Saturday at Head of the Charles is truly an XL regatta day, with 33 events covering almost 8 hours. Diving right in, here are the Saturday highlights.
Champ Sculling Events
With both the men's and women's 2019 defending champs in the singles not competing this year, the fields opened up a little bit, and while Ben Davison's second win in the event since 2018 was not a huge surprise, Maggie Fellows' win in the Women's Champ single, starting with bow number 20, definitely was.
"I'm pretty familiar with this course, and I was just hoping that I would have a clear line," said Fellows after the race. "I definitely thought about it. I've never had to start at the back of the pack, except for the first year I raced here. I know that I can row a very aggressive line in this course, I think that's part of headracing, that just go out there and do the best of everything you can and the results will figure themselves out."
Fellows reflected on her results her, coming at the tail end of a year that saw her finish fourth at the Olympic Trials in the single, but ultimately not make the team in the double or the quad.
"The summer was a really hard time. I went to Henley to just see if I wanted to keep going. I'm still getting faster, but the question is, am I enjoying it or not. I really had a good time at Henley, and the Charles is one of my favorites, so it's more about just having fun and seeing what happens, rather than being too concerned about the results right now. I'm in for the next few years."
Ben Davison won the Men's Champ 1x
On the men's side, Davison had a somewhat easier time of it, catching Riverside's Kevin Meador by the Weld boathouse. Still, he wasn't taking the win for granted. "Today, it was it was a little bit different, there's a bit more of an expectation to it. When I won two years ago, it was a surprise."
Coming off racing the US Eight at the Tokyo Olympics, winning the Champ Single is not the most obvious next step. "From my standpoint, it was it was the right decision to go into sweeping for the 2019 season. And now we've got the possibility of three years to decide what's the best option and what's gonna be best for the team."
"My focus is going as fast as possible. I become the fastest I can be then there's a chance of winning a medal. But if I'm not fast enough. I'm not going to win. So I don't I don't really think about that stuff too much."
Penn AC showed up well in the small boats, with the club's Dominique Williams and Sorin Koszk winning the Men's Champ Double, while PACRA's Sophia Luwis and Cara Stawicki did the same in the Women's Champ Double. Additionally, Eliot Putnam took second behind Davison in the Men's Champ Single.
Penn AC's Luwis & Stawicki won the Women's Champ Double
For Penn AC's coach Sean Hall, today's results confirmed the work his sculling group is doing.
"What it will take for the athletes to maintain their motivation is to have a defined direction of how to get what they want, which is been a little bit unclear for them," said Hall. "One of the things I've been trying to do at Penn AC is to actually create that sense of direction, and they glommed onto it pretty well.
"It's the Charles, it's not the World Championships, it's not anything close to that, right? But it's just an indication of what your potential is."
The majority of masters bigger boat racing at Head of the Charles takes place on Saturday, and in a lot of ways, these are the true lifers of the sport; between crews that actually practice, reunion rows of old friends, or boats filled with heavy hitters from the rolodex, the racers and winners run the gamut.
For the members of the winning crew in the Women's Masters 50+ eight, from Chinook Rowing Club, the most important thing was the team. "We all had something that we had to deal with this year that was really hard, and we put all our energy into the boat and we all love each other and we were pulling for each other," said Kate Ackerman, former US national teamer and current US Team Physician.
Chinook Women's Masters 50+ Eight
"There is a sense of humility," added teammate Cass Cunningham. "When women come together no matter how long they've been rowing together, there is a sense of humility and trust. Everybody checked their ego at the door and trust and that just made it so enjoyable. And you don't want to say it's never easy because I tell all my athletes it's always hard, but when you have that that spiritual and emotional side it gives you the ability to physically do whatever you need to."
Olympian Gevvie Stone definitely fell into the "heavy hitter" category, winning her first masters race at the Head Of The Charles by almost a full minute and a half, and setting a new course record in the process. For Stone, that's basically just another day at the office in Cambridge.
Gevvie Stone added another win to her lifetime achievements in Boston
"I think everybody races themselves a little bit," said Women's 40+ Singles winner Shannon Kaplan, who finished second behind Stone, but first in her category. "It's very hard, you start to hurt and you have to kind of dig in. It's been a rough year, I had some health issues early on. So I was just super happy to be out there this year. It was fun having Gevvie in the field, I saw her for a little bit of the race, and then I could hear her being announced, so I knew she was still there."
For many masters scullers in the doubles, much of the joy of racing came from the bond with their partners.
"It's just really nice to be able to to grow with Kelly [Salchow-MacArthur], whom I've rowed with so many times," said long-time national team veteran Hilary Gehman, who reunited with her 2004 Athens Olympic teammate for today's row. "The Athens hat was our team uniform today!"
"We were saying we're still able to access 100% of our fitness, but our fitness is much lower. I haven't seen Kelly in a couple years, actually 2017 was the last time we rowed together for various reasons, but it's great to be back rowing with her."
Hilary Gehman and Kelly Salchow-MacArthur
Margarita Zezza of the Lucky Charms entry in the Women's Masters 60+ eight was direct when asked if her crew was an all-star boat. "Yes, it is!" She said. "We started Lucky Charms as a quad 11 years ago, from there we took off and now it's an eight and a quad. You have to be special to get into the Lucky Charms club!"
"Basically, it is all about old friends, and about doing something that we loved and was formative for us at a young age," said Ed Chandler, who competed with the Bulldog Rowing Club in the Men's Masters 60+ Eights. "Being with the people we did it with, it's become more and more gratifying I think as we get older. But I will say that it's a little bit like a time game. We're waiting, waiting to see who the first person to drop out might be, and not wanting to be that, right?"
Hilary Gehman summed masters racing up thusly: "Everybody always says the Charles is so fun. And I would say I would argue that the race isn't that fun, but the atmosphere is super fun!"
Although we haven't done a full mathematical analysis here at row2k, it would appear that the biggest density of Olympians is in the Alumni events this year, which meant that piles of really fit people were going after it today, rather than in the Champ events tomorrow.
Fat Cat, Princeton Women's alumnae crew
In the Women's alumni eights events, the Princeton alums, racing as Fat Cat, edged the Yale entry by just 7/10s of a second. "The goal is always, slow down as little as you can," said 2012 Olympian Sarah Hendershot of the winning Fat Cat crew. "In the alumni boat, if you don't slow down in that last mile, you've got a good shot. And that's really what the plan was, was trying to keep speed going."
Washingon Men's alumni
"I was the oldest one in the boat by a little bit, so I just tried to recruit as many young fit women as I could. I would say that I probably look back on my collegiate experience with a different kind of fondness than I did on my national team time. It's so fun because there's really no pressure right at the starting line when we're next to UVA and Yale and Dartmouth and everybody's heckling each other and like yelling stuff like 'you're a bunch of old ladies!'"
Similarly riding the wave of nostalgia was the University of Washington men's alumni eight, sporting one of the older lineups in the field, but winning nonetheless, anchored by Olympians Will Crothers, Brett Newlin and Conlin McCabe and Ante Kusurin.
"Our only practice was the row up to the start. The first couple of strokes were a little bit rocky, but you could feel that the speed was there from the get go," said Kusurin. "And it was good. It was really good. We had a really good race plan. I think the trick to winning this one is just keep your rate high and stay long. And that's what we did. And we never really dropped down in speed too much."
Notes from the Course
- Heads Up!
Coxswain, overheard on the (crowded) pathways at the launching docks. "Heads up! You get one 'heads up,' and then you get hit."
- Lotta People at the Regatta
The banks, bridges, and especially FALS were absolutely packed today, probably pushing record numbers (which past estimates put at a few hundred thousand), at least below Eliot Bridge. People were having a good time to boot; lines for the FALS bar were a couple boat lengths long at least, and the mood inside the bar was pretty rambunctious, no question.
The crowds were into it
- The sponsors are happy; vineyard vines said they had the most successful retail day of any of the retail sponsorships they have ever done
- In addition to the normal 'rubbing is racing' mayhem, there was at least one crew who limped in minus one oar - which is the kind of thing that can happen when the collar slips off at high speed and the oar is 'lost to the deep' as the shell forges ahead
- Head Race Playlist
We all have our erg playlists, but one rower in the Senior Masters Eights brought the indoor tradition into the boat today, taking his iPhone and AirPods out in the boat, and dialing in to a Dire Straits playlist for the entire row. His verdict: 'It kinda worked!'
- Twin Donut Won, Then Lost, Then Won, Then Lost
The Twin Donut double of Greg and Geoff Klingsporn took the Magazine Beach turn wide - like really wide - and may have crossed a buoy on the far side of the course. When the results came in, the double had won on raw time by 3.2 seconds, but due to the penalty, thought they lost the race by 1.8 seconds. Then they got a phone call that the penalty had been overturned, so went and collected their medals and the trophy, doing a full 'drink from the trophy' gag photo after having tried to win the event together for 20 years.
It didn't last a full day; on Saturday morning, they got another call saying that a video review of the race caused the overturning to be overturned, so had to go back and return the medals. They were good-spirited about it Saturday afternoon, but it looks like they will have to take a 21st shot at the gold in their event.
- 2021 Hall of Fame Inductees Named
If you heard a lot of cheering coming from near Eliot Bridge around 4:15pm, it was cheers for this year's National Rowing Foundation Hall of Fame inductees. The inductees were the 1984 men's Olympic eight with coach Kris Korzeniowski, Igor Grinko, Christine Smith Collins, and Bryan Volpenhein. See the full class here.
The dinosaurs are fans