Head of the Charles targets 4702 and goes globally remote
This was rowing as never seen before. For almost half a century, the Head of the Charles Regatta has made Boston, United States a premier autumn destination for rowers from around the world. This year, the event best known simply as ‘The Charles’, has reinvented itself in fantastic fashion as the 4702 Global Remote Event.
In a showcase of our sport’s resolve to push onwards during this global pandemic, the race took place in three virtual formats, boasting a total of 2326 entries from 30 nations. That number exceeds the regatta’s all-time record of 2263 entries set in 2019.
“Given the new format of this event, we could not be more thrilled about the reception we are getting from the global rowing community,” says Dan Beckham, media and PR Coordinator for the event.
“The Head of the Charles is like Christmas for rowers,” says Beckham. “The pomp and circumstance, the global interest, the reunions, it really stands as a landmark event each fall and an opportunity for the rowing community to come around for the love of the sport and experience the energy and magic of the race in Boston. There are so many intangibles that make it very special.”
Capturing those intangibles in an online event was never going to be easy. The organisers aimed to make it as broadly accessible as possible.
Keeping it accessible and exciting
Two of the three formats, “4702 Erg” and “4702 Water” gave rowers the option to race on any type of rowing machine or in any boat, submitting their results over the 4702 metres in the week leading up to the main “Live” event.
The “4702 Live” event was held Saturday 17th October. Through the wizardry of Netherlands based technology company, Time Team, individual rowers were able to connect from barns, basements and boathouses in even the remotest corners of the globe. A team of experienced announcers based in Seattle and Cambridge in the United States as well as London and Henley on Thames in the United Kingdom brought the racing to life as digital markers vied for position along a map of the course broadcast live online.
Watching on computer screens from the comfort of home, spectators could be excused for forgetting that the rowers were actually sitting on rowing machines thousands of kilometres apart rather than clashing blades and dodging bridge abutments on the actual Charles River. And that’s exactly what thee organisers were hoping for.
A notable feature of the live racing was that many event categories were able to take to the virtual water at the same time as the regatta moved through a series of ten aggregated races with results ranked and individual categories indicated.
The overall top time in the 4702 Live race on the women’s side came from the University of Washington’s Mackenna Cameron, who raced in the collegiate women’s category and posted 17:32.0 to lead the final women’s race of the day.
In men’s racing, the time of the day came from Steven Payne of Canada’s Victoria City Rowing Club, whose time of 15:16.2 was enough to top the ranking in the final men’s race of the day.
Measuring the course
As for results the event’s name, “4702” wasn’t just some random number. “That’s the official distance of the course,” says Beckham. “The course distance has been something shrouded in mystery. People would often toss out the idea that it was three miles (4828m), but it was deliberately not measured officially, to give the rowing community something to talk about. We are excited to finally put a stake on what the actual distance is.”
While Beckham isn’t sure if knowing the true course distance will have any impact on the timing and calculation of results at future in-person regattas, “it’s something for our incredible team of timers to talk about.”
Find full results here.
Find more information about the 4702 Global Remote Event and the Head of the Charles here.