Open Ocean Regatta hits Bay Area

Stephen Freitas,

At 7 a.m. in Sausalito on Sunday, the weather was sunny and winds, at just 3 miles per hour, were practically nonexistent. The rowing course was set through the San Francisco Bay and at 8:30 a.m., the air horn sounded promptly, commencing the Open Ocean Regatta for yet another year.

The race consists of boats called skull boats. These boats are only as wide as a rower’s hips with a movable seat in the middle. The racers conduct the race facing backwards. They use a bicycle mirror attached to their hats or by constantly turning around to see behind them. Rowers must be constantly aware of their surroundings during the race.

Rowers prepared for the race at 6:30 a.m. sharp. Muscles were warmed up on the provided rowing machines and boats were unhung from their racks. Following the necessary preparations, rowers registered themselves with the appropriate officials, and each individual rower or team picked up their boats and carried them down to the docks.

The rowers had a good warm up on their way to the starting line. The start of the race took place approximately one mile off shore. It was the responsibility of each rower to ensure an on-time arrival to their respective positions.

This year marked the 41st regatta since its start in 1976 by Sausalito local Gordy Nash. The regatta was originally called the “funky boat race” when Nash was living on a houseboat in the Sausalito area and was challenged to a race by a boater name Kit Africa. At the time, Nash was working for Pete Sudder at Sudder Sails, who thought the race would be a good idea. At one point, the race included boats such as Mrs. Piggy and the ‘Wet Dream’ which was a boat shaped as a mattress with women wearing lingerie on it as others rowed it across the bay.

“We’ve got my boat and we’ve got his boat and let’s not only have an event just for the two of us, let’s have it for all these funny little boats,” Nash said.

It has been hosted by the Open Water Rowing Center since 1985; however, Nash still plays a key role in running the event. He oversees the race starting boat and gives a few memorable speeches during the awards ceremony. About forty rowers participated in this year’s race, according to registration officials.

The race was broken down into two courses this year. The Diablo course and the Strawberry course. The Diablo course was for the best of the best with a distance of 14 kilometers. For the racers who rowed for recreation, the Strawberry course provided them with 9.8 kilometers of smooth ocean and beautiful views of the bay.

The Diablo course is a challenge and rowers were enthusiastic about facing them full force. Facing the current of the Golden Gate Bridge, rowers paddled their way vigorously towards the turn-around point at Pt. Diablo. Single rower Scott Cahill had the best recorded time with an astonishing one hour and six minutes for the 14 km race.

Participants of the Strawberry course were triumphant in their efforts as well. The rowing duo of Steve Schaffran and Brian Tucker finished with an overall time of forty six minutes. They were followed closely behind by the team of Jackie Snyder and Sue Hooten who finished only forty six seconds behind them.

After the race and the boats were put away, racers celebrated with got to celebrate with each other over a massive barbecue, Plates were full of delicious meats, potatoes, and crisp fresh salads and The rowing center also provided a great selection of beers and other assorted refreshments for the racers and volunteers to enjoy.

The event was concluded with an award ceremony. Racers who had exceptional times were presented with trophies but all racers were praised for their efforts and achievements. Even the people behind the scenes who took photos or video of the race were recognized.

Though the name of the race has changed as well as the format, the enthusiasm of rowing still lives on. The next Open Water Regatta will be held on April 2018 at a date to be determined by the tides.