Rules & Procedures

Updated July 7th, 2017. Changes for 2017 are shown in red.

All coaches and coxswains are requested to be present at the Coaches & Coxswains meeting on Friday, November 3rd at the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX Theater @ 7:30 pm, with doors opening at 7:00 pm. If you are not able to attend this meeting, you are still responsible for the information. For more details see the Coaches & Coxswains page.

Note: All USRowing rules, found in the 2017 Rules of Rowing, apply unless otherwise noted below.

  • 1- REGISTRATION: The complete registration process and dates can be found on the registration page.
    • 1.1-All boats must register in the designated registration window. No late entries will be allowed.
    • 1.2-Guaranteed Entry Codes (GECs) will be provided to all boats within 10% of winning adjusted time in each event of the prior year’s Head of the Hooch. If there are no results from the prior year, the next available year’s results will be used.
      • 1.2.1-GECs are sent to the email address on file for the previous year’s registrant. Contact the Registrar prior to registration opening if you do not receive your GEC. The Hooch is not responsible if you do not receive your code.
      • 1.2.2-GECs must be used while registering on RegattaCentral. If your entry does not have one, it will be placed in the lottery draw and will not be seeded should it be accepted.
      • 1.2.3-GECs can only be used in the event they were earned and by the same crew as the preceding year for all 8+, 4+/-/x, 2+/-/x events.
      • 1.2.4-GECs awarded for singles (1x) events are awarded to the rower and can only be used by that rower regardless of their club/affiliation. GECs for 1x races can be used by that rower in any 1x event they are qualified to row in.
      • 1.2.4-A GEC for a composite crew can only be used if it contains at least 50% of the same rowers as the previous year.
      • 1.2.5-A GEC only guarantees you an entry if you register within the registration period.
      • 1.2.6-If you receive a GEC for an event that you do not/no longer qualify for please contact the registrar. 
    • 1.3-All non-guaranteed entries will be placed into a lottery for their event and chosen as detailed on the registration page.
      • 1.3.1-Adaptive entries will not be subject to the lottery and will not receive GECs as a result.
    • 1.4-Rowers can only be entered under one club name, no exceptions. 
    • 1.5-Crews are responsible for entering their boats in the correct event. If you are entered in the wrong event your entry cannot be moved after the lottery draw. If you do not meet the requirements for the event, your entry will be forfeited.
    • 1.6-Any crew with unpaid fees from the previous year’s Hooch will not be allowed to enter until their balance is paid.
    • 1.7-No boats will be entered into the Hooch after the bow draw has been posted.
    • 1.8-Registered boats that “no show” on regatta weekend may have themselves or their crew barred from racing in the next year’s Head of the Hooch.
    • 1.9-The organizing committee reserves the right to adjust event caps based on demand.
    • 1.10-All crews should pick up their bow numbers at least 2 hours prior to their first race. Any entry that races, but does not stop by the registration tent and pick up their bow number will be disqualified.
    • 1.11-Any rower who races without a signed USRowing waiver, as determined by the organizing committee, will have any boat they row in disqualified.
  • 2- EVENT DEFINITIONS: Complete event definitions can be found on our event definitions page.
    • 2.1-Novice Events: Limited to scullers, rowers and coxswains who have been competing for one year or less as of the first Regatta Day. Experience in sculling events does not count as experience in sweep events and vice versa.
    • 2.2-Composite Boats: Must meet the following requirements: An 8+ cannot contain more than 4 members of the same club, and a 4x/4+/4- cannot contain more than 2 members of the same club, and 2x/2- cannot contain 2 members of the same club. Coxswains are not included in the count.
    • 2.3-Mixed Crews: Each mixed crew shall include men and women rowers. Doubles require a crew of one man and one woman, quads/fours crews may have either one man or two, and eights crews may have two, three, or four men. Coxswains are exempt from this rule. Any entry violating this rule will be excluded.
    • 2.4-Men’s or Women’s Events: Men’s events are for male scullers and rowers only. Women’s events are for female scullers and rowers only. Coxswains may be of either gender.
    • 2.5-Minumin Age: Anyone competing in a 1x, 2x or 2- event be at minimum 14 years of age.
  • 3- COXSWAINS:
    • 3.1-Youth Events: Coxswains who are defined by USRowing rules as a “Youth” are limited to Head of the Hooch events labeled “Youth”, “Youth Lightweight”, or “Youth Novice” with no exceptions. However, they are not bound by the rules defining a Youth Novice (i.e. a Youth Varsity rower may cox a Youth Novice boat if desired).
    • 3.2-Masters and Collegiate: Coxswains are not subject to any restrictions, and may cox a boat of any age category, skill level or gender. However, they are not permitted to cox any Youth boats.
    • 3.3-Weight: There are no weight requirements for coxswains.
  • 4- SEEDING AND BOW NUMBER DRAW
    • 4.1-Seeding: To be seeded boats must be registered with a Guaranteed Entry Code (GEC). Boats without a GEC will not be seeded during the bow draw.
      • 4.1.1-Boats will be seeded based on prior year’s raw finishing times, including in handicapped events.
    • 4.2-Bow Draw: Bow numbers are assigned sequentially according to the following order:
      • 4.2.1-Seeded boats: Top 10% of winning adjusted time in each event of the prior year’s Head of the Hooch. If there are no results from the prior year, the next available year’s results will be used.
      • 4.2.2-Random draw from the remaining entries until one boat has been placed for each organization. Unseeded composite entries will be drawn in this group.
      • 4.2.3-Random draw from the remaining entries until a second boat has been placed for each organization (repeated until all boats have been placed).
      • 4.2.4-Note: Within a single organization, boats are placed by designation (A, B, etc.); entering several boats with the ‘A’ designation will not result in better bow number assignments.
      • 4.2.5-Note: Swapping boat lineups to ‘trade’ bow numbers is not permitted.  Lineup swaps in masters and alumni events are expressly prohibited.
    • 4.3-Once posted, the bow number draw is final. 
  • 5- MASTERS HANDICAP
    • 5.1-Handicap is calculated based on the following formula:
      • HC= (age – 27)2 * K
      • K= .100 for 8+’s and 4x’s, .108 for 2x’s and 4’s, and .125 for 1x’s and 2-’s
    • 5.2-For Master 2x, 4x, 4+, and 8+ the age of the crew will be the average of the rowers (except for coxswain). Handicaps are rounded to the nearest second. When the average age is 27 or below the handicap will be zero.
    • 5.3-The correct age must be provided for each crew member. If any age is missing, no handicap will be assigned to the boat. Any handicap corrections must be made online prior to the deadline for lineup changes. No handicap changes will be accepted on the day of the race.
  • 6- WEIGH-IN:
    • 6.1-Athletes must weigh-in at least one hour preceding their first race
    • 6.2-Athletes may weigh-in at any of the following times: Friday 1:00pm to 8:00pm, Saturday 7:00am to 2:00pm, Sunday 6:00am to 10:00am.
    • 6.3-Athletes in the same boat do not need to weigh-in together
    • 6.4-There will be no boat weight averaging for lightweights of either gender.
    • 6.5-Lightweight weights:
      • 6.5.1-Male Youth Rowers will have a maximum weight of 150 lbs.
      • 6.5.2-Male Rowers in all other age groups will have a maximum weight of 160 lbs.
      • 6.5.3-Female Rowers in all age groups will have a maximum weight of 130 lbs.
  • 7- EQUIPMENT AND BOW NUMBERS:
    • 7.1-All boats must conform to the USRowing regulations regarding construction and design detailed in Article III, Part A of the 2017 Rules of Rowing.
    • 7.2-All boats will be inspected by referees to ensure they conform to the USRowing regulations. If any boat does not conform, that boat will not be allowed to launch. This inspection will occur either on Friday or immediately prior to launch Saturday and Sunday. Once boats have been checked, they will be tagged so that they do not have to be checked again for subsequent races.
    • 7.3-Bow numbers: All boats racing must carry a bow number, provided by the Hooch, denoting their assigned starting position. Bow numbers must be returned to the dock volunteers as boats come off the water.
    • 7.4-Shirt numbers: All boats racing must have their bow number pinned to back of the bowman. The Hooch will provide safety pins and number placards.
  • 8- LAUNCHING:
    • 8.1-Practice session: The racecourse will be open for practice from 12:00pm to 6:00pm on the Friday before the regatta, no boats shall be allowed to launch before noon or after 5:30pm. Regatta marshals will be on the course during the practice. No practice will be allowed on race days.
      • 8.1.1-During practice, race traffic patterns (stay to the left, port side) apply throughout the course. Penalties of 1 minute or disqualification from the regatta may be assessed for violation of this rule.
      • 8.1.2-Crews in small boats (1x, 2x, 2-) wishing to row a portion of the course during practice may turn after the East end of the island and merge into the traffic pattern in the racing lane of the course. Turning crews must yield to crews in the traffic pattern from the start area when entering the course. A course marshal may be located in this area; if so, crews must follow any instructions given to them or risk a penalty.
    • 8.2-Launch Rules: Boats must queue for launch in bow number order. All oars must be placed on the grass area near the dock from which boats are launching before boats are permitted down the ramps accessing the launch area. Before the boat reaches the front of the queue, helpers must be present with the oars ready to accompany the boat onto the launch dock. No launching will be permitted from the UTC docks or the Lookout Rowing Club docks.
    • 8.3-For safety purposes and efficiency of starting boats, the Hooch asks coaches to not send first time or inexperienced coxswains out on the water. Additionally, by entering a crew in an event, the coach is certifying that the crew will be race ready and capable of executing routine maneuvers required in rowing (i.e. launching, turning, steering, docking). This applies to both coxed and non-coxed events. If in the judgment of the dock master or start marshal, a coxswain or crew is too inexperienced, the boat will not be allowed to race.
    • 8.4-Launch schedule: Launch schedules will be announced during the Coaches’ & Coxswains’ Meeting Friday before the regatta. There will be only one call to launch prior to each event. The launch officials at Control Commission will encourage all boats to launch on time, but it is expected that crews be aware of their launch times and not depend solely on calls to launch from regatta officials.
    • 8.5-Registered boats failing to launch during the appropriate launch window for their race will not be allowed to race. No crew will be allowed to launch with less than 30 minutes prior to their scheduled race time.
      • 8.5.1-The time cutoff for launching will not be adjusted unless there is an official change to the scheduled time of the race. Crews choosing to launch later than the published time on the official heat sheet due to a perceived lateness of the regatta risk not being allowed to launch for their race.
    • 8.6-Traffic pattern: The start line is located approximately three and one quarter miles upstream from the boat launching area. Buoys will separate the racecourse from the upstream traffic. Boats are required to keep to the port (North) side of the river while proceeding to the start. See Course Map
  • 9- AT THE START:
    • 9.1-On time starting will be strictly enforced. All crews must be at the marshaling area 10 minutes before the scheduled starting time of their race. Late starts, defined as arriving to the starting chute after one or more boats in a following race have started, will not be permitted. The Hooch Organizing Committee will schedule launch times to allow sufficient time to row to the start with consideration for the Tennessee River current on each race day. It is expected that crews row at a brisk pace to the start line to ensure that racing can proceed on schedule. The race will be with the current, whereas rowing to the start will be against the current. Make sure you allow enough time to row up to the start.
    • 9.2-Crews are responsible for maintaining proper position at the start; the marshals will attempt to put the crews into the numerical bow number order, but crews arriving late will not necessarily be moved up past other crews in the queue to start in their scheduled sequence.
    • 9.3-Marshals will be positioned in launches in the starting area for the purpose of organizing participating crews above the start into the proper starting order and time interval.
    • 9.4-Crews shall be responsible for maintaining their proper starting position (increasing numerical order), for maintaining the proper interval between themselves and other crews (2 lengths of open water or as directed by a start marshal or the starter), and for aligning themselves single file in the starting chute.
    • 9.5-Crews will be called to the start chute in approximately ten-second intervals. Do not increase pressure and move towards the start chute until instructed to do so.
    • 9.6-All crews not currently involved in the staging of the start shall yield to crews being summoned by a start marshal. Interference with the staging of the start and failure to follow the commands of marshals or the starter shall result in a penalty.
    • 9.7-Time permitting, the starter shall provide for a sufficient amount of time between events so that crews in different events do not overlap on the course or at the finish line. If delays occur, the starter and start marshals will work to get all boats on the course safely and with the least event overlap possible.
    • 9.8-Broken Equipment – Crews experiencing broken equipment on the way to the start should report their issue to a course marshal or start marshal as soon as possible. If the issue can be fixed on the water and the boat is safe to race, the crew will be allowed to proceed to the start as long as they will arrive at the start in time for the scheduled start of their race. Crews with equipment that cannot be fixed or not fixed in time for their race will be instructed to return to the recovery dock along the racing lane close to shore when safe to do so, with care to yield to all racing crews.
  • 10- ON THE COURSE:
    • 10.1-A crew is deemed to be overtaking another crew when it has moved to within one length of open water of the crew ahead.
    • 10.2-The boat overtaking (Passer) has the right of way to pass (on the side of its choice) if a safe pass can be accomplished. However, crews must take note of the following:
        • If a pass is attempted and there is not adequate room and time to perform the pass, the Passer is at risk of incurring interference penalties.
        • In situations involving three or more boats, there are areas such as bridge arches and narrow areas where passing cannot be accomplished safely. In these situations, the Passer must be prudent and delay the act of passing until the pass can be accomplished without incident. More time can be lost by pressing a situation that by slowing down and waiting for the right moment to pass.
        • Communicate effectively during racing. All bow coxed shells are strongly advised to have their bow seat rower and all stern coxed shells are strongly advised to have their stroke seat rower advise their coxswain when there is clear water astern after completing a pass. Timely instruction from the appropriate rower may assist in avoiding a stern-to-bow collision and/or an interference penalty due to cutting in too soon.
        • When boats come together and interlock, this does not necessarily result in a penalty situation if there were no specific violations of the racing rules observed by a race official.
    • 10.3-The boat being overtaken (Overtakee) must yield and give suitable room to the Passer (on the side chosen by the Passer) if a safe pass can be accomplished. Generally, this will be the shortest line that gives an advantage. Failure to yield to the Passer is one of the most serious infractions of competitive conduct. Crews must:
        • Be alert to possible upcoming passing attempts and promptly yield when there is adequate room and time.
        • Be prepared to miss a few strokes to allow the Passer to pass safely and without interference.
        • Communicate effectively during racing. All bow coxed shells are strongly advised to have their bow seat rower and all stern coxed shells are strongly advised to have their stroke seat rower advise their coxswain when a following crew is about to begin a pass and on which side the passer is approaching. Timely instruction from the appropriate rower may assist in avoiding an interference penalty.
  • 11- PENALTIES: To be able to launch, race and recover over 2,000 boats on Saturday and Sunday, we need to be very efficient both on and off the water. The following penalties can be assessed:
    • 11.1–Good sportsmanship must prevail at all times. Instances of unsportsmanlike conduct by scullers, crews, and/or coaches will be reported and penalties may be assessed, ranging from a reprimand to time penalties of 60 seconds or disqualification depending on the severity.
    • 11.2–10-second penalty for passing a buoy on the wrong side.
    • 11.3–20-second penalty for interfering with start staging.
    • 11.4–30-second penalty for failing to follow Officials instructions.
    • 11.5–30-second penalty for failing to yield to a crew with the right of way.
    • 11.6–30-second penalty will be assessed to crews that exceed the allowed dock times: 3 minutes for 8+, 2 minutes for all other boats.
    • 11.7–30-second penalty will be assessed to crews that stop rowing immediately after crossing the finish line rather than reducing pressure to a paddle and continuing to the turnaround location. Crews in need of immediate medical assistance will not be penalized.
    • 11.8–60-second penalty for a passing crew causing a collision or forcing the crew being overtaken off the race course.
    • 11.9–60-second penalty for crossing the starting line without the required bow number or bib number visible.
    • 11.10–60-second penalty for a crew attempting to land at the launch dock or hot seating at the recovery dock.
    • 11.11–60-second penalty will be assessed to crews who proceed onto the launch dock without all the required personnel and equipment nearby (i.e. missing seats, missing a rower or coxswain).
    • 11.12–60-second penalty for a crew violating the traffic pattern during Friday practice.
    • 11.13–60-second penalty will be assessed to crews showing a disregard for safety at any time during the weekend (including practice). If the violation is deemed reckless, the crew may be excluded or disqualified.
    • 11.14–Crews crossing the finish line without a crew member, including the coxswain will be excluded.
    • 11.15–Crews urinating in the Tennessee River are subject to disqualification.
    • 11.16–The Race Committee reserves the right to rule on any situation not covered in these or other printed rules and to penalize or disqualify any competitor or crew that appears to violate the spirit or letter of the Regatta’s rules.
  • 12- THE FINISH:
    • 12.1-Crews will be disqualified if they cross the finish line missing a crew member. After crossing the finish line, crews shall continue to row at light pressure and slowly proceed to the turnaround area as marked by red buoys, avoiding interference with other crews. Crews shall also follow any instructions given to them by the finish marshals.
    • 12.2–Appeals: Scullers and crews may appeal for relief from any ruling of ineligibility or any penalty imposed on them for alleged infractions (i.e. interference, course violations) but no objection alleging interference by a competing entry shall be heard. Appeals must be made by a race participant who observed the incident. No crew shall receive a time advantage from a decision by the Ombudsman or Jury.
    • 12.3–Appeals Process: A crew seeking changes to the results or the removal of a penalty must do so within 45 minutes following the last boat to finish in the event, by presenting themselves and talking with the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman is located in the Control Commission area, under the city pier.
    • 12.4-Hot seatingThe Head of the Hooch does not have “hot seating” in the traditional sense and changing a crew in a boat on the water is prohibited. When in the finish area, crews will show referees on the water a designated card (see below). Crews with the “hot seat” card will receive an expedited approach to the recovery dock, provided there is a safe path to do so as determined by the referees. The crew must then take the boat out of the water and move to the designated area for hot seating near the river pier. The new crew taking control of the boat will pick up the boat and join the queue for boats going onto the racecourse from the launch dock. Crews will not hot seat on, or relaunch from, the recovery dock.
      • 12.4.1–Important: Boats wanting to hot seat must pick up a hot seat card at control commission prior to their first race. The crew should display the card is a visible fashion for the finish marshal and the dock master as they queue for and approach the recovery dock.
      • 12.4.2–Hot seat cards may be used for equipment, coxswains, or rowers as needed. In the case of hot seating personnel, the boat will not be allowed onto the launch dock until the entire crew and coxswain are present.