The Head of the Charles Regatta (HOCR) is the premier fall rowing event in the nation, featuring some of the top rowers in the world, young rowers eager to make their mark, and masters rowers taking decades of their craft and love of competition to the Charles River in Boston. As in past years, T.C. Williams High School was well represented among the thousands of competitors, a tribute to its rowing heritage and the many rowers who call the Potomac their rowing home. I was privileged and proud to be there too.
Rowers found excellent conditions on the Charles this year, with afternoon highs in the low 60s, and mostly light breezes. The beautiful weather drew tens of thousands of spectators, lining the 4800 meter (almost 3-miles) course and crowding the six bridges under which the athletes propelled sleek rowing shells to the finish line.
Fall head races like the HOCR are more than double the length of the typical spring and Olympic 2000-meter sprints, putting a premium on endurance. Unlike spring races, fall head races launch boats in a single lane in 10-15 second increments, as opposed to side-by-side heats that pick a limited number of boats for the finals.
This race format and HOCR course also put a premium on steering the boat and strategy, with rowers and aggressive coxswains making strategic moves to pass other boats. The sharp turns on the Charles and the narrowed lanes under the six bridges resulted in a number of clashing oars and boats crashing into one another as they jockeyed for position.
HOCR Day 2 competitions included a morning run in the 85-boat Women’s Youth Eights category by the Old Dominion Boat Club, featuring local high school rowers Elle Krese, Kaitlyn Dennis, Nicola Harris, Adrienne Carter, Grace Yokitis, Wellesley Snyder, Madeline Toaso, Katherine Capitan, and coxswain Caroline Miles. This young crew finished 47th with a time of 18:14.605, in an event won by RowAmerica, a club from Rye, NY. The ODBC coaches are TC Williams alumni JoBelle Cruz and Emily Jayne.
In the early afternoon, T.C. Williams High School 2018 grad Grace Asch rowed in the 3 seat for the Syracuse University Orange in the Women’s Championship Fours category, finishing 8th in the 14-boat field with a time of 18:19.204. This spirited event, won by rowing powerhouse University of Washington, also featured other top tier teams from Stanford University and a handful of Ivy League schools.
Half an hour later, Asch’s T.C. classmate Connor McGivern, also donning an orange uniform but with the distinctive “V” for the University of Virginia Rowing Association, pulled an oar in the engine room number 4 seat in the Men’s Collegiate 8 category. In his second year competing for UVA at the HOCR, McGivern and his crew finished 15th in a field of 38 with a time of 15:00.310. A Boston team from MIT grabbed first place on their home water in the Collegiate 8, a race that also featured perennial competitors from the University of Michigan, the University of Notre Dame, and the University of Delaware.
This year’s HOCR included 2263 entries from 762 clubs, including boats from the U.S. National team and their international competitors. The 55th annual HOCR continued a trend of drawing an increasing number of overseas contestants, with entries from 23 countries including regulars from premier Canadian and European rowing clubs and teams from as far as Australia, New Zealand, China, and South Africa.