Head of the Rock

  • Hosted By Rockford YMCA Rowing Club
  • USRowing Registered

An organized rowing program was formed in association with the YMCA in 1984. In 1985 the new boat club hosted an exhibition race between the University of Wisconsin and Northwestern University called Rowing on the Rock. Robert D. Esperseth, Jr. winner of the 1984 Olympic bronze medal for rowing in the Men's Pair, Trahern Ogilby and Randy Jablonik, YMCA Board member and Head Coach of the University of Wisconsin Men's Crew team respectively, were instrumental in starting this new era of racing on the Rock River.

On October 12, 1986 the first Head of the Rock Regatta was held. Nearly 300 rowers from more than a dozen Midwestern clubs participated. The event was sponsored by the Rockford Park District and the course was about 3 miles in length, with both the contours of the river and the bridges presenting a challenge. Poor weather prevailed on Regatta day, but the races were held.

Today, the Head of the Rock is sanctioned by the United states Rowing Association and has grown to be one of the top 10 regattas in the country. The course is 5,000 meters (3.1 miles) long beginning at Martin Park and finishing at the downtown YMCA. Over 7,000 spectators watch the event from the scenic banks of the Rock River. More than 60 collegiate, prep and club teams participate each year, bringing more than 2,000 athletes to town. On the day of the races, over 600 boats are launched at a rate of ~90 boats/hour from the Rockford YMCA Rowing Crew's docks just north and south of the Whitman Street Bridge.

The event is made possible with support from many volunteers who generously donate their time and talents. Rowing on the Rock River has come a long way from it's original roots back in the early 1900's. The Rockford Crew is proud to be a part of the tradition and we are excited about the future for rowing and paddle sports of all kinds in the Rock River Valley. We hope you will consider participating in the many programs that are available for rowing, kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding in the region and explore this wonderful asset we all share - the Rock River.