Rowers, spectators gather for regatta on Hillsborough River
TAMPA - For Bob and Letty Schleifer, it was their first regatta. For Eric Lamontagne, it was old hat. Standing next to each other this morning along the railing at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, they rooted for boats competing in the first race of the Roosevelt Rowing Regatta, a two-day festival celebrating the history of competitive rowing in Tampa. "This is very exciting," said Letty Schleifer, whose daughter, Courtney, was in her first race as a member of the Stewards Foundation team, which consists of rowers from schools around the area that don't have sculling programs. Courtney Schleifer attends Cambridge Christian School in Tampa."We don't really know anything about racing," said Letty Schleifer, 47, explaining her 16-year-old daughter took up the sport after years of competitive swimming. "They really work hard," said Bob Schleifer, 52, chief operating officer of American Directions Group, a leading Democratic polling house. As the slender boats approached in the Hillsborough River, the Schleifers yelled words of encouragement. "Go Steward Foundation," they yelled. "Go!" Lamontagne, 25, had a different perspective. As a rowing coach at Plant High School, he was watching the race with a trained eye, observing as one of his teams beat the Stewards Foundation team by two seconds. "They did really well," he said of the competition. "I've worked with some of those girls before." Gabriel Schleifer, the couple's 8-year-old son, was less impressed. "I want to take up archery," he said. As a few dozen people watched the race, the smell of seafood wafted through the park. Nine local restaurants were selling their signature dish. There also was a bar and games for children. This year, more than a dozen teams will compete, including major college programs such as Georgetown University. "This is great," said organizer Ken Walters as he walked around the downtown park. Last year the event was held across the Hillsborough River at Plant Park. "It is really nice to have it here," said Walters. In future years, he said, he envisions using both sides of the river. The regatta continues Sunday.
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