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Head of the Charles: the river rocks on October 22 and 23

Regatta attracts rowers and spectators from around the globe

BU's women rowers at a recent early morning practice on the Charles River. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

Among Boston traditions, the 40-year-old Head of the Charles regatta, on Saturday, October 22, and Sunday, October 23, is one of the most famous because of the world-class level of competition — and the sheer size and pageantry of the annual autumn spectacle.

The world’s largest two-day rowing event attracts more than 7,000 athletes — including BU students and alumni — and is witnessed by up to 300,000 spectators.

With such an enormous crowd, especially during Sunday’s championship races, where is the best place to watch the rowing action? For fans who don’t have access to a boathouse dock, it’s a question of bridge or bank. Cambridge’s Magazine Beach, on the west side of the BU Bridge, is a popular destination. Of the six bridges that span the regatta’s route, Anderson Bridge, between Harvard’s Weld and Newell boathouses, is a favorite vantage point. From the BU Bridge, however, one can watch the rowers take off from the regatta’s starting line, the University’s DeWolfe Boathouse.

The three-mile course runs upstream and finishes at the Eliot Bridge, just before Northeastern University’s boathouse.

Spectators who want a little entertainment between races — other than the requisite people-watching — can enjoy Row-A-Paloooza, two days of concerts featuring a total of 11 bands, from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the Cambridge side of the Weeks Footbridge, which connects Memorial Drive and Harvard Business School.

The races are open to all age groups and present a unique opportunity for college teams to compete against national teams. While the results don’t count in the NCAA standings, the regatta often sets the tone for the season.

In the Championship Eights last year, the BU women rowers finished 11th among colleges and 15th overall. The Terrier men placed 26 collegiately and 32nd overall. The starting time for the Championship Eights on Sunday is 3:41 p.m. for the men and 3:57 p.m. for the women. For starting times of other races, click here.