Rowing boaters glide to Oaks Park, during 19th regatta

Discover why this aquatic sport draws participants of all ages – and if you’re good, you don’t even get wet …

Racing crews swiftly glide under the Sellwood Bridge as they near the finish line of the Lake Oswego to Oaks Park regatta.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
As these race boats sprint north, under the Sellwood Bridge, and shoot past the finish line at Oaks Park, there’s no motor’s roar or sail’s flapping to be heard.

In fact, the only sound emanating from the eight-person, 60-foot long, 250 pound craft is the voice of their coach urging on the rowing team with calls like, “Now’s when it counts”, “Just a little more”, “This is what you’ve trained for”, and “Give it all you’ve got”.

We’re witnessing the 19th Annual “Portland LO/OP Regatta of Champions”.

LO/OP stands for “Lake Oswego to Oaks Park” we learn from organizer and Pacific Northwest rowing legend, Frank Zagunis, executive director of Oregon Rowing Unlimited.

Event organizer Frank Zagunis monitors the race from the portable dock at the regatta’s finish line.

Half-hour, human-powered race
“The teams start at Oswego Point and row downstream 7 kilometers (4.5 miles) to the finish line,” explains Zagunis. “It takes under a half-hour for the teams to complete the race.”

Some of the finest rowing crews in the country attend this event, adds Zagunis. “Today, we have crews from Seattle, Olympia, Eugene, and Portland. This is the ‘home course’ for the Willamette Rowing Club.”

If rowing 4.5 miles in half an hour isn’t enough exercise, this Willamette Rowing Club crew also gets a workout just lifting their craft out of the water, and carrying it up the riverbank to their boathouse at Oaks Park.

The fastest crews at the November 3 regatta are the college kids from Washington’s and Oregon’s state universities. “In the national standings, Washington State was undefeated last year.”

The morning air is cool and crisp, and participants from the 40 crews entering the regatta agree that the calm, clear weather is perfect for the event.

This well-organized event, in its 19th year, draws both local rowers and nationally-ranked athletes.

Says rowing promotes fitness and friendships
“Rowing is a great sport for overall fitness,” claims Zagunis. “It’s a real workout. But, most people stick with it because of the camaraderie. Rowers enjoy staying fit by working out with their friends.”

As the last of the teams come in, Zagunis looks pleased. “This race is a great way of enjoying the Willamette River on a beautiful Saturday morning. For racers, it doesn’t get any better than this.”

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© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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