Mark Twain was Right About the Weather in New England

by Ed Moran, | Oct 18, 2015
BOSTON, Mass. – When it comes to the weather in Boston on Head of the Charles weekend, anything is possible.
coldBOSTON, Mass. – When it comes to the weather in Boston on Head of the Charles weekend, anything is possible.

Consider what has happened over the last 52 years: temperatures have ranged from a balmy 80 degrees in 1979 to a record cold of 32 in 1972; in 1996, a hundred-year storm wiped out racing completely; in 2004, high winds averaging 15 miles per hour and gusting to 32 forced organizers to shorten the course and move the start line from the Boston University Boathouse to Riverside Boat Club, and in 2009, snowflakes obscured Sunday's racing. It was the only time an accumulating snow ever fell on the storied course, even if it was only 0.10 inches.

“We live and die by the weather,” said regatta director Fred Schoch, who has been in charge of the event for the past 25 years. “I’m not even allowed to look at until it’s at least 14 days out.”

This weekend, the 51st running of the regatta, can be placed right alongside some of the infamous dates. The weather lived right up to the famous Twain quote – “If you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.”

After a week of mild, mostly sunny weather, the 11,000 competitors, and 400,000-plus spectators who came Saturday and Sunday to watch them race, were treated to temperatures that fell to or below freezing at the 8 am starts, to slightly warmer temps midway that were accompanied by winds averaging 14 miles per hour with frequently higher gusts

gev“My arms hurt from pushing the oars away in the wind,” said Olympian Gevvie Stone (Newtown, Mass.), who won her sixth-overall Head of the Charles title and her second consecutive singles championship event by rowing through a 17-mile an hour headwind.

She was not really complaining though. The pre-Olympic year kept her top European competitors on the other side of the Atlantic. “I was racing a lot of lightweights,” said Stone, while she sat hunched on the edge of the dock at Harvard University’s Weld Boathouse late Saturday afternoon trying to warm up. “I had to use my poundage to get  down the course,” she said.

“It was a long race,” said Stone, who won by 43 seconds over California Rowing Club’s Kate Bertko (Oakland, Calif.). Bertko, a lightweight who has won back-to-back world championship bronze medals in the lightweight single in 2014 and 2015, ended Stone’s three-year consecutive streak in 2013. “Most people don’t like rowing into a head wind, but I actually like it.”

gravesIn the men's championship double event Saturday, Potomac Boat Club's William Cowles (Farmington, Conn.) and 2008 Olympian Sam Stitt (McLean, Va.) won with
Craftsbury Sculling Center's Tom Graves and Peter Graves (Cincinnati, Ohio) finishing a close second.

“After coming in third to the Graves brothers last year, Willy and I knew that we were really going to have to put up a good fight to catch them this year."

Sunday’s weather was no different than Saturday – unless the even colder air was taken into account. Temperatures never really made it out of the mid-forties and stayed mostly in the frigid 30s with a blistering windchill. The sun came and went, and came and went, and with it went the temperatures.

But, like on Saturday, it did not stop the racing.

"This is a fun course," said Stitt, who with Cowles, teamed up with the Graves brothers to row in the Director's Challenge Men's Quad and finished second. "A lot of people get so competitive with it, and each year, with more experience, it gets more and more fun," Stitt said.

"We have gotten into the habit of doing the directors quad, so this year we figured instead of trying to compete with the (Graves brothers) in the directors quad, we joined forces with them. We all know each other and that just makes the competition so much better.”

In all, 65 events were run over the entire weekend.

drysdale On Saturday, Stone won the women’s premier championship sculling event and New Zealand's 2012 Olympic champion, Mahe Drysdale, won the men’s event, with U.S. national team athletes John Graves (Cincinnati, Ohio) from Craftsbury Sculling Center, finishing second and 2014 winner Andrew Campbell, Jr. (New Caanan, Conn.) of Cambridge Boat Club behind him in third.

In the Sunday premier races, Yale University won the championship men’s eight and Brown University won the women’s event.

Winning in the women’s champ four, was the U.S. Training Center – Princeton entry of coxswain Kendall Schmidt Greenfield, Wis.), Molly Buggeman (Dayton, Ohio), Erin Boxberger (Oakland Park, Kan.) and Emily Huelskamp (Sainte Genevieve, Mo.).

mfourIn the championship men’s four, the Wisconsin based Camp Randall entry won rowing with three 2015 U.S. national team athletes - Alex Karwoski (Hollis, N.H.), Matt Miller (Fairfax, Va.) and Tim Aghai (Skokie, Ill.).

“This is the Head of the Charles," said Aghai. "It is the American Race. Have a good time is the focus of this weekend because we are still in the middle of training."

For complete regatta results, click here.
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