Six times for Stone at Head of the Charles
A blustery cold front hit Boston, USA as rowers and spectators descended on the Charles River for the 51st edition of the Head of the Charles Regatta. While the sun was shining, temperatures neared freezing for the estimated 400,000 spectators that line the banks of the Charles River to watch the event.
In the women’s championship single, Boston resident, Genevra Stone took advantage of her local knowledge of the Charles course to win for the sixth time. Stone is currently the top US women's single sculler and finished fourth at this year's World Rowing Championships. Stone beat Kathleen Bertko, the 2015 World Rowing Championship bronze medallist in the lightweight single, from the United States. Stone's winning margin was 43 seconds and Stone admitted afterwards that she enjoys racing into a headwind, especially on her home course in front of home crowds. Behind Bertko margins were tight with American Lindsay Meyer beating Anne Andersen from Denmark after Andersen received a five second penalty which put her one second behind Meyer.
The men’s championship single saw the return of Olympic Champion Mahe Drysdale from New Zealand. Drysdale now hold three titles from Head of the Charles after he beat 2014 Head of the Charles winner from the United States, Andrew Campbell. Campbell, a lightweight sculler on the United States’ national team and a Boston local, managed third this year behind John Graves who is also on the US national team.
The winding 4800m course can provide quite a challenge for those who do not know how to navigate it. It begins downstream, at the point where the wide basin narrows into the Charles River. Crews warm up in the basin and arrange themselves in numbered order before being called to start, one by one. In the first few strokes they cross under the Boston University Bridge and Railroad Bridge. Competitors will cross under five more bridges and take in five major turns before reaching the finish line.
Spectators crowd Eliot Bridge, the last bridge before the finish line, as it includes a tricky turn that sometimes sees crews misjudge the turn or try to overtake the boat in front of them and crash as they try to squeeze in between the bridge abutments.
The turns, bridges, other boats, currents and more means a home course advantage can be the golden ticket to success. But despite being a tough race, the regatta continues to grow in popularity. It is now the largest rowing regatta in the world, boasting almost 11,000 participants from juniors, collegiate, elite, para and masters rowers.
Being a pre-Olympic year, entries from elite international crews were down on other years, notably the lack of the well-known “Great Eight” composite crews, made up of the best rowers from around the world. This meant that the men’s and women’s championship eights were all about the collegiate crews. The men’s side saw an extremely close race between Yale University and the University of California Berkeley (Cal). Cal had the advantage at Weld Boathouse, but by Eliot Bridge and the approach to the finish line, Yale had made their move. After a 14 minute race, Yale got the better of Cal by just 0.7 seconds. Harvard University finished just two seconds behind in third.
Cal women, made their mark in the women's eight. In their first appearance in 13 years, California Berkeley women went off the start line first and did not look back. They managed an impressive 25 second win over Brown University who followed in second. Former Champions the University of Virginia had to settle for the bronze.
"The 2015 Head of the Charles was a smashing success,” says Executive Director Fred Schoch. “Despite strong winds, great rowing prevailed. Massive crowds lined the Charles River to cheer on over 10,000 rowers. Another chapter of Head of the Charles history has been written. We look forward to hosting the rowing community after the Rio Olympics.”
University crew from around the United States will continue their autumn head racing season through November, while some of the top single scullers including Drysdale and Stone, will now head south to Philadelphia for the Gold Cup Regatta on 24 October.
The 2016 Head of the Charles Regatta will be held from 22-23 October.
For full results from the event, click here.