Men’s and women’s rowing teams succeed at Head of the Charles

The women's first varsity eight boat is pictured at the Head of the Charles Regatta. Courtesy Tufts Rowing

Both the men’s and women’s rowing teams competed in the three-mile course at the annual Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston over the weekend, continuing their respective remarkable fall seasons. 

The women’s first varsity eight boat raced with a time of 17:41.80, finishing fifth out of 40 teams. The second varsity boat finished 14th in the race, with a time of 18:09.94. The men’s team was equally impressive, with the first varsity eight boat finishing with a time of 15:23.50, coming in eighth out of 39 crews in the race. 

Junior Meagan Matt, co-captain and the fifth seat of the first varsity eight boat, recounted the exhilarating but taxing race with excitement.

“Going into it we were trying to remain as positive as possible and enjoy the experience … The Head of the Charles is a bit of a chaotic race always,” Matt said. “Our coxswain did an amazing job at adapting accordingly, and we were able to stay calm and keep consistency which is what paid off for us.” 

The Head of the Charles course is known for a tricky turn at a bend near Elliot Bridge, which befuddles many coxswains and can ultimately cost teams a race. However, the coxswains for both the men’s and women’s teams were able to maneuver the turn with grace, contributing to both boats’ strong finishes. 

The men’s boat encountered two other collided boats near the bend, and the women had an encounter with Hamilton’s crew that forced them to stop rowing for a few strokes. 

“Hamilton was in front of us and we were catching up and they didn’t yield at first, so we had to stop at one point in the race, which was a bit frustrating but good in the end because we had such a rage we decided to just walk on them once we got the space,” Matt said. 

While the Head of the Charles is known as an extremely competitive race in the rowing community, the team was more focused on the long-term goals of the spring than getting bogged down in the stress of one fall weekend.

“Our coach tries to de-emphasize the Head of the Charles as much as possible,” Matt said. “We’re going for the championships in the spring so the race is technically negligible in terms of our standings in the NCAA. … We try to have the race be a reflection of the practice we’ve put it in the fall as opposed to the biggest deal of the year.”

The women have been working hard this season, constantly switching positions especially between the second and third varsity boats to find the best combinations.

“Every week we’re trying to get better,” Matt said. “Our team carries a growth mindset, so we reflect on individual changes that can be made from the race before. … We continue to look forward and promote the unity we’ve been carrying throughout the season.”

Next weekend will mark the end of the fall season for both rowing teams at the Head of the Fish Regatta in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. until they officially start back up again in March. While the winter may seem long, Matt believes it is key to winning in the spring.

“Winter can be easily overlooked, but I would argue it is one of the most important times for our sport,” Matt said. “There will be a continuation of the trajectory we’ve been on that will last us towards the spring.”

The first fall season back from COVID has been a success for the women’s rowing team so far with less restrictions.

“It’s exciting to have a full season back with the team … it’s been a celebration of [togetherness] and has been good to be on the water with everyone again,” Matt said.


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