Bulldogs Gear Up for Head of Charles

Varsity eight (Tim Bennett photo)
Varsity eight (Tim Bennett photo)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- The Yale women's crew team will continue its fall season with the Head of the Charles regatta this weekend in Cambridge, Mass. The annual regatta is the world's largest two-day rowing event, with more than 7,500 athletes from around the world competing in 55 different events. After coming up victorious in the Head of the Housatonic two weeks ago, the Elis will look to continue their winning ways in the 46th installment of the Head of the Charles this weekend.


At last year's Head of the Charles, the Bulldogs were the top collegiate finishers in the Championship Eighths, bested only by the World Champion USA eight and ASR Nereus--a composite crew of the top four pair rowers from the world championships. In the same event, Yale beat out the Canadian national team and Nautilus Rowing Club, which is a British entry of national team athletes. The Elis placed sixth in the Women's Championship Fours and second in the Women's Club Eights.


The Head of the Charles is a large two-day regatta, originally started by coaches who wished to break up the long, cold season with a fun event. It is a three-mile race, starting near the Boston University Boathouse, passing under seven bridges and finishing near Eliot Bridge. The race is done in "head-race style", with boats racing in single file, each start time broken up by only a few seconds. The winner is determined not by who finishes first, but by the final time recorded. The format allows for up to 50 boats to race at once, and also creates for many collisions in the notoriously twisted course. Due to the format, the Head of the Charles is often referred to as a "coxswains race," because the quality of the steering can add or subtract up to 10 seconds to the final time.


"It's a great regatta, not only because of the location and time of year, but also because it offers a chance for intense competition that, at the end of the day, is purely for bragging rights," said captain Caroline Nash. "I love it because it gets down to the heart of rowing without the pressure of standings or rankings--you just go out there, lay down a piece, and hope for the best."


"Head races are also great, because there can't be any let up," Nash added. "Just because you have passed the boat in front of you, or are pulling away from the boat behind you, doesn't mean that there isn't a boat, somewhere in the pack, going faster than you. It keeps a crew very honest."


The Bulldogs will be sending four boats to the regatta: two Championship Eights, one Championship Four, and a Club Eight. The Club Eight boat will race on Saturday, while the remaining boats will compete on Sunday.


"It's our last race of the season," said Nash, "so we're all looking forward to getting one last chance at this distance in a competitive setting before we bunker down for winter training."


Report By Arsi Sefaj '11, Yale Sports Publicity