Fans Party, Cheer Crews on Charles
Olympians, Mousketeers Row in Regatta
The Motley Crew, the Bloody Sculls, the Dirty Dozen, and 717 other boats rowed while 100,000 spectators toasted and cheered the 19th annual Head of the Charles Regatta.
Teams from as far away as Australia and from all over the country took part in the races. Many of the crews were followed by rowdy supporters who braved the cold and rain, determined to have a good time. Champagne toting Rolls Royces to beer kegs and buckets of Bloody Marys were evidence that, as one Notre Dame fan put it. "It's a good excuse to party."
The big winners of the day included the Naval Academy, which captured the men's Championship eights, traditionally the most important race, and St. Catherine's Rowing Club from Canada, which placed consistently high all day, winning three races.
For some with Olympic aspirations, the Head was the last chance to race before next spring's Olympic trials and many who will be involved with picking the U.S. team were in Cambridge to see the regatta and compare notes.
Other teams did not take the races so seriously. There was even a rowing California rugby team and a ski patrol waiting for winter. Other rowers wore Mickey Mouse hats and Halloween masks. Spectators added to the fun by tossing beers to parched oarsmen after they crossed the finish line.
Most of Harvard's entries followed the spirit of the day and didn't take the race too seriously. Men's heavyweight crew Coach Harry Parker said, "We had a lot of fun and don't get too uptight about the results." The home team's only triumph of the day was in the Men's Championship Doubles, beating out 30 other shells.
With hundreds of boats crowding the river, the regatta was not without its mishaps and close calls. There were many near collisions and locked oars as boats jockeyed for position. The worst accident occurred when the South Niagara Youth Eight team crashed into the Eliot Street bridge a half-mile from the end of the three-mile upstream course. Moments later the boat was cut in two by Andover's entry. The boats were unable to move and had to be towed to shore.
Luckily there were no serious injuries, and Dr. Anne 'McKinnon, head of the Medical Committee for the regatta, stated, "With the number of competitors here, the number of injuries is very low."
For the majority of the college students, alumni, and parents lining the banks and bridges of the Charles River, the race was an excuse to get out and have a good time. As a tee-shirt sported by one spectator said, "Ya Gotta Regatta."