Sports Law • Risk Management

My First Regatta

This past fall I participated in my first regatta. I was nervous and excited to see how my crew training would translate to my first competition. The venue in northern Virginia was stacked with many teams who were as equally eager to compete. However, as the day progressed I began to wonder if the event director tried to accommodate too many participants and boats for the venue.

When I first arrived, many people were actively parking. There were many vans and trucks hauling trailers loaded down with expensive boats. Although there was one staff person directing people to back their vehicles and trailers into parking spaces on one side of the parking lot, there was no other assistance in parking on the other side of the lot or in controlling pedestrian crossing. The inner parking lot was where the trailers with boats were parking. Vehicles that were not transporting the boats parked in a lot on the outer perimeter. Those who parked in the outer lot had to walk through the inner parking lot to get to their boats and to get to the water. Thus, the inner parking lot was full of congestion and confusion.

The single path that led down to the river, however, was not much better. Approximately a twelve foot-wide concrete footpath was insufficient to handle the hundreds of athletes, coaches, event staff and spectators along with the dozens of boats that were actively shuttling between the docks and the trailers. The footpath led from the parking lot, down a steep slope, about a quarter of a mile to the docks. Boats and their crews queued up because the boats could not launch off of the two docks quick enough. Thus, there were long lines of crew teams struggling to hold onto their heavy boats that are hoisted on their shoulders.

Once launched from the docks, athletes were expected to row about two thousand meters to the start of the race. Luckily it was a semi nice day, although the race start was backed up by about thirty minutes. Dozens of boats were sitting on the water waiting their turn to start. As we sat, our muscles cooled off from our warm-up. Most of us did not bring warm clothes, water or food in an effort to keep our boat lighter and to avoid the chance of losing something in the water.

One thing that was done well by the event organizers is that each crew was individually started. Thus, only one boat was started at a time, reducing the likelihood of boats crossing or passing one another. However, the race organizers should have done more to spread out the start times of each race to avoid too many boats waiting to use the docks and sitting on the water. To reduce congestion, they should reduce the number of participants or boat races they have in a given day. It would also help to have more event staff stationed at strategic locations to direct traffic and minimize the chaos. Essentially, there are many risk management strategies that could be deployed to make the race safer and more enjoyable for all.