On a frigid, blustery weekend at the 51st Head of the Charles Regatta, the Radcliffe lightweight and heavyweight boats were out in full force, looking to achieve success in the rowing world’s spotlight event.
Ultimately, the lightweight team demonstrated its competitive prowess, breaking the top-three in multiple races, while the heavyweight team was unable to live up to expectations, leaving much room for improvement.
All eyes were on how the lightweight team would perform under first-year head coach Sarah Schwegman in her Radcliffe debut. Under Schwegman’s tutelage, the lightweights performed up to expectations, recording top-three finishes in both the Lightweight Eights and the Lightweight Fours events.
“I think that for the first race of our season, it really came together,” junior co-captain Ruby Emberling said. “We were all pulling for every Radcliffe boat that was out on the water.”
The conditions were not ideal for a team trying to come up with a top result, but the Black and White Lightweight Eight focused on the task at hand. Starting second in its race, Radcliffe attempted to pull away from bow number three, a BU boat, sitting right behind its stern. A little over 17 minutes later, Radcliffe accomplished that goal as it squeezed out a hard-fought second place finish, beating out BU by just half a second with a time of 17:15.308.
“Our best stretch was right in front of Weld,” co-captain Olivia Henry said. “We consider that our stretch. We do [some of our training there since] it’s right past our boathouse, and we can hear a lot of cheers.”
Not only is the Head of the Charles a tough race for the rowers, but it is also a difficult task for the coxswains. The stretch of the river that the course encompasses is notorious for its long winding turns and narrow bridge openings that can cause even the most experienced navigators to falter and hinder her team’s results as a result.
But the coxswains from Radcliffe, BU, and the Minerva Rowing Club from the Netherlands, who took first in the eights, steered tight lines and smart courses that helped earn them top-three finishes. Rookie Mckenzie Parks coxed the first boat for Radcliffe, while sophomore Electra Lang coxed the second, which finished seventh out of nine boats.
In the Championship Fours, Radcliffe finished third out of 16 competitors, recording a 19:43.386 time. Senior Gabriella Giugliano coxed the boat, bringing her side within two seconds of the second-place UMass contingent.
In typical head race fashion, the Black and White aimed to hunt down the preceding crews, while putting as much water between its stern and the other eights behind it as possible.
The varsity eight, stroked by senior Frederika Archibald and coxed by sophomore Kaitlyn Felsheim, appeared to struggle with the weekend’s conditions, however, posting a time of 17:10.863.
“There was a headwind throughout the whole race, up and down in terms of wind speed, but that had nothing to do with [the result],” heavyweight crew coach Liz O’Leary said. “The varsity eight had a flat race, not for lack of commitment, not for lack of determination, but as a collective boat it didn’t race the way I know it can.”
The boat placed 19th in a field of 33 eights in an event in which the heavyweights finished eighth last year. O’Leary found a silver lining in the race, however, as Radcliffe’s second eight finished less than a minute behind, fighting its way to a 27th-place finish in the race.
“The second boat did a good job in an event that was probably a bit over their heads, but the first boat did not, and that was not what we had planned,” O’Leary said. “We’ll get back to work, make some changes, and see what we can do to build some more speed.”
In the Championship Fours race, the Black and White finished 13th in a field of 19 boats with a time of 19:14.219.