The Head of the Charles Regatta, held annually in Boston, Mass. during the third full weekend of October, is not just a competition — it is a tradition that has captivated the hearts and souls of rowers and spectators alike for the past 51 years. Rowing teams from around the globe, spanning every age group and experience level, partake in the regatta, which is widely considered to be the largest in the world.
The course on which the crews compete which divides the cities of Cambridge and Boston, spans three miles. However, distance is not the main obstacle in this race. Instead, a series of tricky turns and changing traffic patterns through a succession of bridges play an important role in determining the regatta’s best crews. Hard strokes are not enough to come out on top, and each crew’s ability to maneuver around a complex course can easily make or break their performance.
The men’s and women’s rowing teams fielded three entries in the two-day regatta: the men’s collegiate four on Saturday, and the men’s and women’s collegiate eights on Sunday. These events followed world-class championship races of Olympian caliber and were just three of 63 total events that took place over the weekend.
The men’s collegiate four launched against a slight headwind late Saturday afternoon under partly cloudy skies and a glimpse of sunshine.
The entry of senior stroke Jackson Horwitz, senior tri-captain Jonathan Lapadula, senior Andrew Warren, sophomore bow Matt Cohen and senior coxswain Maria Karam was able to keep its distance from other boats, allowing the crew to row its own race free from distraction. With a half-mile to the finish line, the men’s collegiate four was able to pass a single boat and ultimately finish a few lengths ahead of Colby. This was a personal victory for Tufts as Colby — a rival in the NESCAC — had previously overtaken Tufts at the Head of the Snake in Worcester, Mass. on Oct. 10, passing Tufts by a quarter length at the finish line.
Tufts men’s collegiate four finished 19th in a field of 46 with a time of 18:13.521, securing the crew an entry in next year’s Head of the Charles.
“We were very happy with where we finished,” Horwitz said. “A top half finish in a field of stacked collegiate fours shows just how far Tufts crew has come in the short time we’ve had with our new head coach, Noel [Wanner].”
In a renowned regatta like the Head of the Charles, entries are not guaranteed to all those who wish to compete. For sweep boat entries like those of the collegiate four and eight, hopeful entrants for next year’s regatta must finish in the top half of the event in which they competed the previous year.
The crew program returned Sunday in the late afternoon to compete in the men’s and women’s collegiate eights events under chillier and windier conditions than those on Saturday.
The men’s collegiate eight raced ahead of the women with an entry of first-year stroke Ryan Bell, sophomore Andrew MacMillen, senior tri-captain Jon Williams, first-year Chandler Glass, sophomore Tyler Hagedorn, junior Tyler McCullough, senior Zhuangchen Zhou, junior tri-captain and bow Zach Merchant, along with first-year coxswain Hannah Frankel — the same line-up that came home with a bronze-medal win at the Head of the Snake.
Even under treacherous conditions, the men’s collegiate eight was able to hold its own in a field of Div. I schools and historic crews, passing the University of North Carolina near the finish line.
“Thanks to a quick cutting turn under [the] Eliot Bridge by our coxswain Hannah and some powerful strokes, we were able to overtake [UNC] in the last 500 meters,” McCullough said.
The men’s collegiate eight finished in the middle of the pack, placing 22nd in a field of 41 and clocking in at 16:12.852.
“We would have liked to finish higher than we did, but we did finish 14 spots higher than last year,” McCullough said. “We’re a very young crew, so I’m excited to see what’s ahead.”
Quickly following the men’s collegiate eight in the next event was the women’s collegiate eight. The entry consisted of senior stroke Claire Sleigh, senior Emma Wells, sophomore Emma Conroy, senior co-captain Rachel Siegler, senior Leah Fortson, first-year Elizabeth Lichter, first-year Madeleine Orzeske, senior bow Kate Ainsworth and senior coxswain and co-captain Kellie King.
Working against the cold and wind of Sunday afternoon, the women’s collegiate eight had trouble at the start and in the first mile of their race. The crew found it difficult to achieve the same clean blade work they had perfected over the season’s practices, but they easily warmed up heading into the second third of the course.
“The most dramatic part for us was definitely the [turn at the Eliot Bridge],” King said. “The course got extremely crowded at that point, and steering was very tight.”
Navigating around other crews and turns is among the most difficult and stressful responsibilies for a coxswain, as it requires the full attention and cooperation of the rowers in order to execute each command properly.
“[The] rowers performed wonderfully [at the Eliot Bridge], kept things calm and were responsive to all my calls,” King said. “Without that, we wouldn’t have been able to cleanly navigate the turn and bridge.”
The efforts and cooperation of the women’s collegiate eight brought it to the finish line in the first quarter of all entries in the event, securing the boat an entry in next year’s race. The crew finished eighth in a field of 32 with a time of 18:11.474 against highly ranked Div. I schools, demonstrating the high caliber and seasoned expertise of the program.
After a weekend of racing surrounded by some of the best rowers and crews in the world, the men’s and women’s crews have a brief period of rest before their final regatta of the fall racing season. The Jumbos will be back in action for the last time this fall at the Head of the Fish Regatta in Saratoga, N.Y. on Oct. 31.