First Coast Head Race (FCHR)

  • Hosted By: Jacksonville Rowing Club, Inc.
  • USRowing Sanctioned Regatta

Every October, more than 500 competitors and several hundred spectators come together in Jacksonville’s Arlington community at the Jacksonville Rowing Club’s boathouse. On race day, the air is filled with anticipation and excitement for fierce but friendly competition! The athletes, surrounded by their family, friends, and coaches, push each other to LEAVE IT ALL ON THE WATER!!!  The local community provides a perfect venue for athletes and spectators alike, to enjoy the beautiful rivers that the city has to offer.



The regatta is a 5-kilometer course that winds through protected waters, skirts beautiful marshes and passes through several river front communities to provide an excellent test of endurance, ingenuity, and perseverance.  As a near replica of the Head of the Charles, crews will be prepared for the prestigious Boston regatta one week later.  Event offerings include sculling (singles, doubles, and quads) and sweep (pair, four +/-, and eight +), with the ages of athletes ranging from 12 to 99.

The regatta begins with a rolling start north of the Mathews Bridge and heads south leading into the longest straightaway of the course past Exchange Island.  Competitors turn east into the Arlington River towards the second longest straightaway heading for the University Bridge.  Once through the University Bridge, they prepare for a tight turn to set up for passage under the Cesery Bridge. Greeted by a crowd of cheering spectators atop the blocked-off Cesery Bridge, competitors will gain spirit and resolve to meet the back third of the course.  Leaving the crowd behind, they begin a series of turns and decreasing straightaways.  The competitors experience the final challenge of a near 90-degree turn for a sprint into Pottsburg Creek and an exciting finish before the Atlantic Blvd Bridge.



In 1989, Mark Beckenbach (Coach at Jacksonville University) and Peter Keegan (President of Jacksonville Rowing Club) conceived and ran Florida’s first head race, known as the First Coast Head Race.  The objective of the regatta was to bring collegiate crews together for an exciting competition down the St. Johns and Arlington Rivers.  It wasn’t long after those initial years that they began to invite high school crews. The regatta has grown considerably since then and now includes Youth (both middle and high school), Collegiate and Masters crews.  At the 2022 Regatta, 24 clubs travelled from as far south as Miami, FL and as far north as Washington, DC with crews from Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, and the District of Columbia. 



Throughout the years, the race was hosted by several rowing organizations in the Jacksonville area, either individually or jointly.  The 35th year of the regatta marks an exciting and energized vision to expand its reach in the rowing community, continue to develop as a community event and build momentum for future growth opportunities. 

We’re excited to see you on October14th, 2023!



The Jacksonville Rowing Club (JRC) finds its history rooted in the tradition of two early Jacksonville rowing clubs; the Remex Rowing Club and the St. John's Few Rowing Club.  Remex Rowing Club was the first rowing club organized in Jacksonville and was founded by Robert Negaard in the early seventies. Charlie Platt, who at the time was with Episcopal High School, also helped Remex get started. Remex was officially incorporated in the State of Florida on June 10, 1975. During its existence, the club organized the first club regatta in Jacksonville, the Remex Regatta, which ran on the St. John's River through downtown, finishing at the Hilton Hotel.  At that time, the Hilton had a Remex-inspired, rowing-themed pub in the hotel where participants could watch the race, enjoy refreshment, and look over the rowing memorabilia.  Although in the early eighties the Remex Rowing Club ceased to operate as a club, under the tutelage of Dr. A. Sanchez-Salazar, it did produce a number of National Champions and National Team members; Kristen Negaard in the 1977 Junior Single, Louise Novey in the 1979 Junior Single, Billie Brown in the 1979 Lightweight Single, Clay Ziegler in the 1980 Lightweight Double and Barbara Sanchez-Salazar for the 1978 Junior National Team.

Today, the JRC is sculling and sweep rowing, novice, experienced, recreational and competitive adult rowing. No matter what your rowing experience or interests, there is something for you at JRC.