Six years after the founding of the Wilmington Rowing Center in 1984, Board members Howard Smith and John Schoonover put their heads together to create a large regional Masters regatta sponsored by WRC. The most logical, and local venue was John’s alma mater, St. Andrew’s School, built in 1929 on a hill overlooking tranquil Noxontown Pond. In fact, John was a coxswain there in 1959 and 1960. With Howard’s experience as collegiate rower, coach, and knowlegeable referee, along with the School’s approval, plans moved quickly.
The First Diamond State Regatta ( DSMR) was held August 4th, 1991. Approximately three hundred rowers competed in thirty five events. The actual length of the course, determined by the distance between the starting platforms and Rodney Point across from the campus, measured 1073 meters. Nobody seemed to mind the extra 73 meters.
Sadly, Howard, the acting director since 1991, died before the 2000 DSMR, so the committee included his name in the DSMR title as a gesture of appreciation. John then took over the helm, ably assisted by a committee of sixteen. That year over 600 rowers competed in 70 races.
By 2006, the Regatta had swelled to almost one hundred heats all held on a busy Sunday from 8:15 am to 6 pm. Over one thousand rowers representing over fifty rowing organizations participated. That year, however, an insidious pond weed infested the pond, making rowing impossible.
The regatta resumed in 2007, having become one of the most popular Masters regattas in America. The races ran on a tight schedule with few delays. The organizers, however, began contemplating a two-day regatta to mitigate the hectic activity on the water and mitigate weather threats.
By the 22nd DSMR in 2011, preparations for two days of racing were finalized: sculling on Saturday and sweep and quads on Sunday. This format, with approximately 50 races each day, has proven very successful, allowing a more relaxed, yet competitive atmosphere. The pressure of a one-day event subsided and the volunteers were very grateful.
In 2019, a devastating heat wave forced DSMR to be scuttled when temperatures were over 100F and the heat index broke records. Covid-19 ended any hope for the regatta in 2020 and 2021.
The 30th Regatta finally took place in 2022. Heat condensed the schedule, but every race took place. Then in 2023, due to shifts in the USRowing masters schedule, DSMR moved to a June date, aligned with USRowing’s new masters regional championships. We are hopeful that we will now escape the heat and storms of July and have great racing on Noxontown Pond!