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head of the charles

A guide to the 2021 Head of the Charles, which expands to three days this year

The Radcliffe heavyweight crew was out training for the Head of the Charles this week.
The Radcliffe heavyweight crew was out training for the Head of the Charles this week.Maddie Meyer/Getty

After last year’s edition was canceled because of the COVID pandemic, the 56th Head of the Charles Regatta will take place this weekend.

The regatta will be conducted over three days — a change instituted this year — and feature a number of rowers who participated in the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. There will be COVID guidelines for volunteers and participants to follow.

Here’s a guide.

The basics

▪ Races: Friday from 8-10:46 a.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3:41 p.m., and Sunday from 7:45 a.m. to 3:59 p.m.

▪ The course: The start line is at Boston University’s DeWolfe Boathouse, and rowers finish the 3-mile upstream course at Herter Park along Soldiers Field Road.

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The Harvard-Radcliffe Women's Heavyweight Crew team trains on the Charles River Wednesday afternoon.
The Harvard-Radcliffe Women's Heavyweight Crew team trains on the Charles River Wednesday afternoon.Maddie Meyer/Getty

▪ Awards: Ceremonies will take place at Attager Row (”regatta” spelled backward) before the finish line at Herter Park.

▪ Results: Race results are updated on the Head of the Charles website, www.hocr.org.

Where to watch

There are a number of great vantage spots along the river.

The Boston University Bridge gives viewers a glimpse of the start line. The Rivers Bridge, next to Magazine Beach in Cambridge, is the second bridge on the course and is the prime spot to watch the Powerhouse Stretch. The Western Avenue Bridge is the third bridge and shows the end of the Powerhouse Stretch.

Crowds gather at Eliot Bridge to watch the 2018 Head of the Charles.
Crowds gather at Eliot Bridge to watch the 2018 Head of the Charles.Michael Swensen for The Boston Globe

The Weeks Footbridge near Harvard serves as the iconic spot of the regatta, known for its 90-degree turn that can shift races. The Weld Exhibition at Riverbend Park between the Weeks Footbridge and the Anderson Bridge is a popular spot for food and beverage vendors.

The Anderson Bridge and the Eliot Bridge are the final two bridge spots on the course.

Spectators also can also watch the races from the banks of the river at Hospitality Row near the Eliot Bridge, the Reunion Village, and Attager Row.

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Transportation

The Head of the Charles encourages spectators to use ride sharing apps to and from the event.

Public transportation is also available via the MBTA, with three stations within walking distance (Central and Harvard on the Red Line and BU Central on the B branch of the Green Line). There also are numerous MBTA bus stops in the area.

▪ Parking: While parking is limited in the area, there are three spots available if you do drive. There is free on-street parking on Birmingham Parkway. The lot at Alewife Station is open 24/7 for 2,627 cars and costs $9 per day, providing Red Line access to Harvard.

Parking for 500 cars will be available at Harvard Stadium, Gate 14, for $30 per day. The lot will be available Friday from 12-5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.

▪ Road closures: Memorial Drive from Cambridge Boat Club to Western Avenue will be closed on Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

COVID guidelines

▪ Only fully vaccinated individuals can volunteer. Regatta officials encourage all participants, coaches, and spectators to be fully vaccinated.

▪ Masks will not be required outdoors, but individuals who are unvaccinated or immuno-compromised are asked to wear masks outdoors.

▪ Masks are required indoors.

▪ Social distancing will be encouraged at all times.

What’s different in 2021

A third day of racing was added for Friday. The sculling events for men and women over 50, typically held Saturday morning, will now be held Friday morning. These races include senior veteran (70+), veteran (60+), grand master singles (50+), senior master (50+), and grand master doubles (60+).

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There also is a new venue from which to watch, the FALS Bar Beer Garden located next to Attager Row and open to all spectators. Wristbands are required to purchase alcohol.

The Reunion Village is now at 973 Memorial Drive and offers beer from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and food from Boston Burger Co.