At the Head of the Charles, twenty different trophies are up for grabs. This weekend, everyone from high school racers to veteran scullers will vie for one of the regatta’s prestigious pieces of hardware. Each one showcases a different person, city, or sponsor that helped shape the Head of the Charles into the premier two-day rowing spectacle that it is today.
The first Head of the Charles took place on October 16, 1965. In the race’s pilot rendition, nearly 300 rowers competed in singles, fours, and eights. The event steadily grew throughout the years, garnering great success and notoriety. In 1997, the regatta extended to span two days. Currently, in its 55th year, over 11,000 athletes are set to compete in 66 different races.
The Head of the Charles is co-hosted by the cities of Boston and Cambridge each year, so each co-host city is honored with a trophy in its name. The City of Boston Trophy is bestowed upon the women’s lightweight eights champions while the City of Cambridge Trophy goes to the women’s lightweight fours champion.
The club, school, college, or university with overall “rowing supremacy” earns the coveted Regatta Point Trophy. “Rowing supremacy” is calculated based on each fours and eights entry. For each entry P, the number of points gained towards the Regatta Point Trophy equals 100 divided by 1+100(E/F-1), where E is the Entry’s time and F is the fastest time in the event in which the entry competed. Each institution’s P scores are totaled, and the group with the highest score wins the elusive prize.
This trophy also honors of D’Arcy G. MacMahon, one of the regatta’s three cofounders. MacMahon attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he captained the lightweight varsity crew team. MacMahon eventually became a member of the Cambridge Boat Club, an organization over which he later presided from 1974-1976.
George Ernest Arlett, a former Harvard sculling instructor, also has a trophy presented in his memory: The G Ernest Arlett Trophy, which goes to the Men’s Lightweight Singles champion.
Arlett, a member of the Northeastern University Athletics Hall of Fame and former Olympic sculling coach at the 1976 games, played a key role in advising the founders of the Head of the Charles. Arlett grew up in England and, after moving to Boston, introduced MacMahon and his fellow co-founders, Howard McIntyre and Jack Vincent, to the concept of a head race. These time trial competitions, usually three miles in length, were common in England at the time despite being a novel concept in the United States. Thanks to Arlett’s advice, the designers of the Head of the Charles modelled it as a head race, so Arlett is often considered “the father of the Head of the Charles.”
Two more important trophies go to the men’s and women’s championship eights victors. The team winning the men’s championship eights receives the Boston Globe Challenge Trophy, and the publisher and editorial staff of the Boston Globe present the trophy themselves. The Boston Globe inaugurally sponsors and supports the Head of the Charles Regatta. Likewise, the team conquering the women’s championship eights receives the Governor’s Trophy. By presenting this trophy, the Office of the Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts honors the international acclaim the Head of the Charles Regatta brings to Massachusetts each fall.
The collegiate women’s championship eights team boasting the most competitive time wins the Gail Pierson Trophy. On Oct. 26, 1969, Pierson Cromwell became the first woman to race at the Head of the Charles Regatta. Gail Pierson Cromwell swam and sailed at the University of Michigan before arriving at Harvard as an Assistant Professor in 1968. After the university refused to admit her into their pool, Pierson Cromwell began rowing with the Cambridge Boat Club. She took an immediate liking to the sport, becoming a pioneer for women rowers nationwide. After her success at the Head of the Charles, Pierson Cromwell continued rowing and eventually competed for the women’s world championships team in 1975. The Head of the Charles continues to pay homage to her legacy each year with a trophy in her honor.
The winner of the men’s championship doubles earns a trophy in memory of Pierson Cromwell’s late husband, Seymour “Sy” Cromwell. Cromwell became a world-renowned sculling champion, winning bronze in the 1961 European Rowing Championships, gold in the 1963 Pan American Games, and silver in Double Sculls in the 1964 Olympic Games. Today, his memory lives on at the Head of the Charles through the Sy Cromwell Trophy.
The 55th Head of the Charles kicks off Saturday, Oct. 19th, at 7:45am. Tune in to this weekend of nonstop racing to see who will claim this year’s trophies.