San Diego Crew Classic kicks off in Mission Bay; 4,400 club, collegiate rowers taking part

Event considered biggest regatta on West Coast

SAN DIEGO - Kevin O'Mara, a San Diego State Rower, is one of an estimated 4,400 club and collegiate rowers taking part in the 40th annual San Diego Crew Classic this weekend in Mission Bay.

The nine person boats are competing in what is considered the biggest regatta on the West Coast. 

From afar, rowers appear to be gliding. O'Mara said there is a lot intense work that goes into it.  

"The ballet aspect -- the part that makes it look so graceful -- is just a small part of it," O'Mara said. "By the time a person gets to the finish of a race, if a rower did their job, they should be pretty close to passing out."

The coxswain, which is similar to a team captain, is the only person who faces forward, while the eight rowers sit backwards. That is part of the reason teamwork plays such a huge part in a team's success.

Mary Whipple was on hand for the event. She is a three time Olympic medalist, most recently the 2012 gold medalist in rowing. 

"They’re synchronizing, and they’re trying to move that boat together," Whipple explained. "And, then you get this little pipsqueak like me who steers and tells everybody what to do, so it’s the ultimate team sport." 

O'Mara said it helps knowing the person behind him will always have his back. 

"The closer the crew the better the crew," O'Mara said.

"Rowing is a hard practiced sport, but racing is fun," Whipple said. "This is the crew classic in San Diego. Everyone wants to come down and race and see who is fast."

More than 25,000 spectators are expected at the event. 

Gates open at 6 a.m. with races kicking off at 7:20 a.m. There is free parking at Ski Beach with shuttle service. 

Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 at the door and kids 12 and under and active military with ID can go for free. 

You can get additional information at crewclassic.org.

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