Saturday’s unprecedented semi-tropical temperatures, which reached 76 degrees, lured a crowd estimated by a race official at 172,000 to the river banks — believed to be the most in history for the Head of the Charles regatta’s first day.
The previous temperature record of 68, which was set in 1979, was broken by 11 a.m., according to a race official.
A helpful tailwind also produced seven course records: in the senior master women’s eights (Marin RA, 17:44:45), men’s senior master doubles (Saman Majd/Mark Alloway, 18:05:01), senior master women’s doubles (Inge Stekl/Fran Tuite, 19:50.91), men’s alumni eights (Northeastern, 14:49.25), women’s alumni eights (Michigan, 16:24:13), men’s club eights (Brown, 14:41.27), and men’s master eights (Molesey, 15:14.86).
Saiya Remmler, the five-time defending champions in the women’s master doubles, passed out just before the 2-mile mark and was taken to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Brighton for treatment.
“I think she was fairly unresponsive when they got her, but she then became responsive,” said regatta executive director Fred Schoch, who thought that the unusually warm conditions likely were a factor.
Remmler and new partner Linda Muri, Harvard’s assistant men’s lightweight coach, were comfortably ahead at the Weld Boathouse checkpoint shortly before Remmler stopped sculling.
“The Head of the Charles is probably the safest regatta in the world,” said Schoch, who said that the 16 rescue launches on the course can respond to emergencies within 90 seconds. “They have a clear line of sight to the entire race course.”
A tough task
Harvard’s heavyweight crew, which is bidding to become the first US college eight to retain its title in the championship event since Navy in 1983, will have a daunting pack of pursuers Sunday afternoon. The US Rowing entry starting just behind includes Steve Kasprzyk and brothers Ross and Grant James from the boat that just missed a medal at the Games. The Great 8 (a.k.a. Tideway Scullers) returns five men from the 2009 title boat, most notably Olympic singles champion Mahe Drysdale. And Washington, which the Crimson dethroned last year, is back after winning the national championship in the spring. Harvard, whose 2011 victory was its first since 1977, has four varsity veterans back plus four sophomores.
Spirit of ’72
The 1972 Olympic men’s crew (a.k.a. the “Alte Achter”) celebrated its 40th anniversary by finishing a startling 38th out of 44 entrants in the senior master eights in what may have been its final Head appearance. “We passed a boat,” crowed Bill Hobbs, whose seatmates were last a year ago. Their coach, Harry Parker, whose expectations were justifiably modest, was impressed. “Their first accomplishment was that they were able to shove off,” he observed. “The second one was that they came back. They did OK.” . . . Team Attager finally succumbed to the calendar as its streak of six straight titles in the senior master eights was snapped by the Palm Beach kids (relatively speaking), who were seven years younger on average. “We were crestfallen but realistic,” said Schoch, who feared that he may have jinxed his third-place seatmates by ordering up “Lucky 7” shirts. “Job well done to Palm Beach and Marin.” . . . The Campbell family from New Canaan, Conn., which has four members rowing here, had a solid first day. Sisters Mary (16) and Claire (13) finished 15th and 23d in a field of 42 in the women’s club singles. Father Andrew, Sr., who was 31st in the men’s senior master singles, later joined with Claire to finish eighth in the parent-child doubles. Big brother Andrew Jr., the world bronze medalist in the lightweight single, will row with one of the Harvard eights in the championship event Sunday afternoon . . . The most bizarre pre-regatta injury may have been suffered by Richard Kendall, who fractured a rib recently after reaching for a Yuengling porter while lowering himself into a post-workout bath. The 82-year-old Kendall (a.k.a. Old Man River) still will be going after his 12th senior veterans singles title in 13 years. “I’ll make ’em work,” he vowed.