The rowing crews expected to get wet; it only makes sense that spectators take on a little water themselves.
Rain, sometimes streaming steady and other times but a drizzle, dampened attendance Saturday at the Oklahoma Regatta Festival but it didn't dampen the fun.
Most attendees, like Amy Brown, director of radiology at Integris Baptist Medical Center, were there to support friends or family.
With her son, Keaton, 12, in tow, Brown said she raced for the hospital's corporate team the night before, but came out again Saturday to support her team in a separate heat.
Watching from atop a bridge that spans the Oklahoma River, Brown said it didn't surprise her that turnout was lower than usual.
“Before I started rowing I came as a spectator but it was a nice, pretty day,” she said. “Oklahoma City in general? Yeah, they're probably laying around in bed watching football today.”
But some did brave the murky weather for a little river racing activity.
Gary and Kak Anderson, visiting from Kansas City, sipped a blonde ale and chardonnay, respectively, while watching the races from underneath the canopy at the beer and wine garden operated by Belle Isle Restaurant and Brewing Co.
Vacationing here until Monday, the couple saw signs advertising the regatta and thought they would check it out.
“We drove all this way, we're not going to just sit in the hotel room,” Gary Anderson said.
“But we don't have the slightest idea what's going on,” interrupted his wife, laughing. “Our kid was in baseball, so we don't even know the rules of this game.”
Turns out, the rules are rather simple — at least from the perspective of the experienced.
“Rowers know how to do two things: row and screw up,” said Shawn Blake, a member of the Wichita State Shockers crew, who carried the oars while his teammates carried the boat — the shell, they call it — to the shoreline. “It's the coxswain's job to make sure we do one and not the other.”
The coxswain is recognizable to most as the person who sits in the stern of the shell, facing the crew and barking or whistling rhythm to the rowers while steering the craft. At 55 feet long and 220 pounds, guiding the skinny carbon fiber craft from trailer to water without mishap also took guidance from the Wichita State coxswain.
Once situated dockside, one crew assistant began collecting the team's shoes while Blake began handing out oars.
“We like the rain; it makes us row harder,” the 23-year old computer science and psychology double-major said. “Our coach said there's only two things that will stop us from rowing: lightning, and if the river's frozen. Otherwise we'll row through anything.”
Saturday afternoon's races were time trials, about 5,000 meters in length. The four-day event, which wraps up Sunday, also included head-to-head heats and competitions that varied in gender, crew size, race length and age group.
It will take more than a little rain to spoil the rowing fun, said Sherry Andrusiak, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation, which hosted the festival. Now in its eighth year, the festival is getting more attention from non-rowing families, she said, many who come down just to enjoy the live music, food vendors and other attractions.
“We're really seeing that people are starting to get the sport in Oklahoma City,” she said. “The more they know about it the more they want to participate.”