When you talk about rowing, you talk about weather; this may have been one of the best Head of the Charles weekends in memory. The wind, however, did pick up today, enough to knock up some white caps, but not enough to force the race to go into a short course. Unlike yesterday's record breaking course times, today looked a bit more like last year's times; not pitifully slow, but not super quick either.
Some of the most exciting racing happens on Charles Sunday; hundreds of junior crews, championship boats, collegiate programs all take over the course. Despite the reputation the junior crews have for poor navigation, the crashes were at a minimum today—maybe someone looked at a course map this year?
One of the major changes to the regatta this year is championship 8's award presentation. BNY Melon, the brand new presenting sponsor of the regatta has named the trophies for the overall and collegiate men's and women's champ 8's. This afternoon, British four-time Olympian Sir Matthew Pinsent awarded these trophies to the athletes at the BNY Tent—open only to the public for this award ceremony. Pinsent spoke highly of American rowing and the huge number of junior and collegiate programs racing at the regatta this weekend—although he did remind us that he does not want the American's to become too quick.
Men's Championship 8+
The Dutch Men's 8+ started a bit back at bow number 7, but it didn't stop these giants from storming down the course to lock in the first place finish—just two seconds ahead of the collegiate winner, Harvard.
"Race was difficult with wind conditions, but the good parts we have been training for, we did well---after each bridge we did well," said four-seat Diederik Simon.
The men are looking forward to racing on their home course next summer at the World Championships in Amsterdam. While they don't have the same anticipation for traveling to a new and exciting racecourse, there are serious advantages to having the Championships in your backyard.
"It's a whole different way of getting the focus right because you are rowing on the same course you train every day," said Simon, "It's going to be fantastic."
The first place finishers were not the only ones in the event honored at the award ceremony—the top collegiate program is the recipient of its own trophy as well. While the Washington men are a force to be reckoned with, but today as they came under the Eliot bridge, and took the inside of the last turn, the Harvard crew took the outside of the turn and walked.
"Our coxswain was coxing the distances between us and Washington," said five-seat Ed Rippon, "we were getting close and closer as the race went on. Every he called us closer we just went harder and harder."
It's a year of change for the Harvard men with former head lightweight coach Charley Butt on the helm; it's the first race without Harry. The men carried on the spirit he instilled on the team over the years as they stormed the course today.
"Charley is doing a great job of putting his own mark on the team while respecting Harry's tremendous legacy," Griffn noted.
Women's Championship 8+
The Great Eights are one of the most memorable Charles traditions started in 2009; a composite crew of international superstar rowers is always exciting to watch. Today was no different as the 2012 Great Eight driven by coxswain Jack Carlson, who also organized the crew, came down the course behind bow number one—USRowing—the 2012 World Champions. The Great Eight was just great enough as it edged out the USRowing crew by just barely a second. Stroked by US sweeper-turned-sculler, Elle Logan, the crew was in good hands.
"For me, jumping back into sweeping was like putting on an old pair of gloves," said Logan, "sculling in the single has helped me a lot with my sweep rowing."
Despite the strength of the crew, they were not impervious to the conditions.
"It was a wet and wild race," laughed Logan.
"The US crews opened a little bit on us in the powerhouse, but Jack steered a great course and Elle took up the rate at the end and it was great," added Emma Twigg, the New Zealand Olympic sculler who sat in six-seat. There was a bit of a special twist to this year's regatta for Emma who was the face of the regatta—literally. Her bright blonde hair and fierce face donned every other light post along the Charles and its bridges for the past month.
The collegiate champ winners, Virginia, were third off the line—racing in between the Great Eight and Canadian women. In that Canadian boat behind them were two UVA alumni; having their former teammates chasing them down the course was extra motivation to press on despite the conditions.
"It was awesome," exclaimed two-seat Elle Murray, "It was pretty windy out there, but we handled each section with as much grace as we could."
"During our warm-up we knew that it wasn't going to feel good with the wind, current and wash from the boats ahead of us," added coxswain Sarah Jordan. "We just thought its not going to feel our best so pull our brains out and remember everything Kevin Sauer taught us."
Women's Championship 4+
With two USRowing entries, boasting many World Champions, and no special collegiate medal, the women's champ four was a tough race for undergraduates racing today. However, like the other Worlds level crews that won races today, the women in the four were right in the midst of the b
"We got involved in quite a bit of the craziness, but in a good way—it fueled us," said two-time Olympic gold medalist, Susan Francia.
Two of the women in the crew—Emily Huelskamp and 2012 Olympic gold medalist Esther Lofgren—are women who have called the Charles home. Emily rowed with Riverside Boat Club until a year ago, and Esther spent her undergrad days rowing at Radcliffe.
"I think it makes the Charles more fun," said Lofgren. "It's equally hard for everyone out there—we got a big cheer going past Riverside and Weld—and it's be representing the USA and Radcliffe."
The women had some serious success internationally over the summer, but racing overseas lacked the team support that they found along the course today.
"We're finally on our home water," said Francia. "Finally everyone is coming out to cheer for USA."
Legs Trunk Arms 4+
Para-rowing is still a building sport in Australia, and the LTA4+ is a boat class the country has not sent to the World Championships for a number of years. Today, five athletes made a statement to their country that they are ready to take their racing to the next level.
"Since the inclusion of para-rowing, coming to the Charles is something I have always wanted to do," said stroke-seat Carol Cooke. "We wanted to come over and challenge the US on their home ground."
Coxswain Nell Duly, a first timer on the Charles wrote out a cheat sheet on her leg to in preparation for the race. Duly drove the crew aggressively early on in the race to take the lead before Riverside.
"Through the first bridge we got very tight to bows one and two, but we got through nice and clean around Magazine Beach and it was clear sailing the whole way though."
"We hope by doing so well here, it will help drive the growth of LTA rowing in Australia," added Cooke.
Director's Mixed Double
In rowing, there are two types of couples: ones who can row the double together, and those whose relationship can't last ten strokes. Stroke half of the famed Kiwi Pair, Hamish Bond and girlfriend Elizabeth Travis proved themselves the former after yesterday's win. Not only did the two come away with a gold medal, but they also broke the course record (this was a Saturday race).
"I was in charge of steering and it was okay, but it was a first timers course," said Bond. "I probably left a few seconds on the course, but it was a good experience."
The race was made really special for the two because Travis has been off the water for some time.
"I haven’t rowed for about five years, but if I was going to get back in a boat I wanted to go fast."
Walking back from the last award ceremony of the day, the finish line area is already turning back into a park; docks are being pulled out, vendors packing up to go home; trailers pulling out. Tomorrow it might look like nothing happened, but we all know that's just not true.
Check back in tomorrow for more notes and stories from the course.