More than 9,000 rowers from around the globe will converge on the banks of the Charles River this weekend to compete in the Head of the Charles, the world’s biggest regatta. Featuring 60 different races, the regatta kicks off Saturday morning at BU’s DeWolfe Boathouse.
The BU men’s crew and women’s rowing programs will compete in 6 of the 60 scheduled races.
On the women’s side, the club four team won its competition last year, finishing first of 45 teams. Each of the rowers from that team returned this year and will likely be competing in the championship four. Stacey Rippetoe, women’s rowing head coach, says this year’s team has an advantage over last year’s, but acknowledges that the competition is stiff.
“We are a stronger, deeper team this year,” Rippetoe says. “We’re looking to better our results against our competitors, but it’s difficult because all of your competitors are trying to do the same thing.”
Both the men and the women rowers say that taking part in an event that’s been called the Super Bowl of rowing is a thrilling opportunity. “The energy and atmosphere are electric,” says Caroline Kimberly (CAS’13), a member of the women’s varsity eight boat. “You get to see a lot of teams we usually don’t compete against. And since we row for BU, we get to see everything from the starting line, so it’s definitely an exciting day.”
“This is the biggest race of our fall season, and we are excited about the competition,” says Kosta Gioulekas (SAR’13), from the men’s varsity eight. “The quality of the competition is the best. The University of Washington—the reigning champions—will be competing, so we are definitely excited to get out there.”
The men’s crew team has six boats in this year’s regatta: three in the club eight, two in the championship eight, and one in the club four.
“Our goals for the team are simple,” says men’s head coach and former Olympian Tom Bohrer. “We want to continue being one of the top six programs in the country, where we are in the hunt for medals each year.”
Bohrer is reluctant to single out any one athlete as he looks ahead to the weekend. “It’s hard to have stars in the boat because rowing is a team sport,” he says. “It takes everyone to make a boat go fast. Each rower has to trust that each of their teammates is doing everything they can to make the boat faster.”
Gioulekas is confident that the Terriers are well positioned going into the event. “In my four years here, this is by far our strongest team,” he says. “We have so much depth, and that causes the level of rowing to be pushed so much higher.”
With more than 300,000 people expected to line the banks of the Charles for the two-day event, finding a prime viewing location is key. Two of the best spots to catch the races are the River Street Bridge and the Anderson Memorial Bridge, at JFK Street, just a half-mile from the end of the race.
Some rowers say that win or lose, the real prize is simply being able to compete in a world-class event with the sport’s best athletes. “It’s so great to see everyone in the rowing community come out, and there are such high-caliber athletes that show up to compete in the race,” says Lynne Ratte (CAS’14), a member of the women’s varsity eight boat. “It’s awesome.”
The 48th annual Head of the Charles begins at BU’s DeWolfe Boathouse on Saturday, October 20, at 8 a.m. and continues on Sunday, October 21. The men’s club four competition is Saturday at 12:30 p.m., the women’s club eight at 12:55 p.m., followed by the men’s club eight at 1:20 p.m.
The women’s championship four race is on Sunday at 2:40 p.m., followed by the men’s championship eight at 2:55 p.m., and the women’s championship eight at 3:08 p.m.
View a live webcast of the regatta here.
Paul Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.