Thousands of Spectators Gather for HOTC Regatta
Head of the Charles Brought Variety of Races to City
Published: Thursday, October 24, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 24, 2013 00:10
This past weekend, Bostonians happily tolerated an intensified level of traffic as locals and tourists alike swarmed for one of Boston’s most celebrated traditions: the Head of the Charles Regatta (HOTC).
The race, only two years shy of its 50th anniversary, was originally founded on Oct. 16, 1965, by Cambridge Boat Club members D’Arcy MacMahon, Howard MacIntyre, and Jack Vincent and has since grown to become the world’s largest rowing competition. Back in 1965, MacMahon, MacIntyre, and Vincent formed the three-mile race following the advice of their Harvard University sculling instructor, Ernest Arlett, who proposed a race against both others and the clock modeled after those in his native country of England.
In 1997, the HOTC grew from one to two days. Now, in 2013, the event—which begins at Boston University’s DeWolfe Boathouse in Boston and ends at the Artesani Playground in Brighton—attracted over 300,000 spectators to watch 9,000 competitors ages 14 to 85 hailing from 19 different countries. The 49th annual HOTC saw some of the lowest times in its history, beginning in the fourth event of the weekend with a 21-year record for the Grand Master Men’s Singles 50 plus plummeting by 39 seconds as Greg Bennett pulled into the finish line of the event at 18 minutes, 15 seconds. The following seven events all proved to be record breakers, as well as single racers and teams who pulled ahead of the records set by those who had raced those events in past years. Over the course of Saturday alone, 17 new records had been set by teams such as University of Virginia Alumni, Union Boat Club, Brown University, and Kennebecacis.
Of the 62 events that took place over the course of the weekend, there are five varieties: youth, club, collegiate, master, and championship races. The championship events are the most renowned, comprised of the world’s most talented rowers who compete for a medal. The Great Eight team, which competed in the eight-person women’s championship race, was ecstatic when they beat the United States National Team by only one second. The victory was especially sweet, explained Great Eight coxswain Jack Carlson, because the U.S. team had beaten them in last year’s race, and was ahead of them this year until about 750 meters to go. “It’s awesome,” Carlson said, “I mean, they are the best women’s eight in the world, you know in the World Championships, so to beat them means a lot, means a lot to everyone in the crew, for sure.”
Unfortunately, this year’s regatta saw the appearance of an important problem that faces those responsible for organizing the HOTC in future years: the inability to accommodate all of the youth teams who would like to participate. While it is encouraging to see so many high school rowing organizations from all over the world with interest in travelling to Boston for this prestigious race, there simply is not enough room for all of them due to limited hours on the course. The HOTC Committee has been forced to resort to a lottery system so exclusive that for every high school team that is allowed to participate, two are turned away. Fred Schoch, executive director of the HOTC, explained the problem, “It’s a problem because the sport is growing at that level very quickly. And of course there are many other regattas during the fall, but everyone wants to come to the mecca: the Head of the Charles.”
For one high school in particular, this river not only represents the site of the famous HOTC Regatta, but is also a home. Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School (CRLHS) may not get a guaranteed bid every year, but consistently earns entry by exchanging volunteer hours for the Regatta, unwilling to leave their participation up to the lottery system. As senior coxswain for CRLHS, Benjamin Schooler, explained, “This is our home and we kind of have to defend it against everyone else.”