“Stakeboats are in across the country, rowers rejoice.” Row2k posted on twitter early this past weekend. This past weekend marked the unofficial start of the regatta season. I say it is the unofficial start because there is no rule or law prohibiting regattas before this date. It is simply the time when those who run the regattas feel bodies of water will no longer be frozen, and the weather will be fair enough to race. Rowers rejoice because for most athletes the beginning of regattas signals the end of winter training. It is the time for competition. It is the time put to the test the year long training athletes have gone through.
This past weekend may have been the start of the regatta season, but regattas should not be confused with dual races. Dual races, or commonly just called races, are races between simply between a few schools. The number of schools can range, but generally it is only 2 or 3 teams against each other at a time. These type of races have been occurring for the past few weeks. As teams headed south for spring break training they have been racing each other in these small races. These races follow a much simpler format then regattas. Regattas are a gathering of many teams. There are regattas with hundreds of teams in attendance. Regattas often last at least a weekend, but some are as long as week. Boats race many times. The boats go through an elimination process to see who is the winner. The basic format for most regattas is to have heats, semi-finals, and finals. So for example, the qualifications for a regatta might be the top two boats in heats progress to Semi-finals, and the top two boats from each semi-final progress to the grand final. It is a way of weeding out the slower boats. This is the only way to conduct a races with large number of entries. You can not feasibly align fifty boats across a body of water, and so for practical reasons most courses are restricted to six lanes.
Regattas are used more for clubs, and junior rowing. For these teams this is the main way in which they compete. For college teams, they usually begin their seasons with a few dual races, and then progress to regatta races. In college rowing all championships are regattas, and most races to qualify for championships are regattas.