After two days of sun-splashed revels on the riverbank and minimal carnage on the water, the Head of the Charles organizers were ebullient when the 49th edition of the world’s largest rowing event came to a conclusion Sunday afternoon.
“These are weekends that event planners dream about,” concluded regatta executive director Fred Schoch. “Everything has come together perfectly. I couldn’t be happier with the competition and the crowds.”
The only drawback was the budget-busting security bill, which was triple last year’s in the wake of the Marathon bombings, with the regatta having to bear the cost of extensive measures required by public safety officials.
“I’ll be making a number of calls to the State House this winter because it’s onerous and all the events in Massachusetts are feeling it,” said Schoch.
Fortunately, the Head received a revenue boost from several new sponsors, most notably BNY Mellon, which has signed on for five years as presenting sponsor, the regatta’s first since Charles Schwab in 2001.
“What it allows us is to breathe a little easier on paying the rent and to grow the event in ways that we see fit,” says Schoch, who also signed on New Balance and Celebrity Cruises this year.
BNY Mellon, a multinational financial services corporation, also sponsors the annual Oxford-Cambridge 4-mile race on the Thames.
“They’re invested in rowing for the long haul,” observed Schoch.
A third day?
The HOCR board, which has considered adding a third day to what was a one-day event until 1997, still is pondering that possibility, but time and space constraints remain a challenge. “The board will look for ways to provide more opportunities for competitors,” says Schoch. “The problem is, even if you had more time on the river, there’s a limited amount of real estate to stage all the boats. Those are November-December discussions that we have about how to improve the regatta in size and scope. At some point you just have to say, ‘Sorry.’ ” . . . One area that has soared in popularity are the youth events, which include 85 men’s and 85 women’s eights plus as many fours, as well as 38 men’s and 31 women’s doubles. This year organizers for the first time split separate youth singles races from the club events and attracted 33 men and 22 women. “Just five years ago we created the youth doubles and it’s just mushroomed,” said Schoch. “We’re very excited to be a leader in that regard for other regattas because they watch what we do and emulate it.”
Some US headway
US Rowing, which sent a substantial flotilla here, didn’t win either of the championship eight events. But the Yanks still picked up significant hardware. Elle Logan, who won two Olympic gold medals in the eight, stroked Cambridge Boat Club’s group of global scullers to victory over her former sweep teammates. The women’s four won its first title in more than two decades. And on Saturday Kate Bertko won the championship single . . . For the first time since the Head began in 1965 iconic Harvard coach Harry Parker, who died in June, wasn’t around to race, coach, and welcome back generations of alums to Newell Boathouse. But his heavyweights placed third in the championship event and first among college varsities, and his daughter Abigail, now a freshman, rowed in the Radcliffe boat that won Saturday’s club eights. “The legend continues,” observed Crimson oarsman Andrew Reed . . . Saturday’s warm temperatures and calm waters set the stage for 20 course records, but Sunday was breezier, though still warm, and no records were set.