Rowers from up and down the east coast are getting their boats ready and their team assembled for one of the largest regattas of the year, and it’s right here in Middletown. The Howard M. Smith Diamond State Masters Regatta will return to Noxontown Pond Sunday, July 25, starting at 8:20 a.m.


    Rowers from up and down the east coast are getting their boats ready and their team assembled for one of the largest regattas of the year, and it’s right here in Middletown. The Howard M. Smith Diamond State Masters Regatta will return to Noxontown Pond Sunday, July 25, starting at 8:20 a.m.
    Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the Howard M. Smith Diamond State Masters Regatta promises one of its best years yet.
    More than 1,000 rowers and 60 rowing clubs have signed up to compete in the Wilmington Rowing Center’s annual event, and spectators will travel from Maine to Florida to check out the action.
    John Schoonover, director and co-founder of the event, said the 1,000-meter race is for master rowers, ages 27 and older, and it takes place on  Noxontown Pond, which is located adjacent to St. Andrews School.
    “It’s one of the most popular masters regattas in America,” he said. “We’ve generated a lot of enthusiasm and friends through this regatta, and we think it’s one of the most beautiful venues for rowing racing anywhere in the country.”
    Schoonover, a St. Andrews alumnus, said the event originally took place in 1991, when he and good friend Howard Smith first organized the event. When Smith passed away in 1999, his name was added to the regatta’s title as a way to pay tribute to the beloved rower.
    Schoonover said 96 races will take place throughout the day, with rowers competing in singles, doubles, quads, fours and eights. Participants in the singles, doubles and quads events are called scullers because each rower has two oars. Rowers in the fours and eights are called sweepers and each member has one oar.
    Crews will vie for a chance at the “Dead Poets Society” award, which is given to the team that wins the most races overall. The award is named after the 1989 film, in which portions were filmed at St. Andrews School.
    “Because masters compete over so many years, it’s like a giant reunion,” Schoonover said. “Friendships develop through the love of the sport.”
    Viewers can watch the event for free at the Rodney Point Picnic Grounds on Noxontown Road, where large TV screens will display the races.   
    Schoonover said what’s great about the Middletown venue is that spectators are able to see a large amount of the races thanks to the layout of the course.
    “People rarely see the start of a race because they’re usually so far away from the starting line,” he said. “It’s pretty much like a horse race, so it’s great that people get to watch that.”
    While watching the races, visitors will also have a chance to check out T-shirts and jewelry on sale by local vendor, and North Star Grill & Lounge will sell food.
    Schoonover said people don’t have to be rowers to enjoy this regatta. The races are a family-friendly event for adults and children of all ages. 
    “The community should come see the excitement of rowing in a very competitive atmosphere,” he said. “At the same time, it’s a very peaceful setting.”