Head of the Charles


You know those long skinny boats that you see on the Hudson occasionally? Well those are what were racing at the Head of the Charles.IMG_3093

This kind of racing is called crew. There are boats that can fit one rower, called a single, boats that can fit two (a pair or a double), four (a four or a quad) or eight (called an eight). The boats are carried to the water on the shoulders or over the heads of the rowers by the rowers themselves. When they’re on the water, the rowers’ back is always toward the bow. Singles, pairs, doubles and quads are steered by the bow rower. The other four man boats and all the eights are steered by a coxswain. The coxswain’s job is to set the rate (how many strokes per minute) and set and steer the course.

The Head of the Charles is the single largest two day regatta in the United States, and it’s only about 3 hours to the east of Albany, in Boston! It is always on the penultimate weekend of October. This year, there were over 1,900 boats entered in the regatta, more than 32 countries represented, and over 400,000 spectators lining the river. There were a total of 1,205 crews and 11,000 athletes, but each athlete was only allowed to compete once. The race is three miles long. But before they can start the race, the crews have to row down from the finish to get to the start, it’s considered their “warm up”.

Spectators only get too see a small part of the race, since it’s so long and so swervy. People are spread out a lot, but with 400,000 spectators it’s still pretty cramped. Spectators were cheering and yelling all along the course for teams and for individuals in the boats. There was a lot of energy and excitement both on the water and off.

If your crew isn’t rowing at the moment, or you want something else to do, there are plenty of stands and tents with things to do, things to buy and plenty to eat. There is a section dedicated to Team USA (Olympics) they have people so tall they’ll make Robert Pershing Wadlow look short (not really). They had a huge foam pit that you could jump into, and you could have your picture taken next to an Olympian! Gentle Giant furniture movers had a slide, and if you could get up and down 5 times in a row, faster than anyone else, you would get a prize of $500. But if you didn’t win that, or bring any money, there were plenty of free samples for you and your pets!

I spoke to Ken Clark. Mr. Clark came to the regatta with his family and friends. He used to row (both in college and with the Albany Rowing Center) and coach a team and had really enjoyed it. Mr. Clark had competed in the Head of the Charles when he was in college, but his boat had never won. When asked about why he came out to the regatta he said: “I came here to watch the races, be with my friends, and get my kids addicted to rowing early.” He’s got his work cut out for him. His two year old son, Owen is, so far, more interested in playing with rocks, sticks and wandering in the crowd.