West Coast's biggest regatta storms Mission Bay: Thousands of rowers race in San Diego Crew Classic

SAN DIEGO - The sounds of horns and cheers of the West Coast’s biggest regatta rang out across Mission Bay on Saturday.

More than 25,000 people were expected to turn out for the 41st annual San Diego Crew Classic.

Mark Spektor has been rowing for 27 years and said he loves it. He is a UPS driver and Navy Reservist when he’s not rowing with a mix of doctors, military veterans and officers.

“When we’re in the boat, it’s all about what you can do in the boat,” Spektor said. “There’s no outside ‘I do this’ or ‘I do that.’”

They used every bit of strength to pull through the waters of Mission Bay.

“It’s controlled fury out there,” Spektor added.

Olympic gold medalist Mary Whipple was one of about 4,400 rowers from ages 14 to 84.

“It is a painful sport,” Whipple explained. “It is full-on cardio. It is full-on physical. All the tiny muscles are being used.”

Stanford rower Kaess Smit could not have agreed more after landing a first-place victory in an early heat.

“A lot of races you don’t really remember because you’re basically just blacking out after the first few strokes,” Smit said. “You’re just really in there … just totally in the zone.”

He added, “After you’re really, really competing hard, you’re done. For the rest of the day you’re just completely toasted.”

Spektor says he and his teammates practice rowing and think about it and talk about it at length.

“Our girlfriends and wives or boyfriends or whatever are just sitting there going, ‘More rowing talk … how long can you guys talk about this sport?’ and I literally sit here and talk to you guys about this sport for hours,” he said.

The Crew Classic was the first time they were sizing up the competition. Rowers were from clubs and colleges across the United States. One team even came in from Hong Kong.

“If you’re together, it’s a good feeling,” Spektor said. “If you’re not, it’s just a struggle the whole way down.”

Racing starts at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. It ends about 6 p.m. on Saturday and about 3:30 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets cost $15, but kids under 12 and active-duty military members with an ID get in free.

Click here for additional information about tickets and parking.

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