2017 HOTO FAQ, based on the occasional inquiry…


COACHES: PLEASE SHARE THIS FAQ WITH YOUR TEAMS, and your pep committees or parents who coordinate team spirit, tents, chuck wagons, or anyone else who might need some details about what’s to come—EVEN if they consider themselves hardcore HOTO veterans.

This document contains IMPORTANT information about parking, the physical terrain around here, why to not congregate at certain places, how to find your team’s tent, where to grab a bite to eat or watch the boats, and more.

An informed HOTO human is a safe and helpful HOTO human.


Welcome to Occoquan Boat Club’s 33rd annual Head of the Occoquan (HOTO) regatta! We are thrilled you will be joining us very soon. HOTO’s is unlike many regatta venues: we are situated on a park in Northern Virginia. Our regatta size is determined by the amount of space available to park rowing shell trailers — nothing else. When we run out of space that’s when we know we’ve hit our capacity limit. We have worked hard over the past couple years to keep HOTO competitive, manageable, safe and enjoyable for all who attend.

Because we’re in parkland, the atmosphere here is rustic, natural, and not the slightest bit urban. Rowers don’t have to worry about piers or bridge trusses to row around; just the natural curves of the river. Spectators don’t have to worry about crossing the street in a city, but because we are in a park, we are all in this together, so we have to look out for boats, riggers, coxswains and each other.

This park is gorgeous and very scenic: you may see a few bald eagles, ospreys, hawks and lots of fallen leaves. Pack your rain boots or something similar as it can get pretty muddy around here in the fall (more on that below).

HOTO is truly, a Glorious Head Race.

Please read through this document that we put together and update each year. It is intended to be cheerful, upbeat and very clear. If you have further questions, please direct them to hoto@rowobc.org



The All-Time Most FAQ:

SUNDAY —  HOTO’s Sunday parking and drop off situation is greatly different from Saturday’s. If you’re not coming to the regatta on Sunday, you may skip ahead. The information immediately below pertains to Sunday drop-offs only; please read the remainder of the content for more information on the other policies.

DROP-OFFs ONLY: You may drop off your coxswain, rower or spectator at the Van Thompson lot (please see the map marked “Sandy Run Site Map” at www.hotoregatta.org/venue) before 10am. From the Van Thompson lot, OBC has arranged for a regularly running intra-park shuttle to take your dropped-off person to the regatta site about a mile away. If you would like to personally drive closer to the site than Van Thompson, without the team pass your person’s team has been granted, you will be charged $20 for parking… BUT… If you drop off your person closer to the event site and return to Van Thompson checkpoint and leave the park to go on to Vulcan (further south off Ox Road by about 3 miles) you will be refunded your $20 parking fee. Parking at Vulcan is free. We will be running shuttles to and from Vulcan.

Either way, please explain your situation to the parking attendants at Van Thompson and they will be able to assist you.


Q: When can I bring my trailer to Sandy Run?
A: For Saturday, and Saturday-to-Sunday (both days) competitors, you may access the park anytime after 12pm on the Friday before HOTO. You must exit the park by 6:30pm on Friday and Saturday and Sunday.

For Sunday-only competitors who wish to arrive Saturday: we suggest that you arrive after 3:30 on Saturday if at all possible. Saturday events are heavier this year than Sunday’s so, the trailer parking lot will be maxed for much of the day. The final event, Masters 4x, STARTS on Saturday at 2:55, and if the weather is sketchy, it could be delayed.

For Sunday-only competitors who wish to arrive Sunday: you may arrive anytime before 8am without relative traffic congestion but we can’t promise anything… the earlier the better. The Park opens for the regatta and Park personnel at 6am to help you park your trailer.

For evening departures and arrivals on Friday, Saturday or Sunday:  The sun sets at 6:06pm Friday and 6:05pm Saturday and it gets dark here. Sandy Run does not have lights in the parking lots.

Q: We are a large team in a bus or team van(s) who will be racing Sunday only. We would like to arrive Sunday. Where do we park? When can we access the park?
A: You would park at the Park and we suggest as early as possible. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL AFTER 10 — the “AFTER 10 ON SUNDAY” restriction is for spectators and anyone else who DOES NOT have a team pass to park.

Car toppers? You are on a list unless you have heard otherwise from our registrar (usually due to space and late reservation requests).

If you’re on a team van or other vehicle with one of the four parking passes included with your registration, you are good to go. Most team buses don’t need the passes as we have already accounted for your bus in our parking plans. A team bus with rowers in it is a sign to us that you are here and you already paid for parking with your registration. If that bus or vehicle does NOT have the pass, you would need to go to lot C and to drop off of your athletes (this athlete drop-off may occur any time, the earlier the better though due to traffic and the singular way in and out of this park on land). Reference the photos at the end or cite the venue maps for more information.

Q: When can I arrive to put up my team’s site tent, etc.?
A: We suggest as early as possible. Coordinating as best you can with your Trailer’s arrival would be a good idea. Two hours in advance of any event start is a good idea due to parking and unloading logistics. The “Registration Room” which is where race packets are picked up opens at 8:30, if that helps to give you an idea.




Q: My team would like an area to gather. Does HOTO offer such venues?
A: Sandy Run Park has 24 spots available on a first-come / first-served basis. There is no charge for tent sites; you bring your own tent.

We have already sent out a request reminder with a deadline, so please make sure you’ve taken care of that. If you haven’t, send your space requests to registrar@rowobc.org yesterday as they fill up fast.


Here’s a dormant map just for viewing to give you an idea of the sites the park offers in general: http://www.hotoregatta.org/venue/


All reserved tent locations can be found here: team tents HOTO 2017; please compare the denoted location with the map at http://www.hotoregatta.org/venue



Q: Where is the best place to view the race?
A: That’s a good question and the answer is that there are multiple locations, yet their accessibility varies GREATLY.

First, the easiest and the nearest: an area down The Hill which is enclosed by orange “snow fencing.” It’s close to the water near the docks where your rower friends will be either departing or arriving. This area can easily accommodate several dozen people, their blankets and small coolers.

Second, the more rustic and somewhat easy: along the banks of the river. To the left of the aforementioned gathering spot are some informal and unofficial viewing areas (they are NOT the docks, walk a little farther, please). They have been known to host a folding chair or two for about 15 people total seated abreast in various pods. If you like some solitude and sitting amid a dropping leaf or fifty, this is your happy place.

Third, the farthest and for the most adventurous, intrepid and athletic of fans: we offer The Grandstands. The footpath to this destination meanders through the woods for about 1.2 miles over roots, stones and bridges and some (not a lot) railroad-tie fortified steps. It’s a GORGEOUS and energizing walk if you’re game and you will be surrounded by less people.  It’s very “natural” and “rooty” though, so if you’re wearing Jimmy Choos or are not accustomed to uneven and challenging grades and terrain, it’s best to stay in the designated main park area but WELL AWAY from the boats (i.e., the other spots above).

Where NOT to stand: on The Hill. Don’t congregate . . .

At the regatta venue map, we have highlighted where you can find points of interest such as the gathering spot at the base of The Hill and the path to the Grandstands (highlighted in yellow). We also have included at the end of this FAQ, a photo of where NOT to stand and hang out, which also happens to include where TO hang out, for your convenience.

FOR YOUR SAFETY: Spectators and idle rowers may also not approach ANY of the docks unless they are assisting a team to and from the water. 

In summary, DO NOT STAND ON “The Hill,” HOTO’s approach to the water is a 40˚ grade for about 150 yards, and HOTO traffic controllers can get pretty “direct” around there because shells need to turn on a steep grade and at a sharp angle if traffic at one of the docks gets backed up, which can happen regularly. So while we love to have spectators, The Hill is really for the rowers, please be mindful and keep moving. Don’t congregate.

Q: Will there be a shuttle to the grandstands?
A: Not at all likely. If we manage to scramble and find a vendor willing to drive the “roadway” to the Grandstands we will advertise it on-site and the day of the events. It’s hard for regular vehicles to traverse; it’s really intended for for low-profile small vehicles like golf carts and Park Service trucks. That’s why we have different options as noted above.

Q: Where can I find results to the races?
A: This year HOTO is making another effort to go green so we have removed the massive flat-screen television that used to reside in the “Registration Room” in favor of inviting you to take advantage of the free “Rowing Result” app which can be downloaded at the iTunes App Store or Google Play.

To conclude: DO NOT STAND ON THE HILL. You will be barked at by people in yellow vests. 



Q: Can we bring a chuck wagon or food trailer to HOTO?
A: Sort of. For unloading and loading purposes only. Once that is accomplished, the vehicle must be moved off-site. There is a shopping center about a mile south of the park and we have heard of success parking there. (But we’re not responsible if you get towed…) Best bet is to check out this website: http://www.hotoregatta.org/parking/

Q: Will I be able to grab a bite to eat at HOTO?
A: Yes! BBQ. We are proud to have Rockland’s Catering return to HOTO. Year after year, Rockland’s Red Trucks have perched on the hill near the t-shirts and sold its fares to fill our bellies and bring smiles to many thousands of HOTO attendees. If you click on their link, you’ll find their menu, which will be abbreviated for HOTO, but it should give you a good idea of what’s coming. We have also arranged for Rockland’s to serve coffee, bagels and pastries if BBQ isn’t quite your thing.




Q: I’ve never been to a regatta, so I’m excited to attend. What should I wear?
A: We are glad to have you! Check the weather before you go — our zip code is 22039. Wear clothes that are weather appropriate and comfortable. Your footwear should be comfy; walking shoes that have good support and reliable treads are best. Save the stilettos for Head of the Charles.

Q: I’ve never been to HOTO. What’s the layout like?
A: We are thrilled you asked. It’s beautiful. But in case that’s not what you meant, here’s a link to a current venue map: http://www.hotoregatta.org/venue/

Q: Is electrical power available at HOTO?
A: Not for spectators… Park Rangers will allow small, quiet, portable generators for HOTO. Please be sure to use extreme care in the safe set-up and operation of a generator. If any team’s generator is limiting the experience of others due to space limitations, loud noise or exhaust fumes, the unit be turned off and stowed.

Q: What about toilets?
A: Portajons. There will be plenty. We like to call them HOTOjons.

Q: Running water?
A: Of course! This isn’t the stone age. Water fountains are available across from the Portajons. The water is well water; it’s fully potable. It offers a strong bouquet and a light finish. Best paired with … chips available directly across the way at the red truck.

Q: We would like to bring our rower’s aged grandparents to the race. Will someone be available to help them navigate the park?
A: No; this is best left up to reliable family members.



Q: Can I bring my pet dog to HOTO?
A: NO, and the policy is posted on park property. Only service dogs are permitted in the park on regatta days. It’s mayhem… it freaks out dogs who aren’t properly socialized to hang out in crowds of more than hundreds of people carrying massive shells and oars and lots of other people yelling “HEAD’S UP!!” like Janis Joplin. Leave your best friend at home. If you don’t, your best friend will be required to stay in your car, where it might actually be happier, or it might chew through your seats because you’ve brought it to a regatta where we told you not to bring it. Your dog, your car, your call.

Q: Can I open-flame grill in the park?
A: No open-flame anything is permitted at Sandy Run Park. This means no Sterno, sparklers, propane lighters, matches, flint, two sticks rubbed together, car-cigarette (ew!) lighters, leaves and dry grass you’ve set on fire with a magnifying glass… It’s only a few hours of your life — the burgers and brauts can wait. Plus the fine you will suffer if you’re caught, it’s insane. If you’re from out of town and you violate this, you’re very likely going to be required to come back here deal with any court dates, fines and sentences too… Just be smart and observe this law. Nobody wants Smokey the Bear breathing down their backs…

Q: What about alcohol? Can we bring some to HOTO?
A: No. Not only is it against the law in our Park but we can’t think of anything possibly more hazardous than to indulge in alcoholic beverages whilst meandering amongst uneven terrain amid high-strung athletes of all ages, emphatic diminutive coxswains, and gigantic boats with riggers that can take an eye out if YOU’RE not careful. That gig is hard enough when you’re sober. Oh, and same goes for illegal drugs and narcotics.

Q: Can I bring a boat, kayak, canoe, duct-tape raft, or stand-up paddleboard to watch the race from the water?
A: No. Next question.



Q: Will t-shirts be available?
A: Of course! HOTO t-shirts are renown! Along with our own gear, JL racing will have a kiosk, locally owned and operated Rubini Jewelers will be back selling their lovely silver, leather, brass and steel rowing-themed earrings, belts, bracelets, and we have a new vendor, Row Source, joining us this year!




Q: What about parking?
A: We readily admit that this is the hardest part about HOTO for the organizing volunteers. Our policies change from year to year because the numbers change because we make changes to the program. Our highest intention is to make HOTO safe and enjoyable for EVERYONE, and that means we are constantly trying to achieve a balance.

While this FAQ is meant to be exhaustive, the best place to go for the most up-to-date information on the parking policies is: http://www.hotoregatta.org/parking/

Saturday teams get up to four (4) parking passes per their team included with their registration. Those passes are GREEN. Those passes have been mailed out. The passes are for all-day access.

Sunday teams get up to four (4) parking passes per their team included with their registration. Those passes are ORANGE. Those passes have been mailed out. The passes are for all-day access.

Also, we can’t say this enough: Please be sure that your parents, rowers, coaches and ANYONE who plans to attend HOTO on Sunday WITHOUT A PASS knows that there is NO onsite parking on Sunday (without a pass) until AFTER 10am; pre-10am access to the park is for trailers, coaches, car-toppers, athlete drop-off and regatta staff.

Parking is available at Vulcan Quarry on Sunday until 10am; after 10am, you can park at HOTO. All persons who park at Vulcan Quarry will be shuttled to and from the regatta free of charge. These shuttles will be running all day Sunday, so we are welcoming you with open arms and large school buses.

All spectators and rowing drivers hoping to park at Sandy Run before 10am will be directed to turn around and drive about 2 miles south to the Vulcan Quarry where shuttles will take you to and fro HOTO. It will happen.



Q: When? What?
A: Ok peeps… at long last, the draft schedule… Behold… this is as close to final we will be. This is the line-up of your events.

Final press date is THURSDAY 11/2 first thing in the morning.

A note about the placements:

Saturday bow numbers begin at 1.
Sunday bow numbers begin at 301.
The same system has been used as previous years.
Rankings are based on HOTO 2016 results; or using comparative data from other events for a team that wasn’t present last year.
The boats are ranked through 50% of last year’s event (if 20 boats last year, ranking is through 10th place last year).
After that bows are randomly assigned to all remaining ‘A’ boats, then all remaining ‘B’ boats, and so on.
There is an effort to keep boats from the same club/team from starting back-to-back.


Saturday: http://www.newrower.com/HOTO_SAT_2017.pdf
Sunday: http://www.newrower.com/HOTO_SUN_2017.pdf

*****Sunday events highlighted in blue: 16a through 20c, those are Masters events which require attention (likely a line-up issue) to those registrants: PLEASE ADDRESS YOUR CONFLICTS BY WEDNESDAY 11/1/17.*****


Some photos to help set the mood…


Your approach into the Park … please be mindful: this is a residential area on your left. Lots of cars parked on your right and rowers and people generally walking on your left; there will be the occasional car.



The area in the clearing ahead is our closest parking lots for personal vehicles and other event parking. Lot C (70 spaces) is on the left and Lot D (200 spaces) is on the right.



Your approach closer to the venue; this is where you will see cars parked and lots of trailers and more packs of rowers running up and down this road to warm up for their races. The thrill of seeing old friends and making new ones is in the air!


At long last, our glorious water awaits you. The start is about 3k meters straight ahead and to the north. This asphalt area is known as “The Hill.” Do NOT stand in this area, from where this photo has been taken: it is crowded, confusing and dangerous. If the weather is sketchy, it’s even more stressful as the boats are just somehow harder to carry. That area down on the left near the flag pole inside the orange semi-installed snow fencing is where we encourage you to view if the beautiful and energizing walk to the Grandstands is not your cup of tea.



Same perspective as the photo above, just slightly earlier in the morning with a fantastic fog that burns off around 9:30 am.

For those of you who haven’t ever attended a HOTO, we enthusiastically welcome you. The views are simply gorgeous down here. The moods are high, and nervous energy fills the air. The entire experience offers beautiful scenery, plenty to watch and we hope you enjoy your time catching up with friends and taking in the moment, down at the bottom of The Hill, on the left, inside the fencing. Without your dog.



Marni, Molly and Jay… Your HOTO friends at Occoquan Boat Club