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The First 250: October 25

BY LUKE REYNOLDS
PHOTOS BY ED MORAN

There were a lot of emotions swirling around the Charles River this past weekend in Boston.

The long-awaited return of the sport’s premier event, the Head of the Charles Regatta, brought back the tight-knit rowing community in spectacular fashion and rowers were finally able to showcase their skills in one of the fall’s most competitive races.

It wasn’t disappointment or the feeling of satisfaction that comes with finishing a long race that really stuck out this weekend. The prevailing emotion permeating the banks of the Charles was joy.

That joy connected rowers from across the country and, although it did not have as many international entries as years past, the event still boasted rowers representing 15 countries including The Bahamas, Turkey, Austria, Serbia, and many others.

“All the rowers are just so glad to see one another. It’s like a reunion,” Rick Anderson said. “We’re back together again.”

Anderson, who is a member of Rockford Rowing, won the men’s veteran singles 70-plus division.

“Rowers tend to be a family. We know people from all over the world and we get together at these regattas, and it is so nice to catch up. I think that’s what’s great about the sport, the friendliness of the people that are in it. Especially in Boston.”

“Rowers tend to be a family. We know people from all over the world and we get together at these regattas, and it is so nice to catch up. I think that’s what’s great about the sport, the friendliness of the people that are in it. Especially in Boston.”

-Rick Anderson

Whether you were watching the regatta on the event’s YouTube live stream or on the banks of the Charles cheering athletes on in person, the simple pleasure of being together to celebrate those participating in athletic competition was palpable.

There were more than 2,200 entries and the regatta held a lot of “firsts” for young athletes but was also a display of tradition for the race’s more seasoned competitors.

“We are slower,” Bets Kent said. “Our boat averages 67 [years old], so it’s a bit of a struggle to get that power but you appreciate the friendships more every year.”

Kent raced in the women’s grand master’s eight along with Susan Hooten, Ann Jonik, Susan Hingley, Nancy Vespoli, Elizabeth Kent, Nancy Storrs, Judy Geer, Charlotte Geer, and Kathleen O’Neil Smith. It was her 42nd trip down the Charles for the Head of the Charles.

One of the first’s worth noting that took place was a familiar name in a different event. Gevvie Stone competed in the women’s masters single for the first time. Stone retired from international racing following the Tokyo Olympics, where she raced the double with Kristina Wagner.

In true Gevvie Stone fashion, the single sculler and ten-time HOCR champion broke the existing women’s master’s single record by 34 seconds.

“I was surprised by how many people were along the banks at 8 am—surprised in a very good way. Made it much more fun!” said Stone. “It’s great to get out there and race. No matter the event. All about doing the best I can.”

Maggie Fellows won this year’s championship single.

“I didn’t race in 2019 so that’s why I had to get in out of the lottery,” Fellows said. “I was just hoping it would all work out. I know I can row a very aggressive line on this course but the question is: what other people will do? I was only focusing on what I can control.”

In the men’s champ single, Ben Davidson won for the second time since 2018.

“It went fairly smooth, I ran into a bit of trouble around Weld’s turn, just passing somebody who didn’t quite get out the way, but that’s just how it goes.”

-Ben Davidson

“It went fairly smooth, I ran into a bit of trouble around Weld’s turn, just passing somebody who didn’t quite get out the way, but that’s just how it goes,” Davidson said. “Other than that, it went fairly smooth. I was happy with it.”

For a more comprehensive breakdown of Sunday’s racing check out editorial intern Jamey Bulloch’s report from Cambridge yesterday.

On a more somber note, three of the “four horsemen” rowed the Charles course Saturday with three-seat—normally occupied by Charlie Hamlin—empty in honor of Hamlin’s passing in May. Hamlin along with Roger Borggaard, Chuck Pieper, and Head of the Charles executive director Fred Schoch shared a special friendship amplified by their annual trip down the Charles and mutual love of the sport.

“There’s obviously a couple of core elements [in a friendship]; you have common interests, you have common values, but those are what I’d call threshold issues and the answer to that would be clear yeses for both of those questions [within The Four Horsemen], but when I think friendships have really developed like these have, it’s a bit like your autonomic nervous system,” Pieper said. “You don’t think about breathing; you don’t think about the rhythm or frequency of your heart rates. It just works.”

Roger Borggaard, Chuck Pieper, and Head of the Charles executive director Fred Schoch with three-seat left empty in honor of Charlie Hamlin.

The Head of the Charles was a celebration, yes, but it is only the start of a string of big regattas taking place over the next couple of weekends.

The annual Head of the Schuylkill Regatta is set to celebrate its 51st anniversary this weekend. The 2.5-mile course is a Philadelphia head racing staple that has been dubbed the “the best head race in the world. Period.” by Rowing News.

This year’s event is dedicated to Ted A. Nash who passed away in July and will have a reception to celebrate the life of Nash on Saturday evening. The race is also dedicating—in perpetuity—a HOSR event in his name.

There are over 1,600 entries for the 2021 Head of the Schuylkill Regatta so it’s sure to pack all the excitement and emotion that Charles gave us last weekend.

And, wrapping up the triple-threat of big head races, is Head of the Hooch which is appropriately tagged “The Last of the Great Fall Regattas” and will take place Nov. 6-7.

Charles, Schuylkill, and Hooch are three examples of great fall regattas that attract thousands of athletes and spectators to the outdoors to spectate and compete. They represent the best of what our sport has to offer and provide the necessary on-the-water thrill that will carry rowers through the winter months. Onward!

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