Rowing on the Occoquan River at the Al Urquia Regatta, Sandy Run, VA

I woke up Sunday morning to the sounds of mourners wailing. It went on all morning. It was loud. There were breaks with Middle Eastern “music”? “prayers being sung”? Something musical. And then the wails and screams continued. It was a big contrast to how I spent my Saturday.

I spent my Saturday at the Al Urquia Regatta in Sandy Run Regional Park on the Occoquan River in Virginia.

Rowing is an old sport. The first known regatta was in Venice, Italy in 1274. Rowing competitions became popular in the 1800’s in clubs and schools in England but really started to catch on in the 1900’s in England, the US and Europe. Schools and private clubs had rowing teams. Rowing became an Olympic sport in 1900. It was generally a male dominated sport although there are women known to have competed. Women were not allowed to compete in rowing in the Olympics until 1976.


Today the boats carry 1, 2, 4, or 8 rowers. There are two types of rowing. In sweep, each rower has one oar held with both hands. These boats are pairs, fours and eights. In sculling each rower has two oars, one in each hand. There is usually no coxswain and they row in quads, doubles or singles.

Rowing is not an easy sport. It uses all the major muscle groups and improves cardiovascular endurance. Inside the boat you push with your legs and at the same time pull the weight of the oars through the water. Blisters are common. Because of the bending position you are in, breathing is very important and specific techniques need to be followed. And you have to do this all in sync with your teammates. It is a beautiful thing to see the oars lifting and dipping all together as the boat glides through the water.


The racecourse at Sandy Run Rowing Facility has a 1500 meter course for high school competitions and a 2000 meter course for college and adult races with six lanes. It is a premier rowing facility and houses boats from eight high schools, along with George Mason University and several private clubs.  Eight regattas are hosted from March through May.

On Saturday there were 44 races. The first one started at 9 am and the last one was at 4 pm. About 1200 rowers participated. Luckily it was a beautiful day. Warm but not too hot with a cool breeze.

My son has been rowing for four years. He did very well his first year. The next couple of years were rough for the whole team. This year, interest was high and there are about 50 members of the team, both boys and girls. On Saturday my son competed in the men’s varsity “quad”. His boat came in second covering 1500 meters in 6 minutes 32 seconds. Best race in three years!