There is little to no home-field advantage in rowing. Water conditions always differ, fans are far removed from the competitors and coaches don’t have easy access to their teams.
But Texas heads into this Saturday’s Heart of Texas Regatta looking to defend its hometown and home territory.
Texas swept the top five spots in its first event of the spring at The Fighting Nutria here in Austin earlier this month.
“There’s no advantage. [Lady Bird Lake] is known for being a very fair course,” said Texas head coach Carie Graves. “Two people stop the dams so there’s no flowage. There’s still water, so there’s no advantage.”
The Heart of Texas boasts similar competition, but this race is much different and can help the Longhorns prepare for the remainder of the spring. Compared to the 8,100-meter head-style race at the Nutria, the Heart of Texas Regatta is a 1,000-meter sprint to the finish.
While most events in the fall follow the head format, spring races are traditionally sprints, including the NCAA championships in May.
The Austin Rowing Club hosts the Heart of Texas at Lady Bird Lake for the 29th consecutive year, an event that has grown to a regatta of more than 700 boats and 1,100 rowers. Most of the competition includes local clubs and crews, including the club team Texas Crew and other smaller universities in the Southwest.
The Heart of Texas offers racing for a variety of boats: fours, eights, pairs and singles. This is a good chance for the Longhorns to evaluate how rowers compete in varied events and groupings as it takes time to find the right lineup of rowers that work best together.
As the season stretches into full-swing sprint races, the level of competition will intensify as well. Texas takes on Old Dominion for its first NCAA Division I competition of 2011 in Austin on March 12. Just like in a race, the season must be paced and peak at the right time.
“You want to make sure that they stay fresh and eager,” Graves said. “What every team needs to improve on is to maintain their focus.”
In last year’s Heart of Texas Regatta, Texas posted four victories between its varsity and novice boats. The top varsity eight-woman boat cruised to a winning time of 3 minutes, 15.61 seconds, and Texas was able to take a lot away from the event.
Texas at Heart of Texas Regatta
Place: Lady Bird Lake (Austin, Texas)