Metro Weekly

DC Strokes’ annual Stonewall Regatta reaches record number of entrants

D.C.'s LGBT rowing club to dedicate its newest vessel at nationally-recognized rowing competition


Members of the DC Strokes Competitive Team warm up for a race. Photo credit: Paul Heaton

DC Strokes Rowing Club, the oldest LGBT rowing club in the world, will host the 22nd annual Stonewall Regatta, featuring more than 20 rowing clubs and 470 rowers from across the United States, on June 7.

DC Strokes will also take a moment at this year’s regatta to dedicate a new boat, its 11th overall, known as “The Big Mo,” a $24,000 Vespoli boat for four rowers. With the addition of The Big Mo, the DC Strokes fleet has more than doubled since 2010. The club owns 11 boats and related equipment valued at nearly $500,000. The Big Mo’s name comes from the club’s momentum, as DC Strokes has grown, not only in membership, but in terms of national prominence, with the Stonewall Regatta attracting more entrants from around the country — and in previous years, from around the globe. 

“This year, what’s significant is we’re seeing a record number of entries,” says Paul Heaton, a member of and spokesman for DC Strokes. “This is a regatta starting to grow in size and prestige.”

Started in 1994, the Stonewall Regatta, the only LGBT regatta to be officially sanctioned by US Rowing, features a number of different races, including single-rower (1 person, 2 oars), double-rower (2 people, 2 oars each), pair (2 people, 1 oar each), quad (4 rowers, 2 oars each), four-member (4 rowers with 1 oar each, plus a coxswain for steering and motivation, eight-member (8 rowers, 2 oars each, 1 coxswain), and specially modified boats for rowers with physical or intellectual disabilities in adaptive events.  Races will run every eight minutes, beginning at 8 a.m. and running to 4 p.m. The course starts just north of the 11th Street Bridge and weaves down the Anacostia River, finishing at the Anacostia Community Boat House. 

The regatta, which occurs during D.C.’s Pride season, is named after the Stonewall Inn in New York’s Greenwich Village, where a series of demonstrations following a police raid sparked the beginning of the gay rights movement. The event also serves as a kick-off to several other rowing competitions in the Mid-Atlantic region, such as the Schuylkill Navy Regatta in Philadelphia, the Virginia Boat Club Sprints Masters Regatta, in Midlothian, Va., and the Charm City Sprints in Baltimore.

“It’s great for DC Strokes to be able to host people from all over the country, and to being so many competitive rowers to the D.C. area to explore all we have to offer,” says Heaton. 

The Stonewall Regatta will take place on June 7 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Spectators can watch the races from the Anacostia Community Boat House, 1900 M St. SE. Admission is free. Parking and shuttles will be provided from Maritime Plaza, 1201 M St. SE. For more information on the regatta, visit For more information on DC Strokes and its program offerings, visit

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at