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