A truly classic fall New England day greeted the first day of the 2008 Head Of The Charles; the sun shone all day, the fall foliage seems to have peaked a bit later this year, the grounds of the regatta were dry and pleasant, and perhaps most importantly if you were rowing a predicted headwind turned out to be more like a cross-tail in many places - double bonus right there. And woah there are a lot of people and boats along the river, especially at the FALS finish line area.
We'll let the results speak more or less for themselves - no point recapping what you can already learn from checking them yourself -
Uh oh: Overheard an hour before the Club eight race - "I can't find our shell anywhere - am I late?"
One west coast trailer driver set a new personal record for crossing the country - 48 hours from the Puget Sound. The secret: "I had a co-driver; we only turned off the truck three times."
Canadian women's eight might be ready this year; one member reports that "we haven't rowed together at all since we've been back, which isn't that unusual, but back in 04 none of us did anything at all, and it was really painful. Thankfully it was the short course that year, but I think everyone at least stayed at least somewhat in shape, so we might have a bit better row. It's still going to hurt after those first 20 strokes!"
As your reporter arrived at the course this morning, Holly Hatton was driving over the Eliot St Bridge - in her pajamas. Holly hosts folks for the Charles every year, and sculler Jan Palchikoff was running late for her race in the Grand Masters women's single, the first race of the day
Rowers who train in sculling boats found that when they got into sweep boats, their sculling callouses, albeit hard-earned, were meager protection against wooden sweep oars digging into still-soft hand parts - oooh, that looks infected...
The crews from Andalucia definitely added some intrigue to the sounds coming from the race course, with coxswains calling enthusiastic power tens in Spanish.
The differences in how seriously folks are taking the event may be most evident in the masters eights - some folks are just looking to cross both the starting line and finish line, while others are clearly looking for something more (or it may just be something else) - the latter are stretching and resting, the former are eating gyros. (That said, the fried dough folks still tend not to be swarmed with customers at rowing regattas?)
As the number of Head Of The Charles regattas climbs, so do the consecutive years that some folks have competed - John Brisson, for example, has rowed the single in the last 20 regattas, and raced in the last 29.
Ed Golding joined what is likely a fairly select group today when he raced the Champ 2x with Greg Myhr - Golding has now raced in all the Championship men's events at the Charles - eight, four, single, and double (he also competed in a club event or two along the way). Ed is 29 - is it on to master's racing?
Geoff and Greg Klingsporn, who are identical twins, have raced the Champ double for most of the 21st century, entering every year as Twin Donut Rowing Club - and every year their entry shows up in the program as Unaffiliated. This year somehow the TDRC was accepted - it's right there in the bow draw.
Your reporter got the full Charles experience in a very passable row with the Old Lights; shortly after the Anderson bridge, a bit of routine clashage while passing, then as we got toward the bow of the other boat, it got interesting. The stroke of the boat (the same reporter) took three strokes on which the blade entered beyond the bow, went under the hull, snuck out alongside the hull at the finish, then looped over the bow deck (all at 33 spm, oww), but by the fourth stroke the boats were too close together (due in part to the fact that the bowman in the overtaken crew could not really row properly either, so the boat drifted to starboard). Ultimately, the crew ran over my oar. It took only a couple seconds to get it back, but after years of mostly clean runs on the Charles (well, except that one time in the single?), it was another slice of regatta lore for storytelling years hence.
Speaking of the full experience, Michelle Guerette suffered another time-eating penalty this year in her row with Caryn Davies; it might not have mattered given the storming row that Haigh and Twigg put in, but two years in a row on your own river has to smart a bit.
Pre-regatta insider tips did not put Mahe Drysdale in the winner's circle here in Boston; he has been almost entirely on vacation since the Olympics, and after the year and quadrennial he had, he deserves it. His teammate Nathan Cohen clearly has been in the boat a bit more, tho, and he won with a time that would have put him top 10 in the Champ double.
Lastly, big-time sports have a hold on Boston - at least by the evidence of people on the Eliot Bridge doing The Wave.