those who travel to attend. It combines a rowing regatta, arts market and the close proximity of the Tennessee Aquarium, the Discovery Museum and Hunter Art Museum all within walking distance of the venue.  Many hotels and restaurants are right in the downtown close to the venue.  In all, a perfect match.

 

As the Hooch moves through its third decade, its director and committee members continue to improve, grow and enhance the regatta that started as a small event on a Saturday many years ago.

In 2015, the Chattanooga Sports & Events Committee estimated the economic impact of the Hooch over five (5) million dollars. That year the Head of the Hooch raced twelve hundred fifty-six (1256) boats (37 events) on Saturday and eight hundred and sixty-two (862) boats (43 events) on Sunday. Almost eighty percent (80%) of the competitors are High School/College crews.

PROCEDURED FOR THE EVENT:

For any event of this magnitude there must be processes and procedures to maintain some semblance of order.  After all, there are winners and others who place and show.  With a multitude of categories, there must be order.  Here is a list of procedures for the participants.


ROWING TO THE START

  • Assemble your crew at least 30 minutes before your race is called.
  • Place your oars near the launch dock scheduled for your race before your race. Please check the race schedule posted at the regatta site on race day to determine which dock your race will launch from. This is typically only an issue in the mornings when both launch and recovery docks will be used for launching.
  • Pay close attention to Control Commission call to launch. Please launch when your race is called to avoid congestion at the docks.
  • Move quickly onto the dock when Dockmaster gives instructions to do so.
  • Move quickly off the dock and immediately row away from the dock so that the Tennessee River current does not push your crew back onto the dock.
  • Row to the start area with purpose. Do not delay. If prompted by Regatta Officials to move along more quickly, please comply. There is no time to wait for crews that are late to the start.
  • Start Marshals will ask you to stay pointed upstream at various stations near the start. These stations are marked by large rectangular green buoys. They are numbered so that you know which station to row to.
  • Plan to be at Buoy #1 not less than 10 minutes or more than 15 minutes before your scheduled race. Crews that arrive too early and impede (block) other crews may be subject to a penalty.
  • As you approach Buoy #1, sort yourselves out in roughly numerical order by bow number. At Buoy #1, you should be within five bow numbers of the bow numbers around you.
  • The marshal will send you in a group of 10 to the next buoy. Row immediately with all rowers on the paddle when instructed and do not wait for exact bow number order.
  • Before you are asked to bring your crew across the river and row to the start, remove warm-up gear so you are ready to race.

GET READY TO START

  • You will be sent across the river in groups of 3 to 5. Do not wait for exact bow number order; begin to row immediately when instructed.
  • Once you have crossed the river, you will be instructed to row toward the start chute in numerical order. Follow the crew in front of you by about 1 length of open water.
  • A marshal will be located about 200 meters before the start to space the crews by about 15 to 20 seconds. Crews must speed up or slow down as instructed by this Marshal. Novice crews should be particularly aware of this.
  • Crews should build to full pressure and race pace as they approach the start line. Do not catch up with or pass another boat in the chute before the start or you will be subject to a penalty.
  • The start line is set so that the start boat is located right at the red steel channel marker. This allows the start chute to be wider and avoids the possibility of hitting the red channel marker.

From the JPEG above, you can see the venue for the “Hooch”.  You are looking at the Chattanooga Riverfront Parkway with the Tennessee River to the left.  Please notice the boats stationed to the right of the digital picture.  You can see the number is significant.

 

Plenty of room for the crews to position their boats waiting to practice and for their event.

One of the best things about attending this event is ample seating to watch the crews and the race itself.

This photo is from the 2016 event. Again, the first week in November.

Not only is this a team sport, but there are contests for individuals competing against each other or against the clock.

I certainly hope you can “carve out some time” next year to join us for this terrific event.  It’s always the first of November.  (By the way, the temperature in Chattanooga right now is 76 degrees with a relative humidity of twenty percent (20%).  Not bad at all.

 

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