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Sep. 23, 2018
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Thousands coming for John Hunter Regatta

By Jane Harrison
 
Two waves of youth and college rowers will hit Lake Lanier in a double-regatta weekend March 24-25. More than 1,500 athletes and 3,000 spectators are expected to flock here the first weekend of spring for the John Hunter Regatta at Lake Lanier Olympic Park.
 
Crews from more than 50 southeastern colleges, high schools, and middle schools will compete in the “Hunter,” an annual spring rite organized by Saint Andrew Rowing Club. College athletes race on Saturday. Middle and high school crews own the water on Sunday. Observers can preview the action Friday when rowers dip oars for practice on the 2,000 meter course.
 
The Hunter is returning to Lake Lanier for its 10th consecutive year. “It’s very close to our home and heart,” said Jeff Kish, regatta director. He cited LLOP’s Olympic history and reputation, plus its proximity to the club’s Roswell home as impetus to keep coming back. It’s a short drive for 500 or so volunteers, predominately parents of current and past Saint Andrews rowers, who basically run the regatta.
 
Lake Lanier Rowing Club officials have described it as a “turn key” event. Saint Andrew rents the venue and takes charge of everything from parking to staging races. LCKC members traditionally install the course, a laborious effort hooking a grid of underwater cables with buoys to mark the lanes.

Originally a one-day regatta, the Hunter added a day a couple of years ago. The extra day eases a hectic schedule for competitors and volunteers. Plus there’s another advantage: available accommodations. The college crowed checks in on Friday and are out on Saturday night, in time for school kids and their parents to move in. 
 
“Hotel rooms are a premium in the Gainesville area,” Kish said. “We book hotels up and down I-985 and rent houses on the lake through VRBO.” Teams also stay in cottages at Don Carter State Park. Kish said some crews book hotels a year in advance.
 
The regatta director praised the recent evolution of LLOP as more than just a competitive rowing and paddling venue. The site of 1996 Olympic flatwater events has expanded its culture to include Food Truck Fridays, weddings, festivals, and concerts. “It was underused for years and it’s good to see the community putting back into it and more activities besides rowing,” Kish said.
 
The Roswell club’s ties with LLOP go back to 2002, when it moved The Hunter to Lanier from its original home on the Chattahoochee River in Roswell. Saint Andrew and Georgia Tech started the regatta in 1986 as the Atlanta Rowing Festival and later renamed it after the founder of both clubs. It moved to Lake Lanier in 2002 after it outgrew the original site and traveled to Oak Ridge, Tenn. from 2005-2008 before returning to Lanier nine years ago.

Posted online 2/26/18
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