Nico Salazar and Jeff Schlyer were lining up at the top of the Head of the Charles race course and getting set to race in the Men's Youth Double when Salazar said the boys heard a race official shout to the crews gathering at the start that it was a day for setting records.
"At the start, one of the ladies in the launches told us there's been some course records set today, go try and set one," Salazar said.
So, they accepted the challenge and went for it. "We tried and we succeeded," said Salazar. Starting second, the GMS Rowing Center double caught and passed the boat that started ahead of them in the long straight section early on the three-mile course called the Power House Stretch and realized they were headed toward a win.
"We caught them at the Power House Stretch. And we knew when we passed that one or was going to be a fast race," Salazar said. "We just hit the turns really well and kept the rate up. It was a good time. We felt the pain but we pushed through it."
When they crossed the finish line in 16:52.47, they had beaten the old record of 16:58.86, a new record almost seven seconds faster.
It was that kind of day in Boston yesterday. With a light tail wind pushing the crews along on flat water under blue sky and temperatures more like late summer than fall, a huge pile crews set course records; see our full rundown of the new (and old) record here.
Some of the new margins were flat out eye-popping. The Y Quad Cities Women's Youth Double Delaney Evans and Caroline Sharis broke the old record by well over a minute. And that record was set by Sharis's older sister Elizabeth.
"We had really good conditions this year," said Evans. "So, we got lucky with the tailwind and it went by really fast out there, but we really had to work on cutting the course as short as possible."
Likewise, Anna Mathes broke the old Women's Youth Singles course record by 1 minute, 39 seconds, and finished in a faster time than the Women's Club and Master's Singles course records.
All day long - all weekend long - the 53rd Head of the Charles was blessed with the kind of weather that gets talked about for years and years. There was none gusting, shifting winds to shorten the course, rain squalls, and rain squalls that turn to snow squalls that are more associated with annual fall event in Boston.
Not this year. For this edition of the regatta, that drew 10,551 athletes from all over the world the bank of the Charles who rowed in front of crowds in the hundreds of thousands - there were 350,000 spectators predicted. The actual numbers are not yet counted, but it's a safe bet that crowd size was also a record. (See some of the other numbers associated with the event.)
Moving on the venue was daunting, but there didn't seem to be anyone bothered by it, it was more like a huge party where everyone got along. On the water, the racing was fast and action packed - along with the records were a few spectacular crashes between crews and objects crews that wandered off of the winding course filled with bridges and nuances from start to finish.
Women's Championship Eight
And there were surprises, there are always surprises at the Head of the Charles. But one big one came in the Championship Women's Eight and the "Great Eight" entry. That's the All-Star crew of international women scullers who switch into the sweep event for a different challenge.
The 2017 edition was already a super-fast lineup of eight of the top women scullers in the world, including the most recent World Champion from Switzerland, Jeannine Gmelin. But when Austrian Magdalena Lobnig was stricken with a stomach virus, they called on Boston's own Gevvie Stone, a 2016 Olympic silver medalist, who just happened to have won her eighth win in the Women's Championship Single on Saturday - setting a record for wins in the event.
It's probably fitting that Stone - who retired from international racing to start her medical career and residency and was called back to Boston early from a mandatory retreat for Beth Israel Deaconess residents being held in Maine - helped power the crew to a win from the stroke seat, and yes, set a new course record by something like 40 seconds.
"These ladies are so fun to row with," Stone said. "We just had some strokes that were awesome, just long and powerful. There was definitely some power in that boat, and I wanted to die in the last mile.
"We knew the flat conditions were super fast," Stone said. "There's no current and we had a great tailwind, so we knew it was going to be a fast course. We knew that we had to square up early and we knew we had to hold onto the finish. We knew it was going to be a fast course, we didn't know how fast."
Men's Championship Eight
It was fast - all day. Really, really fast. The University of California men's eight won the Championship Men's Eight in 13:27.469. It was a record - of course. But, the really amazing thing was the next 10 crews also broke the previous record of 13:58.90.
"It's awesome, just awesome," said Cal senior Martin MacKovic said. "I feel really good. This is my fourth time racing here. The first year was a pretty good race, but we seventh. My second year we got second, we lost by like 0.8.
"I felt like I left a part of my soul and heart on the course that day. It was really hard to get second. Then last year we also got second. And this year it was like, now we have to go, we have to win," he said.
"I'm super happy, the was actually a lot of fun. I'm just really happy to be here with these guys. They're a great group of people, the coaches are awesome," he said. "It feels good, it just feels good."
Men's Championship Four
Yes, the men's champ four was a record setter, too. And it was set with a crew being coxed by former Cal coxswain, Julian Venonsky, who also coxed the US men's eight to a silver medal at this year's World Championships. Venonsky was piloting a crew of US training center athletes, all of whom raced in the eight at worlds in Sarasota, Florida last month.
"I'm very happy with everything that's happened this year," Venonsky said. "The race went really well. We didn't have a lot of time in the boat, but the four of us from the eight, we've rowed mixed fours for months before worlds, so we just hopped in there, again.
"It was like we always do it," he said. "We had fun with it, we just tried to have the best piece possible, and it was good. I'm really proud of this and everything else we've accomplished this year."
Not to be outdone, both the men's and women's youth eight also had record setting days. In the men's event, it was the St. Paul's School of London that took the top prize and set the course record.
"I think it was a record," said stroke George Dickinson. "I think we beat it by 35 seconds? (14:12.13 vs 14:50.25). We knew it was fast conditions, but we weren't really focused on that. Our main goal was just to come first. So, it was a nice surprise when we saw the results.
"We thought the first half was pretty good, like we were hitting good spurts down though powerhouse and then obviously, there was more steering. I thought we had just enough to hold off until the end, but it was definitely scrappier at the end."
Yes, there were records set on Saturday, also. Like the one in the set in the Women's Senior Masters Fours, by local legends CB Sands-Bohrer, Linda Muri, Olwen Huxley, Jennifer Sacheck-Ward, and Amanda Cox. They more earned their record of 30 seconds with a combination of power, wits and coxswain road rage (sort of. Read the full report on that one here).
And then there the average, ole boring wins like in the Women's Club Eight, won by Radcliffe Crew. They raced Saturday but did not get pick up their medals until Sunday afternoon. "We raced yesterday, and there was a headwind, so we didn't set a record.
But they had an awesome race.
"We went into it with a really strong race plan where we had pretty much a minute piece between both Power House bridges, and then we also treated the long stretch, after Anderson, as a one kilometer piece and we were passing boats on the inside and it was really epic. But we only won by 13 seconds.
"So, yeah, I'm jealous we didn't get to race today. But maybe next year!"