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Friday, 25 April 2014 12:57

SRA To Host First Ever 10-Lane Course At Invitational

By | Sports

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The 17th annual Saratoga Invitational will feature the first ever 10-lane regatta course in the United States and the highest number of boats ever hosted at the event.

Saratoga Rowing Association Regatta Director Chris Chase anticipates 1,350 men’s and women’s boats to compete at the mouth of Fish Creek this weekend in the three-day event from Friday to Sunday.

“Normally there’s six lanes, so 10 lanes of racing coming down with twice as much action—it’s one of those things, in a six-boat race, the top two boats that are fast can leave everybody behind,” said Chase, who noted that the exciting change allows more boats on the water without using another day. “In a 10 boat race, you’re going to have multiple races going on in the same race. You might have the race of your life in seventh place because the eighth place boat has the same speed as you and you’re fighting.  I think that’s cool for the athletes to sink their teeth to you.”

In 2012, the Invitational went from a two-day event to three days. But Chase doesn’t see the event ever adding a fourth. Part of the reason is so kids don’t have to miss school. Friday’s races are already set up just for athletes who row singles or doubles, so teams don’t have to leave school.

“I’m pretty sure we’re about at capacity,” Chase said. “When I figured out how many we could conceivably take it was around 1,500.”

Three years ago, the Invitational had 900 boats on the water. Last year it was about 1,200. As the event continues to grow, there are numerous reasons why teams from the Northeast (Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Delaware, New Jersey) continue to make the trip to Saratoga Springs against “the other monsters of the Northeast.”

This year there is also a team from Cleveland that made the journey, in addition to the Canadian National team (E.L. Crossley, Ontario) that has won that title for 14 years straight. The Essex Rowing Club (Massachusetts) is bringing 234 athletes alone.

That’s not to forget the local teams that help make up the over 1,000 rowers in the 30-mile stretch from Albany to Saratoga who will be representing upstate New York. Shenendehowa, Stillwater, Burnt Hills, Shaker, Albany, Albany Academy, Ballston Spa, Niskayuna and Ballston Spa are amongst the schools that will be represented this weekend.

“The biggest benefit that this regatta gives to people is that it’s early in the season and it’s unlimited entries,” Chase said. “You can do anything you want. It’s not like a championship regatta when you’re going to run one boat, you’re hoping to win that event and that’s what you do. With this event you can enter anything you can come up with just because it’s early and you want to know what you’ve got. You risk nothing against the best competition on the east coast. It’s just extra racing.  I think this year, more than any other year in the past, the fact that we’re getting on the water so late, people are just cabin fever crazy and nobody really knows what they’ve got on their team right now. Rowing is a sport of rhythm and working together, and without being on the water, nobody really knows what they have. They’re going to be able to put it the test this weekend.”

With the extended winter and ice on the water, the SRA had only been able to practice six times this year heading into Thursday. Usually at this time that number is in the 30s.

In the midst of the high school competition of the Invitational, the Liberty League Championships will also take place on the water Sunday morning with the winner earning an automatic bid to the NCAA DIII tournament. The Invitational will then pick up again at 10:30 a.m.

The excitement of the kick-off to the spring regatta season starts at 2 p.m. Friday. The last scheduled race is set for 4 p.m. Sunday. After this weekend’s Invitational, Saratoga Lake will again host the Section II and New York State meets in the respective following weekends.

“If you want to measure the number of boats racing at the starting line, Saratoga is one of the single biggest regatta LOC’s, Local Organized Committees, in the country, bar none,” Chase said. “If you factor in that Saratoga is built for tourism—lot of hotel rooms, dead flat water out on fish creek and a culture that knows part of our identity is that we host regattas—all things considered, we are blessed to have the things that we have to put on regattas.”

To see a full schedule of the Saratoga Invitational, or to live stream the last 100 meters of the races this weekend, visit www.saratogarowing.com. There are also a limited number of free passes for fisherman to launch at the south shore available at the Bait Shop.

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