Rowers from up and down the East Coast will converge on Washington today for the 10th Scullers' Head of the Potomac Regatta.

After weeks of restless practice for many clubs and colleges, the annual event kicks off the fall season and is the first competition that many squads have had.

Although the crew season does not officially start until spring, the Potomac regatta is the first of three major fall events on the East Coast; Boston and Philadelphia are host to the others.

The event's headquarters are at the Potomac Boat Club on Water Street next to Key Bridge. The first of 21 events commences at 9 a.m. and the regatta tentatively runs until 3:30.

The crews will negotiate a three-mile course that starts two miles above Key Bridge, along the Virginia shoreline, and ends just above Roosevelt Bridge.

Spectators will find excellent viewing from the end of Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown, the banks of Roosevelt Island, the Washington Harbour complex and the Harry T. Thompson Boat Center.

The regatta is different from others in that it is head racing, which entails teams leaving at 10-second intervals and racing against the clock rather than directly against each other.

Another unusual feature is that it combines sculling (rowers use two oars) and sweeping (one oar), and most teams are not experienced at both skills.

There also are events for single scullers as well as the popular, speedy octuple, which features eight rowers with two oars each.

Local entries include Occoquan, Potomac and Baltimore boat clubs, as well as Georgetown, George Washington, George Mason, Virginia and William and Mary.

Navy, the perennial favorite, is bringing 84 rowers and is expected to dominate the field again this year.