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Preview: Crew Teams Prepare for 2022 Head of the Charles Regatta

A Harvard crew rows past the Anderson Memorial Bridge as part of the 2021 Head of the Charles Regatta, on Oct. 23, 2021.
A Harvard crew rows past the Anderson Memorial Bridge as part of the 2021 Head of the Charles Regatta, on Oct. 23, 2021. By Angela Dela Cruz
By Mairead B. Baker, Crimson Staff Writer

In just a few days, the banks of the Charles River will be filled with rowers, coaches, and spectators alike for the world’s largest three-day rowing event: the Head of the Charles Regatta.

Since its inception in 1965, this regatta has hosted teams from universities, as well as professional and club squads from across the United States and around the world. It attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators, marking one of the busiest days of the year on Harvard’s campus and in Cambridge. Recruiting thousands of volunteers and sponsored by companies such as Vineyard Vines, Moderna, BNY Mellon Investment Management, and Omni Boston Hotel, many people are attracted to the event not only to watch rowers make history but also to take part in activities such as the Eliot Bridge Enclosure and purchase regatta merchandise and food at the Weld Boathouse. There is also a Reunion Village, where alumni can gather to support their favorite teams.

With early ties to Harvard, the regatta was initially created by members of the Cambridge Boat Club on advice from Harvard sculling instructor Ernest Arlett. Arlett suggested a “Head of the River” contest be held on the Charles River, with “head” referring to races that are generally three miles in length. The course starts at the Boston University Boathouse and runs three miles upstream, ending past Harvard’s campus. Though this three-mile stream of the river is generally packed with sightseers, the hub of spectators tends to crowd around the Harvard bend of the Charles.

A group of fans lines up in front of Harvard's Eliot House during the 2021 Head of the Charles Regatta, on Oct. 23, 2021. Each year, the Regatta draws more than 100,000 spectators.
A group of fans lines up in front of Harvard's Eliot House during the 2021 Head of the Charles Regatta, on Oct. 23, 2021. Each year, the Regatta draws more than 100,000 spectators. By Josie W. Chen

Since its inauguration, the event has grown to 55 different events, featuring over 11,000 rowers from all around the world. Winners of each race receive the honorary title, “Head of the Charles.”

Last year, Harvard crew was well-represented in the regatta. One boat from the men’s lightweight team competed in the Men’s Club Fours race, taking fifth place overall. In the same event, a men’s heavyweight team of four claimed first place among 44 boats. Two Radcliffe lightweight teams earned top-five placements in the Women’s Lightweight Eights. One women’s heavyweight boat took home a fifth-place finish in the Club Eights race with a time of 17:02.361. Finally, in the Sunday championship, one team—led by current sophomore Bridget Galloway—took sixth place overall in the Women’s Championship Fours. The team placed behind the victors, Stanford, and a Canadian Olympic boat, as well as Ivy competitors Brown, Yale, and Princeton.

More recently, current and former members from Harvard’s men’s and women’s heavyweight teams competed in the 2022 World Rowing Championships. Four alumni and one current student-athlete, sophomore Jack Dorney, raced in the event, representing four different countries.

Molly Moore ’17 was part of the women’s Para-Rowing Mixed Coxed Four for Team USA, which placed fifth. The U.S. Men’s Eight rostered Pieter Quinton ’20 and Liam Corrigan ’19 and placed fourth in the A Final. Sam Hardy ’18 rowed for Australia, whose boat took home the bronze medal. Dorney occupied the bow seat for Ireland’s men’s fours boat, placing second in the B final.

A four-man crew of Harvard racers strokes down the Charles River during the 2021 Head of the Charles Regatta, on Oct. 23, 2021.
A four-man crew of Harvard racers strokes down the Charles River during the 2021 Head of the Charles Regatta, on Oct. 23, 2021. By Josie W. Chen

Alumnus David Ambler ’20 won big for England, racing from the three seat for Great Britain’s coxless four. The boat won both the heat and repechage, advancing to the A final, where it claimed the 2022 World Championship.

For current Harvard rowers, the Head of the Charles marks the opening of both Harvard men’s and women’s crew fall seasons and a chance to pick up from where they left off in the spring.

The women’s heavyweights are coming off a strong season, placing fifth at the Ivy Championships last year. They also notched a pair of third-place finishes, at the Saratoga Invitational and the EAWRC sprints—the annual rowing championship for all of the Ivy League schools—in addition to MIT, Boston University, and Wisconsin, among others.

The women’s lightweights also took third at the EAWRC sprints last season to go along with a fifth-place finish at the IRA Championship in May, a national championship regatta originally founded by Ivy rival Cornell.

A Harvard four-man crew leaves the dock, preparing to race during the 2021 Head of the Charles Regatta, on Oct. 23, 2021.
A Harvard four-man crew leaves the dock, preparing to race during the 2021 Head of the Charles Regatta, on Oct. 23, 2021. By Josie W. Chen

The men’s lightweights took home a silver medal at the IRA National Championships this past spring, as the boat of four posted a time of 6:25, just two seconds behind Navy, who won the race in the ML4 Grand Final.

The men’s heavyweights defeated many Ivy schools last year, boasting wins against Cornell, Brown, and Princeton, and taking first place in a race against Penn and Navy. The team also was victorious against Boston neighbor Northeastern University, despite taking sixth place at the IRA National Championships.

Though this famous regatta is not necessarily a testament to the strength of the Harvard crew teams, given the type of competition they are to face during the remainder of their races this fall, it surely is a part of the tradition that graces the Crimson-stained waters of the Charles. It is a step along a much longer journey, one that will once again commence right here at home.


—Staff writer Mairead B. Baker can be reached at mairead.baker@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @baker_mairead.

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