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Head of the Charles Race This Weekend

By Brian Kelleher Richter

The 34th running of Head of the Charles Regatta -- the world’s largest rowing event -- occurs this weekend, October 23 and 24, right in MIT’s front yard. Over 5,500 oarsmen and 300,000 spectators from all over the world will commence on the banks of the Charles. The 3 mile course runs from the Boston University Bridge upstream towards Harvard, University finishing just before Northeastern University’s boathouse.

Being a head-style race, crews start one after another, on short time intervals and race against the clock for the fastest time. The Charles River course presents a particular challenge to coxswains (who steer the boats) and crews alike, as the river has a number of bends and bridges with arches so narrow they can fit only one boat. As a result, it is not rare to see the clashing of oars or boats colliding with bridge abutments or each other.

Whom to watch

The regatta features all types of rowers from club enthusiasts, who race on Saturday, to the world’s most competitive rowers, who race Sunday afternoon in Championship category events.

The premier event, the Men’s Championship Eight, starts Sunday at 4:05 and features the World Champion United States National Team, the Canadian National Team, as well as top international teams from Germany, England and the Netherlands and the fastest Division I crews in the country including boats from Princeton, Harvard and Yale Universities. MIT’s top Varsity Heavyweight Eight--Amanda Y. Yang ’02 (cox), Christopher J. Penny ’01 (stroke), Brian K. Richter ’02, Eugene Weinstein ’00, Mark H. Jhon ’01, Andrew D. Copeland ’01, Andrew A. Lamb ’02, Igor L. Belakovskiy ’01, Mehlan L. Parker ’01 (bow) -- will race these crews along with its league rivals including Columbia, Cornell, and Boston Universities. MIT’s goal is to finish ahead of key league opponents.

Another event featuring the world’s finest athletes is the men’s Championship Single which runs just minutes before the eights race. Rowers who represent the National Teams for over ten countries compete in this event. The co-MVP of last year’s varsity heavyweight team, Michael Perry ’99, will race in this event. Two summers ago Perry rowed on the United States under 23 National Team in Greece; last summer he won the Club Single Event at the American Rowing Championships.

Other MIT Boats to watch are the men’s Youth Eight, men’s Lightweight Eight, and women’s Lightweight Eight. The Youth Eight races at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday and features eight of the experienced freshmen rowers MIT has this year; the boat is the fastest mix of heavyweight and lightweight freshmen. The Varsity Lightweight, which race at 2:18 p.m. on Sunday, should also prove to be a fast boat as they also gun for league foes. The women’s Lightweight Eight races at 2:28 p.m. on Sunday.

Where to watch

The best place to watch the racing action from is on the Anderson Bridge, which spans the river between Harvard’s Weld and Newell boathouses. The Anderson Bridge is a short walk from the Harvard T-stop on the Red Line.

The Anderson Bridge represents a key point in the course as it is more than halfway through the course and within site of often-treacherous Weeks Footbridge turn, the most frequent place for collisions.

There should be a contingent of MIT fans, including students, parents, and alumni from over the years, on the upstream side of the Anderson Bridge cheering on Beaver Crews.