Thousands of rowers of all ages spent Friday getting ready for this weekend's Head of the Hooch Regatta. They've come to The Scenic City from across the country and the world to show off their skills, hoping to take home prestigious awards.
"One of the major events that has this quality of competition and amount of rowers that we can get to with the whole team. It's an overnight bus ride and one day trip," says Jeff Higel, assistant coach of the Sarasota Scullers, one of many young teams with high hopes.
They've practiced in harsh weather and aren't afraid of rain in the forecast.
"First thing you find out about this sport--it's not for wimps," says Higel with a chuckle.
Eva Prestamo and Embre Heinzel, both fifteen-year-olds on the team, are excited about racing here for the first time. They've heard a lot about it from crew mates who have been here.
"Everyone has always been to this race and they always say how it's the highlight of the year," says Prestamo.
"No matter what happens, it's still going to be fun and still going to be an experience," adds Heinzel.
For Barbara Jager's twin thriteen-year-old daughters--beginners from Tallahassee--it's about friendly competition and learning teamwork.
"They love crew," says Jager. "They like the team effort and working with the rest of the team to make it smooth. I think it's fun for them."
Clint Allen and his wife drove from Tulsa, Oklahoma to watch their son, Garrett, row. They remember mother nature's harsh welcome last year.
"Rain came in. Snow coming through the mountains. Races canceled on Saturday," recalls Allen, mostly due to strong winds.
It got cold, too, but Allen says it didn't stop the crowd from showing up on day two.
"This walkway was a solid wall of people," adds Allen. "You couldn't see the water through the people."
Head of the Hooch director Daniel Wolff says just as many teams have entered this year as in 2014 and he expects large crowds of spectators. Saturday's races begin just before 8 a.m. For more details click here.