View From the Head of the Charles

Unfortunately, I have not been posting with the frequency I would like lately. I have been working on a new layout for the site so that has been the thing primarily impacting the installments. This was brought to my attention by the proxy of a Tennessee resident (you know who you are). So, I am dedicating this weeks posts, all three, in honor of her. Thanks for the feedback though. I hope you enjoy.

Photo: Head of the Charles

This past weekend Cambridge/Boston held the annual Head of the Charles. Not being a native I was keenly interested in the spectacle of this rowing regatta. Around here and in the world of crew, this is a big deal. For the uninitiated, Head of the Charles is the world’s largest regatta. It is indeed a world class affair with over 7000 participants from around the globe, competing in 24 different race categories. This year was the 40 anniversary.

Photo: Eight Woman Crew Competing in the Head of the Charles

I have to admit I knew nothing about the event prior, although I have always been mildly interested in the sport. It definitely has a quality jargon. Head races are races against the clock, so there are few duels on the water. The boats are released at intervals. However, there can be some passing. This is particularly exciting in the team events with the competing coxswains barking at their respective crews to pull faster. Although with the river bends and arch bridges you don’t see a whole lot of this on the Charles.

Photo: Eight Man Crew competing in the Head of the Charles

Most fascinating is the turnout. Something in the neighborhood of 300,000 people will walk along the banks of the Charles River to have a peek at the scullers driving their vessels with a clockwork cadence. It is a serious two-day festival with food and activities aplenty all along the riverbank. I could never have imagined so many people would attend a rowing race. As fascinated as I might be by the whole thing, it was surprising to see the size of the crowds. I have a suspicion that most of them are involved in the sport in some capacity. With all the club and university crew jackets on display it was hard to no think that this is the pinnacle crew-cult event, outside of the Olympics. Plus, race down three miles of river is not the most conducive aspect to being a spectator sport.

Photo: Single Rower Competing in the Head of the Charles

Anyway, the event was intriguing. I have always been kind of fascinated by a sport that finds a small group of dedicated individuals awake at the crack of dawn careening down steaming bodies of water. There is something exquisitely graceful about the smooth metronomic motion of the shell surging forward with one or more rowers sliding and swinging the blades beneath the water’s surface. From a slight distance, with the proper backdrop, it can be absolutely picturesque and mesmerizing.

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