More than 11,000 rowers from across the world congregated in Boston this weekend to compete in the 52nd Head of the Charles Regatta. The race, held annually on the Charles River, includes 56 events, with varying age ranges, skill levels and boat sizes.
The women’s and men’s crew teams battled not only their competitors — consisting of both familiar collegiate rivals and less familiar rowing clubs — but also winds exceeding 25 miles per hour and conditions that Alia Shafi ’17 said were the worst she had ever seen in her six years racing at the Head of the Charles. Stacy Neul ’19 called the weather “horrendous.” Despite the meteorological adversity, both the men and the women churned out typically strong performances at the race.
The women’s top boat grabbed fourth in the Championship Eight event, falling short of the first place finisher, Cambridge Boat Club, by 17 seconds. Bruno boats also thrived in the Club Eights and Championship Fours races, finishing first and second, respectively.
Shafi, a member of the women’s best boat in the Championship Eight, said she was pleased with how her boat finished but noted her frustration at missing a top-three result. Yale knocked Brown off the podium by the slightest of margins.
“It’s always tough to lose by 0.7 seconds,” Shafi said.
Neul, coxswain for the women’s Championship Four boat, which finished second to a club from Denmark, was more enthusiastic about the race’s results.
“We had a very strong showing against the field,” Neul said. “It was definitely a good weekend.”
The men’s top boat finished 10th out of 26 boats in its Championship Eight race, with the other Bruno boat in the race finishing 18 seconds behind in 17th. In the Club Eights race, Brown’s two boats again finished within a minute of each other, crossing the line at fourth and 17th.
Neil McKenzie ’17, the coxswain for Bruno’s top men’s boat in the Championship Eight, was not too pleased with the performance.
“We were pretty disappointed,” McKenzie said. “I don’t think we had our best piece, which is never a great feeling, and I think it shows we have some work to do ahead.”
While the Head of the Charles does not count toward the boats’ official records, there is still an exciting atmosphere about the race that pushes rowers to try their hardest, McKenzie said.
“But at the same time, it’s a stepping stone for part of our season,” he added. “Obviously we try to do as best as we possibly can.”
The Head of the Charles is a head race, which means the boats in any event do not race side by side but rather start at different times and race against the clock. This style is distinct from Brown’s regular season races, which are head-to-head. Neul noted that while head races are different and more intensive for a coxswain than head-to-head, her boat does not approach head races differently.
“But it’s a different mind game for all crews,” she added.
While the crew season is months away, Shafi said she hopes her team’s Head of the Charles results are a harbinger of good things to come.