Head of the Charles Blows Expectations Out of the Water
by Haley Hunt on Friday, November 6th, 2015
The Head of the Charles Regatta, the world’s biggest two day rowing (or sculling) event, features over 11,000 rowers between the ages of 18 and 80. The rowers compete in categories ranging from club to college to Olympic teams. With over fifty-five events, involving almost 2,000 boats over the two-day period, fans always have something to look forward to. The three-mile race begins at Boston University’s Boathouse by the BU Bridge and finishes just past the Eliot Bridge in Brighton. A “head” is a type of regatta (boat race), in which boats depart at fifteen-second intervals in a three-mile race, with the winner being crowned as the “head”. Becoming the annual “Head” of the Charles, which comes with an Olympic-quality gold medal, is a title that all professional rowers aspire to achieve. This year, the 51st annual Head of the Charles fell on October 17-18, and attracted massive crowds of nearly 300,000 spectators lining upon on both sides of the river to support the competitors.
On Saturday, rowers were forced to compete in the unusual weather of seventeen mile per hour headwinds. The outcome, however, was no surprise. New Zealand’s Mahé Drysdale and Newton’s own Gevvi Stone won the men’s and women’s races, respectively. These two Olympians, along with their competitors, spend the year racing all over the planet, with both champions having captured the Head of the Charles title several times. Stone, America’s best female sculler, claimed her sixth crown in just under forty-three seconds, while Drysdale, a five-time world champion and London titlist, overpowered his competitors in a ten-second race to the finish line.
Sunday’s schedule of events saw the club and college crew teams go head-to-head, with the country’s top colleges seeing extremely positive results. The Yale University men’s eights team in particular had an excellent race, as they outmuscled the California men’s team by less than 0.7 seconds to win their fourth title of the year and first Head of the Charles victory. Yale’s time, 14:18.97, was the fastest the three-mile course had seen in four years. Succeeding these top-two finishers was Harvard, followed by Washington and Boston University. In the women’s division, the University of California, Berkeley’s team surpassed expectations—defeating last season’s #1 ranked Brown University and claimed the championship eights race.
In addition to the races, this popular event features displays by boat builders, rowing and fitness expos, other sponsorship presentations, and of course, a variety of different foods. For example, Team USA hosted former Olympic gold medal gymnast Nastia Liukin for a meet and greet with this year’s competitors. All of this action takes place in Reunion Village, an area with tents set up by sponsors and participants. Attracting numerous spectators from the heart of Boston and thousands of fans from around the world, the Head of the Charles is a terrific event recommended for all, regardless of your involvement in rowing.
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