Mahe Drysdale of New Zealand at the 2011 Head of the Charles Regatta.

This race signals the start of a new collegiate rowing season. It signals the annual meet-up and competition for a large number of masters rowers. It also signals the beginning of World Champion, Mahe Drysdale’s annual post-season rowing tour.

Five-time World Champion in the men’s single, Drysdale of New Zealand took away the winning place in the championship men’s single. Drysdale easily beat last year’s winner, Michael Sivigny of the United States by 28 seconds over the 4,800m winding rowing course. This gives Drysdale his second win in the single at the Head of the Charles.

Local rower Gevvie Stone defended her title in the championship women’s single. Stone trains on the Charles River and acknowledged that having the support of the local crowd and knowing the course intimately was a huge advantage. Stone, who has won three times in four years, finished 27 seconds ahead of New Zealand’s Emma Twigg. Twigg was the bronze medallist at this year’s World Rowing Championships and, like Drysdale, she is on tour at present.

Drysdale, Stone, Twigg and United States lightweight phenomenon Andrew Campbell, who was third at this year’s World Rowing Under 23 Championships, then teamed up to race in the Directors Challenge men’s quadruple sculls. Under the name Kiweagle, the team finished second, three seconds down on GMS Rowing Centre. 

The championship men’s double sculls went to Peter and Tom Graves. The Graves brothers competed this year on the United States national team as the double. They finished ahead of the lightweight duo of Andrew Campbell and Austin Meyer. The women’s double was a hard race to pick as the race was dominated by new combinations. Jennifer Goldsack and Jan Daley finished first just heading off O’Leary and Garnier.

The lightweight singles were dominated by US national team representatives. Winner of this year’s World Rowing Cup series in the lightweight double, Kristin Hedstrom (USA) finished first ahead of last year’s lightweight double representative, Abelyn Broughton. For the men, Jonathan Winter, who competed internationally this year in the lightweight double, took line honours ahead of Sam Cunningham.

Both the championship men’s and women’s eight were won by United States university crews. Local crew Harvard University were first for the men in a fitting tribute to their coach, Harry Parker who is currently undergoing treatment for cancer. Parker, who continues to coach, could not hide his delight when his crew received their winning trophy. Harvard last won the men’s eight in 1977 – also under Coach Parker.

The University of Virginia won the championship women’s eight finishing eight seconds ahead of local university crew, Radcliffe. The University of Michigan were third. The World Champion United States women’s eight did not compete but still came to the regatta and were in big demand by autograph hunters.

Richard Kendall defended his title in the senior veterans men’s single for the 70+ age group. Kendall is 81 and gains a handicap of 12 seconds for every year over 70. He has won 12 of the last 13 years only missing one year due to health issues.

Introduced for the first time this year, the adaptive TA mixed double sculls went to Jacqueline Kapinowski and Anthony Davis. Kapinowski and Davis went into the race as favourites as they represented the United States in this event at the 2011 World Rowing Championships where they finished ninth.

The Head of the Charles is one of the biggest head races in the world and on each day crowds of over 150,000 were estimated along the shores of the Charles River.