U.S. Rowing Club National Regatta paddles back to Clermont County

Jul. 12 2017

Scott Springer, sspringer@enquirer.com

Published 11:37 p.m. ET July 12, 2017 | Updated 1:59 p.m. ET July 14, 2017

CLERMONT COUNTY – Locals have known the body of water between Ohio 222 in Williamsburg and Ohio 125 in Bethel for years, but some beyond Clermont County may not realize its popularity.

Once again, Harsha Lake at East Fork State Park is the host of the U.S. Rowing Club National Regatta. With 2,107 acres of water and 42 miles of shoreline, the lake is a hidden gem and much larger than one might expect. Given recent improvements to the beach site, the biggest fishing hole in the county can accommodate more than 2,100 athletes and 1,750 boats from 115 different rowing clubs in 79 events. Men’s and women’s teams compete in U17, U19, intermediate and elite/senior categories. Some former Olympians are also on the menu to dip their paddles into the water.

“It’s a beautiful venue with a beautiful beach our spectators can be on,” Dan Brauchli of U.S. Rowing Communications said. “The Clermont County Convention and Visitors Bureau has been huge in establishing a relationship with U.S. Rowing in encouraging events to be held here.”
The event has been successfully bid on by the Clermont County Convention and Visitors Bureau for three straight years. Charter buses can be seen going up and down Ohio 125 and Ohio 32 as Clermont County hotel rooms become scarce during the week.

The beach parking lot features license plates from most of the United States and team tents scatter the lawn surrounding the man-made sand first put down in 1978.  A quick look around and you’ll see team banners from Dallas, Saugatuck, Detroit, Sarasota, Tampa, Quad Cities, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Oklahoma City, the University of Texas, Boston and Narragansett, Rhode Island to name a few.  Locally, teams and individuals have competed from the Cincy Junior Rowing Club, Cincinnati Country Day, Queen City Rowing and the University of Cincinnati.

“Bringing in athletes from across the country brings awareness to this area,” Brauchli said. “We’re taking advantage of some beautiful scenery.”

Director of Sports Joel Barnhill helps organize the efforts complete with military checkpoints while Sarah Gleason of the Clermont County Convention and Visitors Bureau coordinates more than 400 volunteers.
While rowing looks peaceful, there’s actually a fair amount of work in getting boats transported to the sites, unloading them into the water, qualifying and even making weight. It’s not unusual during an event to see team members jogging around East Fork State Park in an effort to drop weight to make legal limits.

Also, the slightness of the vessels requires an athletic build. Some rowers have been in the water for a long time, while others pick it up as a college opportunity.

“This year, we’ve had record numbers at our club national championships,” Brauchli said. “One of the things special about rowing is it’s a unique sport and most do not find it until they are in high school or college. A lot of high schools or colleges have start-up programs.”

The event runs through July 16. The park is at 3294 Elklick Road, not far off Ohio 125 in Bethel (45106). Several signs are available along the way for direction.