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Charlotte Crane is a senior History concentrator at Radcliffe and a dedicated member of the Radcliffe varsity crew team. Last year's co-captain, she rows on the eight-place shell which is Radcliffe's hope in the upcoming Head of the Charles race on October 22.
Like the rest of the Radcliffe crew members, Charlotte practices hard on the water for two hours a day and off the water for another half an hour, engaging in such activities as running up and down the steps in Soldier's Field stadium. Charlotte emphasizes the size of the commitment one must make to crew. Citing practices as a positive experience, she noted the necessity of the development of stamina in crew similar to that needed in cross country.
While the general impression of crew is that it is a non-individual sport, Charlotte feels that self-discipline and individual control are of great importance, due to the high degree of precision demanded in the sport. "It is a great feeling when everything works right," she said, comparing the sensation to ballet.
Crew demands year-round training, according to Charlotte. The crew rows until the river freezes over. During the winter, the women row in tanks and exercise on the ergometer, which Charlotte calls "a brutal device" and perhaps the least pleasant aspect of crew. An effort is make to get out on the river as early as possible, and Charlotte recalls rowing in snowstorms in March. In the summer, Charlotte runs to keep in shape.
In spite of all the training, Charlotte says that the starts of races are often scenes of mass confusion. Much depends on a cool-headed coxswain, according to Charlotte, because of the tension that mounts up while waiting for the other boats to line up for a floating start. In addition, much self-control is required during the race to avoid increasing the stroke rate individually, instead of applying each stroke harder.
Last season, in the first race the Radcliffe crew defeated all the other college boats, but came in second behind the Vesper Boat Club. Charlotte is optimistic about the team's chances in this year's competition. The only major race scheduled in the fall is the Head of the Charles, a 3 1/2-mile long event with almost 20 rowing classes which featured 350 boats last year and has over 1000 entries this year.
Charlotte is hopeful about entering the nationals in Philadelphia, if all goes well in the spring competition, and is interested in the possibility of international competition to be held this year in Moscow.
One of the major difficulties for women's crew, as Charlotte sees it, is funding. At present, 40 women row, enough for a varsity boat, two practice boats, and a freshman boat. However, the women's crew department only owns one shell. Charlotte hopes for better relations with the men's crew so that the women can use more of the equipment.
Last year, a grant from the Radcliffe Union of Students helped the crew get by, and this year, fund raising activity is planned so that another shell may be bought and operating expenses for overnight stays, transporting the shell, and various supplies may be defrayed. Charlotte noted that most of the other colleges share the men's equipment with the women, who therefore are well supplied.
Charlotte says that much of the confusion over the status of women's crew stemmed from its founding. Weld Boat House opened up to women in the fall of 1970. At first, only single sculling was available for women. However, interest grew to such an extent that a Radcliffe eight-place boat was entered in the annual house crew race. The following year, this former house team began racing intercollegiately and won a medal in the nationals.
Charlotte joined the program when it started. Crew had always appealed to her because of its commitment to self-discipline. She was tired of running cross country and wanted to do something unusual. Charlotte said that at the outset the attitude of the other women at Radcliffe toward those on crew was amazement, but soon admiration developed for those trying to break into the male institution of crew.
The crew was subsequently supported by the Radcliffe Union of Students. Charlotte sees a great change in the availability and variety of outlets for athletics for women in the past two years. She sees women's crew as part of that change and is proud to be part of it.
Charlotte said that it took a long time for the college community and even the rowers themselves to take themselves seriously. However, when they did, it meant placing a greater demand on themselves and the athletic program.
Crew appeals to Charlotte because she believes it is a satisfying way to direct herself. She enjoys feeling that she is working as hard as she can on something worthwhile, learning self-control and discipline. She finds the group effort, the putting aside of personal rivalry, is a valuable experience.
Pleased by both the women crew's prospects for this year and the growing enthusiasm for crew and women's athletics in general at Harvard, Charlotte is looking forward to another rewarding season of Radcliffe crew.
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