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Another Head of the Charles Regatta and Another Anniversary – Or Two

by Ed Moran, ed@usrowing.org | Oct 15, 2015
Fred Schoch has seen his share of significant Head of the Charles Regatta moments. One of the biggest was last fall, when the most famous head race in the world celebrated its 50th anniversary.
fred1BOSTON, Mass. – Fred Schoch has seen his share of significant Head of the Charles Regatta moments. One of the biggest was last fall, when the most famous head race in the world celebrated its 50th anniversary.

There are two this anniversaries year. While last year was the 50th race, this year is the 50th year (1965-2015) of the regatta. That’s one mile stone. The second is a bit more personal for Schoch, the regatta’s Executive Director.   

“This is my twenty-fifth anniversary,” said Schoch, whose rowing roots go back to his childhood. His father, Delos Schoch, was a member of the 1936 University of Washington eight that won gold at the Berlin Olympics with both Adolph Hitler and Joseph Goebbels in attendance, a story that has been immortalized by Daniel James Brown’s account of that triumph, titled “The Boys in the Boat.”   

“The rowing community has been part of my DNA,” Schoch said. “My Dad was one of the boys in the boat, and I was lucky enough to stay in this sport, one way or another, my whole life. It’s a good chunk to be at any one desk, but I’ll be around a bit longer.”

He’ll be around this weekend for sure, when the 51st Head of the Charles begins Saturday morning and runs through Sunday afternoon. And as usual, he’ll be at the helm of what has become a festival of rowing and entertainment and a fixture on the Boston’s sports calendar.

charles2Between when the first race begins at 8 am Saturday through the final event Sunday afternoon, some 11,000 competitors will have rowed their way three miles down the winding course, through six bridges and past an expected 400,000 spectators, who will also be enjoying two days of riverside fun.

The Head of the Charles is always a major fall attraction for the rowing world and every running tends to have unique qualities. Some years attract the top elite rowers and crews from around the world for the championship events, and other times the fastest crews in those races are collegiate crews.

This year, with the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio just 10 months away, there are only a few elite international competitors entered. There are still competitors from 23 countries, but they are mostly club, masters scholastic and collegiate crews.  

“In the pre-Olympic year, we realize that the international entries are way down,” said Schoch. “We don’t have any Great Eights this year and we have fewer international entries than we will next year for sure. I’m not surprised at all. But that opens up more opportunities for the colleges. Maybe a Harvard, or Yale or Brown, can claim the overall title this year,” Schoch said.

But, even though there won’t be the all-star men’s and women’s Great Eights, which are usually comprised of the best scullers in the world, or many elite athletes or international crews, there will be a few big names and U.S. national athletes and training center crews.

gevvie:kateRowing in the women’s championship single sculls event are several current and former national team athletes and 2016 Olympic hopefuls including the defending champion from Cambridge Boat Club, Gevvie Stone (Newton, Mass.), California Boat Club’s 2013 champion Kate Bertko (Oakland, Calif.) and Kristin Hedstrom (Concord, Mass.) and Vesper Boat Club’s Beijing Olympian and 2015 Pan American Games medalist Lindsay Meyer (Seattle, Wash.).

Racing in the men’s championship single are current and former U.S. athletes including Andrew Campbell, the defending champion from Cambridge Boat Club and course record holder, Craftsbury Sculling Center’s Benjamin Dann (Pound Ridge, N.J.) and John Graves (Cincinnati, Ohio) and 2012 Olympian Elliot Hovey (Manchester-By-The-Sea, Mass.).

They will be joined by New Zealand’s Mahe Drysdale, the defending 2012 Olympic Champion and Angel Fournier Rodriguez of Cuba. In the larger championship races, the men’s and women’s fours and eights, USRowing has a men’s eight and a women’s four entered.

Racing will begin Saturday and Sunday morning at 8 a.m., and will run until 5:30 p.m., on Saturday and conclude Sunday afternoon at 4:12 p.m. Saturday afternoon will feature the men’s and women’s championships singles and doubles events and Sunday will feature the men’s and women’s championship fours and eights.

USRowing has a men’s eight competing with a Princeton Training Center crew and 2004 men's eight Olympic champion Jason Read (Flemington, N.J.). Rowing in the women’s championship four is a crew from the Princeton Training Center.

Racing Sunday morning in the legs, trunk and arms four with coxswain is the 2014 and 2015 world silver medal crew of coxswain Jenny Sichel (Clifton, N.J.) of Community Rowing Inc., Ricky Vandegrift (Cincinnati, Ohio) of CRI and Cincinnati Juniors, Zachary Burns (Ann Arbor. Mich.) of Skyline High School, Dani Hansen (Patterson, Calif.) of University of Washington and Jaclyn Smith (Williston Park, N.Y.).

In total, the regatta will have 65 events, including one Sunday exhibition event that will have an adaptive athlete rowing in a double sculls with an able-bodied athlete.

As always, the Head of the Charles is not just about watching rowers compete. The annual event draws huge crowds that line the banks of the Charles from the start near the Boston University’s DeWolfe Boathouse to the finish line area on Soldiers Field Road.

weeksSome of the best spectator areas are located between the Weeks Foot Bridge and Anderson Bridge in front of Harvard University’s Weld Boathouse. The Cambridge side between those bridges will have the Weld Exhibition Area with merchandise and food vendors.

The Boston side will host the Reunion Village, where alumni tents will mix with dining tents, play-by-play color commentary of the racing, riverside seating, and a beer garden presented by the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. The regatta is free and open to the public with the exception of the Reunion Village. Passes are available for either one or both days for $10 and $15.

horc finish areaSome of the largest crowds will be located at the finish line area, which will feature food and rowing merchandise and equipment vendors and hospitality areas, including the National Rowing Foundation tent.

On sale throughout the race venue area will be the commemorative coffee table book “The Head of the Charles Regatta: First Fifty,” which documents the first fifty years racing with historic photographs accompanied by written by Boston Globe sports writer John Powers.

“We did it right,” said Schoch. “It took us two years to do it. We had a false start, in rowing terminology, but we really nailed it.”

In addition to the racing and spectator fun, the regatta will have several social events.

“We’ll be having lots of fun at the NRF tent Saturday afternoon and evening and we are encouraging people to sign up for that, who are eligible,” Schoch said.

New for this year, said Schoch, will be a large big-top tent that will be located on the banks of the river that will combine several functions areas in one location. “We’re compressing our registration tent, weigh in, awards and history exhibit all into one giant, big top tent on the river’s edge, as opposed to inland this year. We expect six to seven hundred people to attend.”

HOCR Book CoverBut the biggest, and newest, social attraction will take place Saturday evening. Called “Drinks By The Charles,” the event will be held in the big tent at the finish line area and will have drinks and hors d’oeuvres. The event begins at 6:30 p.m., and tickets are on sale on the regatta web site for $45.

“This is a year of celebration and new beginnings for the regatta as we reflect on the past five decades of incredible teamwork, athleticism and tradition, while also looking ahead at the 50 years to come,” said Schoch.

“I have been honored to have had a part of one of the most anticipated fall traditions in New England for the past 25 years, and look forward to celebrating our 50th Anniversary. The second 50 is going to be fun. We have this terrific board of directors and almost 2,000 volunteers and we like being a beacon for other head races to imitate. So we’ll just keep doing what we do,” Schoch said.

For complete event information and special event ticket sales go here.
For a complete list of USRowing events at the 2015 Head of the Charles and a detailed list of U.S. National Team athlete appearances, click here.
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