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It's the return of the rowers
John Hunter Regatta is back with more than 900 rowers on Lanier
Courtney Simpson joins other members of the North Carolina State University crew unloading boats as they arrive at the Olympic rowing course at Clarks Bridge Park to compete in today’s 21st annual John Hunter Regatta.
John Hunter Regatta
What: Rowing event pitting high school and college crews from around the Southeast
Participants: 33 teams including 971 rowers
Where: Lake Lanier course at Clarks Bridge Park
When: Events begin at 8 a.m. today with a lunch break, then resume at 1:08 p.m. and run until 6:12 p.m.
Admission: Free for spectators

Rowing is back on Lake Lanier today when the John Hunter Regatta returns for the first time in four years.

After the event was held in Oak Ridge, Tenn., the last few years, Regatta Director Nils Thompson said he is excited about returning to the Clarks Bridge Park venue that served as site of the 1996 Olympics.

“It’s a venue that’s more convenient to us,” Thompson said. “I think more importantly, it’s a fabulous venue. The course is one of the best in the United States.”

Crews from high schools and colleges around the Southeast will take part in the regatta. The Atlanta-based Georgia Tech Crew and Saint Andrew Rowing Club will serve as hosts.

Thompson said there are 33 teams, 221 entries and 971 rowers scheduled to participate.

Another bonus of holding the regatta at Lake Lanier is that rowers will be able to have more friends and relatives come out to support them and bring in tourism dollars to Hall County.

“Maybe 1,000 parents would be here,” Thompson said. “Because we’re a local regatta, a lot of the schools are nearby.”

Originally called the Atlanta Rowing Festival, the John Hunter Regatta began in 1986 as a collegiate rowing competition for a handful of southern universities.

In the 1990s, the event grew to more than 750 athletes, 20 college teams and 12 high school-age youth teams.

In 1999, the regatta changed its name to honor John Hunter, a rowing fan and benefactor to the Georgia Tech and Saint Andrew Rowing Clubs.

In 2002, the regatta was moved to the Lake Lanier Olympic course. The Lake Lanier Rowing Club joined with Saint Andrew and Georgia Tech to serve as hosts of the fast-growing event.

The increased capacity of the Olympic venue drew more than 2,500 spectators and 1,200 rowers, representing more than 35 colleges and youth teams from throughout the Southeast.