The event, hosted by the Grand Valley State University Rowing Club, features most of the top crew programs from across the Midwest — including teams from Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Cincinnati, Eastern Michigan and Drake universities.
The regatta has come a long way in a short time, according to John Bancheri, director of GVSU Rowing. He said the number of participants has increased as the race grew in popularity in the Midwest, and throughout the United States and Canada,
"More importantly, the increased competitiveness of club rowing programs in the past five years has brought a whole new level of boat speed to the Lubbers Cup," said Bancheri, who is also GVSU's varsity men's coach.
Recently, winning the Lubbers Cup has served as a springboard to success on the national stage.
"For the last three years, the winner of the Lubbers Cup was also the winner of the ACRA (American Collegiate Rowing Association) National Championship Regatta," Bancheri said. "This in and of itself proves the high level of competition to which the event has risen. The Lubbers Cup has become an early-season event that shows the rowing world who has the speed needed to compete at the national level."
Racing action begins at 8:30 Saturday morning and concludes at 2 that afternoon. The race course has been altered from previous years and will start at the west end of Spring Lake, near Veits Landing. The race will continue past the Spring Lake Yacht Club and finish at Lakeside Beach in Spring Lake, which will allow better viewing opportunities for spectators.
In addition to the college race, a high school race has been added. Teams from Rockford, Cranbrook Prep (Detroit), Absegami (New Jersey) and St. Augustine Prep (New Jersey) high schools will participate in a special morning race on Saturday.
The Chamber of Commerce Grand Haven-Spring Lake-Ferrysburg helps plan the event, and Chamber President Joy Gaasch said the regatta is a great advertisement for West Michigan.
"Our reasons for being involved are, first, to create a stronger and more visible tie with GVSU in Northwest Ottawa County, (and) to build a sporting event on Spring Lake that has the history of rowing, which goes back to the late 1800s," Gaasch said. "And thirdly, to educate these kids and their parents about our area."
While it's difficult to put a dollar value on the economic impact the regatta has in the Tri-Cities, Gaasch said it's clear the hotels in the area receive a boost from the event, and that shops and restaurants in downtown Grand Haven also benefit.
"Last year, downtown (Grand Haven) was just packed because people came downtown to eat after their kids' races," Gaasch said, noting that around 600 college students participate in the regatta.
The Chamber of Commerce will have a hospitality tent set up at Spring Lake Yacht Club, sponsored by several area businesses, with the goal of showcasing the Tri-Cities.
"These kids could eventually be new residents, or their parents could be visiting and say, 'Wow, wouldn't this be a great place to retire,'" Gaasch said. "This is community promotion at its finest."
A shuttle service has been set up in order to help spectators get to and from the Spring Lake Yacht Club. Only those with passes will be allowed to park at the yacht club on Saturday. Everyone else should park at Water Tower Park, at the corner of VanWagoner and West Spring Lake roads, and take the shuttle to the club.
Spectators can also watch the action from Lakeside Beach in Spring Lake.