US Rowing, which won the last two men’s and women’s championship eights titles at the Head of the Charles Regatta, didn’t send entries this time. But there still will be numerous Olympians racing in singles, doubles, and fours this weekend.
Ben Davison, who rowed in the Tokyo men’s eight, will compete in the championship singles, which he won in 2018. His seatmates Justin Best and Alex Richards will be in the doubles and fours, respectively. The entire Olympic men’s four will be in action, with Andrew Reed and Anders Weiss in one of the two US fours, Michael Grady in the double with Best, and Clark Dean back in the Harvard eight.
On the women’s side, Kristina Wagner, who rowed in the Olympic double, will race in the singles, as will Alison Rusher from the Tokyo quad.
A college test
With US Rowing not competing, the men’s championship eights will be an early preview of the collegiate season. Yale, the three-time reigning IRA titlist that didn’t defend its crown last season because of the pandemic, will be favored after dusting Washington, this year’s winner, by 23 seconds at the Head of the Housatonic two weekends ago. In the mix, too, will be Harvard, Brown, and Northeastern. Rowing Canada, the Olympic boat that was the surprise victor in Tokyo, is the heavy favorite in the women’s field, which includes top college crews Stanford, Yale, and Princeton . . . With Gevvie Stone moving on to the masters division after a record 10 crowns, Saturday’s women’s championship singles is up for grabs. Wagner, Stone’s partner in the Tokyo doubles, will be favored, with Rusher and Mary Nabel giving chase. With John Graves not defending his men’s title, the ones to beat will be top seed Kevin Meador, Davison, and Michael Knippen. Stone, who won the last six women’s titles, is back in residency at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. She’ll be top-seeded in Saturday morning’s masters race.
The inaugural session of Friday racing for older scullers went off smoothly on flat water under sunny skies, with one shocker: Twin Donut’s Geoff and Gregory Klingsporn ended Mike Smith and Dan Gorriaran’s seven-year dynasty in the men’s senior master doubles. Inge Stekl and Fran Tuite, who had won three titles in women’s senior master doubles, retained their grand master title. New champions were crowned in the other events: Richard Anderson (men’s senior veteran singles), Liz Turner (women’s senior veteran singles), John Tunnicliffe (men’s veteran singles), Leslie Krichko (women’s veteran singles), Tom Bohrer (men’s grand master singles), Tricia Carney (women’s grand master singles), Christine Collins-Bethany Grant (women’s senior master doubles), Russell Murphy-Daniel Chernoff (men’s grand master doubles), and Matthew Houser-Maurice Scott (mixed para inclusion doubles).
One casualty from last year’s canceled event and the ongoing impact of the pandemic on businesses is a diminished number of sponsors. BNY Mellon continues as presenting sponsor; Delta Air Lines, Sierra Nevada, and others stayed on, and regatta officials replaced Brooks Brothers with Vineyard Vines and Aston Martin with Ford. Still, the overall revenue hit was unavoidable. “The regatta’s running at a significant deficit this year,” said executive director Fred Schoch. “But we built up a rainy-day fund for a reason and we will tap it.” . . . In addition to having a new event for alumni fours, the regatta is awarding special medals for winners in several categories: under-17 rowers in all events, a JV medal for a second collegiate boat in the championship eights, and Class of 2020 medals for alumni boats manned 75 percent by last year’s graduates who were deprived of a chance to race.
Saving him a seat
The three-man boat in Sunday’s director’s challenge quad will be a tribute to missing man Charlie Hamlin, the longtime anchor of the “Four Horsemen” who won Head titles in three age groups in decades past. Hamlin, a 1968 Olympian, died in May after battling Alzheimer’s disease. His seatmates Schoch, Chuck Pieper, and Roger Borggaard will honor him by racing with a viking helmet in the empty seat . . . Friday’s weather was a precursor for what should be a favorable racing and watching weekend. Saturday’s forecast is for partly cloudy skies, 61 degrees, and a west-northwest wind at 9 miles per hour. Sunday should be mostly sunny and 62 degrees, with a westerly wind at 10 m.p.h. That’ll mean a headwind for rowers at several points of the course, notably at the finish stretch after the Eliot Bridge. Five rainy days are expected to follow.