Charles Regatta – A Recap

Rowers race beneath a bridge. Photo by Elizabeth Coyle.

Rowers race beneath a bridge. Photo by Elizabeth Coyle.

It’s been a few weeks since the Head of the Charles, and muddied banks are the only indication that thousands of people recently converged upon the river. While the trampled grass grows back for next year’s regatta, you too can use the coming year to periodically cross the Week’s pedestrian bridge and watch rowers practice on the water below. After the approaching winter months, the frigid waters will thaw for spring sprints and before you know it, the Head of the Charles will be back.

Weld Boathouse. Photo By Elizabeth Coyle.

Weld Boathouse. Photo By Elizabeth Coyle.

In case you missed it, here’s a Head of the Charles Regatta Recap:

Both mornings of the regatta started off cold, too cold to be anywhere near water if you weren’t a rowing enthusiast. Sunday warmed into a sunny afternoon, but Saturday brought heavy rainfall for much of the day. Several venders closed up shop and the pedestrian pass-through beneath the bridges flooded out. But the racers rowed on. Their coaches, teammates, and a few brave souls cheered from the sidelines despite several inches of mud sloshing beneath their feet.

There’s something cathartic about participating in an outdoor sport that occurs in all weather conditions. You get used to the mud and perpetually damp clothes. It’s not uncomfortable, it’s just part of the race.

Breakdown of a fall Regatta:

Fall regattas are all about endurance. The 5000 meter course is over twice as long as a spring sprint, and your boat competes entirely against the clock. There aren’t heats and semi-finals; there’s just one race. You have one shot to medal and you’re rowing against yourself. Any moments of head to head racing in the middle of the race only occur when one boat overtakes a slower one. You can win by hundredths of a second, but you’d never be able to see it at the finish line the way you would during a sprint. This all adds up to races that test the grit and determination of the rowers as much, if not more so, than their ability to row a clean race.

In a head to head sprint, you’re motivated by your competitors pulling away or lagging behind, but a fall race is entirely mental. This is important to understand when watching a distance race since you can’t possible follow them the length of the course, and the few brief moments they row beside you, it may look as if their leisurely stroking their way towards the finish line. As a former rower, let me assure you that that is not the case. A distance race is a battle against yourself. It is a true competition.

Finish Line at The Head of the Charles. Photo by Elizabeth Coyle.

Finish Line at The Head of the Charles. Photo by Elizabeth Coyle.

Charles Regatta: Recap

Sunday’s races brought out thousands more spectators than rainy Saturday. The sun broke through and dried everyone off. Straw had been haphazardly tossed over any remaining mud, more for the benefit of the spectators than the athletes. Vendors sold wares and passed our free goodies, and the rowers raced, the same as the day before. The only difference was the larger crowds on each bridge, so they had a slightly greater chance of hearing cheers as they raced by.

Even as a spectator with no personal interest in the races, you could walk through the dense crowds sipping mulled cider or eating clam chowder from a bread bowl. You could learn about rowing technique, pose with oars in front a photo of the river, or meet our US rowing team, and touch their Olympic medals.

A regatta is a cultural event. It’s a sport unlike any other. When the races begin again next year on the Charles River, you’ll be ready to join the crowds along the shore.

– Elizabeth Coyle, Content writer