Monday, March 13, 2023

A Front Seat View of a Regatta Stake Boat Holder

A Stake Boat Holder at the Sarasota Invitational Regatta

What is a Regatta?

A regatta is a series of boat races. In our case, it is rowing sculls and sweeps.

What is a Stake Boat Holder?

A Stake Boat Holder holds the stern of a boat at the beginning of a race so an alignment judge can make sure the bow balls of the racing boats (sculls and sweeps in our case) are all lined up equally to start. 

 The winner of a race is the first boat with their bow crossing the finishing line.

The start is one of the most exciting parts of the race, and the Stake Boat Holder has a front-row seat! The job is simple and usually easy. But it’s also very important! Each Stake Boat Holder is responsible for holding the crews in their proper place on the start line. They will need to do it carefully, safely, and without disturbing the crews.

What a Boat Holder Does (Taken from
The starting area has 7-8 stake boats, one in each lane. You will be assigned to one lane.

· You work with the Aligner Referee. His or her job is twofold: to bring the boats with your help into line, and to judge if anyone left early or jumped the start. The bow balls of all the boats must be in a straight line in order for the alignment to be correct. But, because boats often differ in length, some will have to be pushed out, others pulled in so that all their bow balls are on the line. Some boats may be so long that you’ll have to bring the stern alongside your position. Other times you will really have to stretch to compensate for shorter boats.

· Two Minutes Before the Start: A few minutes before race time the crew assigned to your lane will back up to your position. Sometimes it is necessary to tell a crew which lane you are in if they look lost. But please observe silence from this time on. Grab the stern of the boat. Lie down and hold the boat firmly while you wait for the Aligner to instruct you whether to push the boat out or to pull it in. The aligner will continue to give you and the other boat
holders directions until he is satisfied with the alignment. Finally, after the Aligner raises a white flag indicating correct alignment, he may continue to micro-tune the boats even after his white flag is up. Just listen carefully for your lane number and respond quickly to his

· The Actual Start: The starter may poll the crews by name, then he says “Attention,” raises his red flag, and then says “Go!” The boat will explode out of your hands on the command “Go!” Be very careful of your fingers here; sometimes the boat will lurch backwards before
taking off. Keep your fingers out of the way.

Sculls Aligned - Stake Holders on Tummy - Attention - Go!
(Picture with Permission of Timothy J. Priest)

Last year, I joined the Sarasota County Rowing Club (SCRC) in Sarasota, Florida as a seasonal member. On February 26, 2023, I completed my first regatta, the Sarasota Invitational Regatta in Sarasota, Florida.

The SCRC is the host club for the annual nationally recognized Sarasota Invitational Regatta (SIR) held annually at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, Florida, in February. As a member of SCRC, we are required to volunteer for at least one of the many jobs necessary to host the three-day SIR .

As I looked at the list of volunteer opportunities, the Stake Boat Holder caught my eye as it would be an opportunity for me to experience a competitive row start. I would be on the water and experiencing what my quad team would be doing my first Regatta.

Indeed I had a front-row seat.

I went to and searched “Stake Boat Holder.” Watching a few videos convinced me I could contribute to SIR as a Stake Boat Holder. 

My video in this blog will give you a close and upfront viewpoint of a Stake Boat Holder. In this video, you will hear Mike, the Alignment Referee, address the duties of a Stake Boat Holder. Shortly after Mike’s instructions, all holders get on a boat and are driven to their assigned lane raft – which was number 3 for my lane.

Stake B
oat holders are stationed on a platform on the race course and responsible for holding the stern of the boats to start. You need to lie or knee down on the platform to hold your assigned boat. Sometimes you are on your knees, most times on your tummy. 

A towel for a pad was recommended when kneeling or on your stomach and I will suggest this be a thick towel or a yogi-type pad. You need to protect your knees and elbows from the floor of the platform – in this case an aluminum raft.

You are given walkie-talkies for one-way communication with the boat alignment referee. Our Alignment Referee
 Michael, was excellent with pre-race instruction and very clear with commands during the race. Another referee, the Starter Referee, communicates with the rowers to position their boats and sometimes with you if rowers need help. The Starter Referee was excellent with the rowers and boat holders. Sometimes, the rowers were very inexperienced with this part of the start, and the Starter was very patient and clear in aiding their alignment.

You need to know that the more inexperienced rowers may have an issue with their oars hitting and on the Stake Holder platform, so the Stake Boat Holder has to be aware of their surroundings at all times.

Being a Stake Boat Holder was a great experience for me, and I highly recommend it for rowers and race observers. Just be aware that you will frequently be getting up and down on the raft to your tummy and knees. You also need to reach out and grab the stern of the boat. A level of physical fitness is necessary.

Click and Enjoy Stakeboat  

"Everyone must do something. I believe I will go outdoors with family and friends" S. Priest

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Thursday, March 2, 2023

I never have to say, "I wish I had rowed in a Regatta!"


I started rowing a few years ago at the Lake Sunapee Rowing Club. As a newbie, I progressed from starting with the 45-foot quad (four-person rowing scull), then once the group was comfortable and learned about the oars, and critical techniques, we progressed to the 65-foot 8+cox sweep with one oar each, eight rowers, and a coxswain guiding the group. Later, we did the double and one-person sculls.

Admittedly, the one-person scull was the most challenging rowing boat for me to learn. Fortunately, after I wrote my article, "Rowing Through the Eyes of a Beginner," a friend read the piece and called me, offering me the single rowing scull he had not used for years. I willingly accepted and now regularly row this single.

Last year, I joined the Sarasota County Rowing Club (SCRC) in Osprey, Florida as a seasonal member and began more coached rowing. 

I had never participated in competitive rowing. The Sarasota Invitational Regatta (SIR) offered me this opportunity. On February 26, 2023, I completed my first regatta, the SIR, in Sarasota, Florida. 

I competed in two quad races at SIR, one of which is described in my video below.

Nathan Benderson Park Course Map

Enjoy my seven-minute video as my Quad Team shares their silver medal experience in the SARASOTA INVITATIONAL REGATTA (SIR). 

I experienced the excitement of sprint racing at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, FL! The Sarasota Invitational Regatta (SIR) features three days of youth and masters rowing at Nathan Benderson Park (NBP). My chance to row was a thrill being NBP was the site of the 2021 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, the 2018 World Rowing Masters, and the 2017 World Rowing Championships.

Nathan Benderson Park, Benderson Lake, is one of the best rowing scenes in the countryRowing Olympians have competed and trained here, and now the SCRC offered me the experience of this unique venue.

My attendance at the SCRC and SIR was coached rowing by former Olympic rower Dragos, assisted by coaches Ray and Joe. 

Support Team

Of particular meaning to my participation in SIR was my family’s attendance. My wife Catherine understood my 5 am morning wakings four to five training a week for the last two months so I could make the 6:45 am coached rowing times on the Intercoastal Waterway (ICW). Our adult sons, Shaun from Georgia and Timothy from Boston, were present during the days of my participation and volunteering at SIR. They followed my wanderings throughout the day, which included taking photos and videos to document the tasks needed to be part of the SCRC team. 

Other sacrifices 
by my family were getting to the NBP two hours before my Sunday 11:08 am race start time and staying through the day with 80-degree temperatures.  Indeed, rowing often requires a family commitment.

I was also a volunteer Stake Boat Holder on Saturday.  Want to know what a Stake Boat Holder is?  A Front Row Seat of a Regatta Stake Boat Holder.
"Everyone must do something. I believe I will go outdoors with family and friends" S. Priest

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Sarasota County Rowing Club (SCRC)

Sarasota Invitational Regatta Attracts People Worldwide

Nathan Benderson Park

Front Row Seat of a Regatta Stake Boat Holder

Monday, January 16, 2023

Kayaking a Nature Preserve: Braden River, Bradenton, Florida - Jiggs Landing to Linger Lodge.

On a nice warm February day, my fellow paddler Mike and I decided to kayak at Jiggs Landing, a nature preserve in Manatee County, Bradenton, Florida. This would be Mike’s first paddle at Jiggs Landing, my second.

We wanted to paddle the Braden River from Jiggs Landing to Linger Lodge Restaurant, about 3 ½ miles upstream, but given that our time was limited, the many turns of the River, and we had not brought a map with us in case we got lost, we decided to limit our trip to one hour upstream and then turn around.

Briefly, our trip was loaded with many types of birds, including egrets and pelicans. We saw many large turtles. There were warning signs to be on the watch for alligators, but we saw none on this particular paddle. Of special interest is the kayak/canoe slide at Jiggs Landing. I had never experienced this type of put-in or take-out, usually, I did a shoreline entry or dock entry. The below video shows both the wildlife and kayak slide entry.

For those paddlers interested in going from Jiggs Landing to the Linger Lodge Restaurant and RV Park, I recommend first scouting this eight-mile roundtrip Braden River trip first, as there are lots of turns where one can get side-tracked, meaning possibly lost. I have attached a Google Earth map where I indicated this paddle to see the many choices that might get confusing.

Yellow Lines from Jiggs Landing to Linger Lodge Via Braden River

To scout this section of the Braden River with a limited time frame (paddle only one-way), I suggest leaving one car at Linger Lodge and a second car going to Jiggs Landing to put in. Of course, the option is always present to do the eight-mile trip.

Remember, for any paddling trip, always leave your put-in and take-out locations with family or friends. I always bring a compass and/or iphone app to trace my paddle as both a reference and a source to confirm where I am on any water paddle.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Colony Cove Boat Club Kayaks from Oscar Scherer State Park to Intercoastal Waterway (ICW)

In addition to all-size motor boating enthusiasts, the Colony Cove Boat Club entertains kayaking adventurers. On this day, our kayaker organizer member, Connie, set up a trip to the Oscar Scherer State Park in Osprey, Florida.

Seven of us met at 10:30 am on a beautiful Saturday morning and left from a sandy beach on the South Creek near the ranger station. We went right and shortly paddled under the South Tamiami Trail Route 41 bridge and found our way to connecting waterways, eventually leading to the Intercoastal Waterway (ICW). Warning signs are prominent in slowing boaters for awareness of manatees.

Birds are prominent throughout our two-hour five-mile paddle. In particular, we saw droves of pelicans.

The ICW goes under the Blackburn Point Road Bridge. A swing span bridge rotates in a horizontal plane around a vertical axis into a position parallel with the marine channel and shore, allowing boats and ships to pass along a waterway that would otherwise be obstructed by the bridge. It is always interesting to stop and watch as the large boats wait and then pass by the open bridge.

I have a personal interest in this particular ICW area in that I belong to the Sarasota County Rowing Club, and we do our rowing in areas on both sides of the turnstile bridge. Thus, we frequently pass under it. Seeing this bridge from a kayak gives a different perspective than a rowing scull. 

In this same bay, but not today, I experienced two playful dolphins swimming around our rowing scull.

Click the below video to paddle with the Colony Cove Boat Club

Colony Cove Boat Club Kayakers

Blackburn Point Road Intercoastal Waterway Turnstile Bridge

"Everyone must do something. I believe I will go outdoors with family and friends" S. Priest

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