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Head of the Charles River Regatta

Posted: Sun Nov 18, 2018 8:22 pm
by Matt Quinn
Our younger son, Michael, was very small in high school which was ideal for being a coxswain for his school's rowing team in Philadelphia. He won three national championships while there, but gave it up after graduation. Now in his 40's, he was recruited for one last shot at glory by a crew that was racing in the Head of the Charles Regatta. Because the rowers are working hard they are warm but the coxswain freezes since the race is in October in Cambridge, MA, and the wind and spray douse him.

In regular competition, the boats line up sometimes 6 across, held by hand to a dock stretching across the water. The coxswain holds his or her hand up until satisfied with the line and angle of the boat and then drops it. When all arms are down, the starter shouts: Ready all, row. And off they go, 20 power strokes to get out front, and then dropping down to a slower pace.

In a head race, there can be as many as 40 or more boats in a category; e.g., heavy weight masters (old guys), so the race is started one boat at a time, with the previous year's winner starting first followed by the rest of that year's top 10, with about 30 seconds in between. The best time wins.

Strategy is key; an 8-man shell is about 62 feet long and the oars are about 12 feet. Some of the arches in the bridge on the Charles are only a few feet wider so it is nigh impossible for two to charge through together. And the better line is the one closer to the interior shore. The boat in front has precedence on going through the arch, but sometimes there have been the clacking of oars -- always a delight to watch.

Michael's boat made the top 20; not enough motivation to do it again.

The rower nearest to the coxswain is called the stroke and the last man, the bow man. The stroke is usually the best rower and sets the pace. The others, moving from the stroke, are the two seat, three seat, etc, which the coxswain uses to call out corrections when managing the race. The coxswain studies the puddles from the blades to judge the individual rower's performance. While the stroke's puddle is ideal, you can see that seat 4's puddle is not fully formed so his stroke is late and the coxswain will call that out. He has a microphone on his mouth and there are speakers running along the inside of the shell so the rowers can hear him barking as he calls out the changes in strokes from half power to full, etc.


Re: Head of the Charles River Regatta

Posted: Sun Nov 18, 2018 11:04 pm
by Psjunkie
educational story and well presented image Matt..thanks for sharing

Re: Head of the Charles River Regatta

Posted: Mon Nov 19, 2018 2:43 am
by Matt Quinn
You're welcome Frank. Matt

Re: Head of the Charles River Regatta

Posted: Mon Nov 19, 2018 3:35 am
by minniev
Nice shot (and a nicer story, even!). The image is well composed with that strong diagonal and all the movement that the boat and oars carry with them.

I relate to the bittersweet joy of watching our adult children compete. I still love watching the 36 yr old play soccer in the local mens’ league. I don’t know if I could bear to watch the eldest play baseball if he ever took a notion. He coached a high school team for a couple of years and I cried every time I went, just seeing him in uniform again. I’m loving watching the eldest grandson do his thing though.

Re: Head of the Charles River Regatta

Posted: Mon Nov 19, 2018 12:15 pm
by Matt Quinn
Yes Minnie, bittersweet indeed. I fill up as well when I look at some of the snaps from his hs. Thanks. Matt

Re: Head of the Charles River Regatta

Posted: Tue Nov 20, 2018 3:18 pm
by davechinn
An education on a sport I knew nothing about. Thanks for that Matt. Your image surely adds to the story and vise versa.

Re: Head of the Charles River Regatta

Posted: Wed Nov 21, 2018 1:09 pm
by Matt Quinn
Thanks Dave.