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A Legacy of Rowing in the Southeast

By Atlanta Rowing Club, 03/29/20, 10:00PM EDT


Their vision of rowing impacted us all...

Updated: March 29, 2020


Celebrating a tradition of excellence at the Atlanta Rowing Club

Tom Donohoe

September 8, 1926 - February 20, 2020


In 1974, a group of rowers led by Tom Donohoe, a former oarsman at Boston University, started the Atlanta Rowing Club in an effort to promote the sport of rowing in the southeast United States. As part of their initial efforts, this group of rowers hosted the first Southeastern Intercollegiate Rowing Association (SIRA) championship regatta at Stone Mountain Lake. SIRA is now one of the foremost regional championship regattas for collegiate club rowing in the nation and takes place every spring in Oak Ridge, TN with teams traveling from as far as the midwest and east coast.

Courtesy of Eddie Bauer

Left to right: Tom Donohoe (Atlanta Rowing Club founder), Jim Kambourain (Fulton County senior planner), Ulrich Lemcke (Atlanta Rowing Club chairman), Warren Beach (superintendent of Chattahoochee River Park Recreation Area), Will Macoy (Atlanta Rowing Club President), Lee Whitesdie (Atlanta Rowing Club past president), Ed Bauer (Atlanta Rowing Club past president), Lee Roach (Fulton County Commissioner), Mrs. Warren Beach, Mrs. Lee Roach, Scott Weiss (Atlanta Rowing Club past president)

In its early days, the Atlanta Rowing Club was a collection of boats stored at the Stone Mountain Golf Pro Shop. Nearly a decade later the Atlanta Rowing Club would move to its current location in Roswell, GA on Azalea Dr. At the time, however, there was no "boathouse" but a boat shack that is said to have fit part of a 4+ (coxed four) with the bow and stern sticking out. In 1987 the Club completed construction on a new boathouse and later added a second-floor deck. This is the boathouse that we continue to use today.

The Atlanta Rowing Club has been a shepherd of rowing in Atlanta. Along the stretch of the Chattahoochee River where the Club now resides, ARC has played a part in facilitating the inception of Atlanta Juniors Rowing Association, St. Andrews Rowing Association, and the Georgia Tech Rowing Club. ARC also currently offers storage and facilities for Westminster High School and Georgia State University. On Stone Mountain Lake where the club originated, the Emory Rowing Club now has their equipment and facilities.

In recognition of Tom's dedication and contribution to the southeastern rowing community, Atlanta Rowing Club named an 8+ (coxed eight) after him. Today, the Tom Donohoe is used to train new rowers in Learn to Row and the club's recreational programs. What started as a group of 6-8 men rowing small boats on Stone Mountain Lake is now a powerhouse of masters rowing in the southeast. This great powerhouse now has over 280 members and a boathouse with dozens of private shells and nearly 50 club shells.



Courtesy of Teresa Wright

In the regatta program for the second annual Head of the Hooch(R) regatta in 1983 Tom Donohoe is featured in a 1x (single).





Courtesy of Teresa Wright

Tom Donohoe was charismatic and brought life to club parties! Sherri Kent (left) and Mike Maddalena (right) hold the limbo stick while Jeff McKenna is ready to catch Tom!





Courtesy of Teresa Wright

Tom Donohoe stands next to the boat dedicated in his name at the Atlanta Rowing Club in 2003.

Courtesy of Teresa Wright

In a sport like this -- hard work, not much glory... well, there must be some beauty which ordinary men can't see, but extraordinary men do.

- George Pocock

Courtesy of Teresa Wright

Roman Lesnau (left) and Daniel Wolff (right) win the gold medal at the 1995 Masters Nationals regatta at Lake Phalen in St. Paul, MN. Gold medalists received a crown of ivy much like ancient Greek athletes.





Daniel has been at the forefront of the Head of the Hooch(R) as its Regatta Director for nearly TWO DECADES!





Courtesy of Robert Geisler

In 2013 the Atlanta Rowing Club in conjunction with the Southeastern Adaptive Scullers hosted an adaptive rowing regatta with athletes from Georgia and Florida.





Courtesy of Caryn Oxford

Daniel's warmth and positivity have shaped both the Atlanta Rowing Club and the Head of the Hooch® regatta. To many at both organizations he was like family, a friend, a colleague, and a mentor.

Daniel Wolff

February 27, 1961 - March 16, 2020


Daniel started his rowing career in his native country of France where he was a junior national champion! In 1994 Daniel joined the Atlanta Rowing Club and competed under the ARC banner at the local, regional, and national levels. As a coach, Daniel worked with several high school boys helping them to train for national and international competitions. Most recently, Daniel coached the Georgia State University crew team from 2019 - 2020. Daniel was a leader among leaders at the Atlanta Rowing Club and held positions of Boat Captain (1996 - 1998), President (1999 - 2001), and Head of the Hooch® Regatta Director from 2002 - 2019.

Daniel may be known best for his leadership at the annual Head of the Hooch® regatta that is currently held in Chattanooga, TN. Currently maintaining the title as the nation's second-largest regatta, the Head of the Hooch® regatta had its humble beginnings in 1982 on the Chattahoochee River in front of the Atlanta Rowing Club boathouse. In its first year, 225 athletes raced in 105 entries from nine clubs and six universities traveling from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Ohio, and Tennessee. In 1997 the regatta moved to the 1996 Olympic Rowing venue at Lake Lanier in Gainesville, GA.

In 2005, the Atlanta Rowing Club joined forces with Lookout Rowing Club in Chattanooga, TN to move the Head of the Hooch® regatta to the Tennessee River in downtown Chattanooga. What started as a hundred boats on the Chattahoochee River had grown to over 1,000 boats at Lake Lanier where the regatta had once again outgrown its venue.

Under 15 years of Daniel's leadership and with the commitment and dedication of the Hooch committee and countless volunteers the Head of the Hooch® regatta is now the nation's second-largest regatta with over 6,000 athletes racing in 2,100 boats and an estimated 15,000 spectators. The Head of the Hooch® is hailed as the "Last of the great fall regattas" and has received notoriety from the rowing community including Chip Davis at Rowing Magazine in 2016:

The Hooch has such an amazing[ly] positive and energized yet laid-back vibe, which is so different from what we experience elsewhere and is the best way to conclude the fall rowing season.

Courtesy of Caryn Oxford

Daniel saw rowing as everyone's sport and was committed to engaging athletes from all walks of life. In the early 2000s Daniel continued an effort that had started previously at the Club to build an adaptive rowing program. Without much support from the adaptive sports community the effort didn't gain traction until 2011 when Daniel and his partner Caryn encouraged a small group of Atlanta Rowing Club members to revitalize the program.

Since 2011 the Atlanta Rowing Club's adaptive and para-rowing programs have blossomed from training just 3 wheelchair athletes in its first year to training  nearly 30 athletes every week. The program has partnered with organizations such as Blaze Sports AtlantaJust People, and USRowing's Freedom Rows to offer coaching to people with cognitive, physical, and visual impairments as well as veterans.

In 2012, Daniel advocated for adaptive events to be added to the event list for the Head of the Hooch® regatta and the annual event has hosted para and adaptive athletes ever since. Athletes have traveled from as far as Washington, DC and San Diego, CA to compete in Chattanooga.

Daniel's leadership in the rowing community has built an arena for competitive rowing on a national platform. His influence has also resulted in expanding the opportunities for adaptive and para-athletes to row recreationally on the Chattahoochee River as well as competitively on the Tennessee River.

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The Atlanta Rowing Club continues its commitment to foster and perpetuate the sport of rowing for the southeastern community at large. Tom Donohoe and Daniel Wolff were visionaries and imagined a recreational and competitive arena for rowing before it was a household sport. Today, we continue their legacy and build on their vision.

Trophy banner photo courtesy of Bryce Chung     |     Ladies banner photo courtesy of Teresa Wright