Rowers, spectators throng to Head of the Charles Regatta

Patrick Desjardins of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, was awake by 6 a.m. Saturday. The forecast called for a warm, dry day, and he had a little less than 3½ hours before his Head of the Charles Regatta men’s grand master singles 50-plus race.

“I went on the water Thursday and Friday,” he said later in the morning, resting after the race. “The weather was really bad. In fact, they kept people from rowing in the basin area because of winds. So to wake up to this — what a relief.”

He is one of about 9,000 athletes competing in the 49th annual rowing race this weekend. Organizers said they expect about 300,000 revelers to attend the two-day regatta.


State Police said they would post more troopers along the race in wake of the bombings at the Boston Marathon, a similarly iconic and spectator-heavy local athletic event. The STOP team, bomb squad, and K-9 and marine units were patrolling the course.

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Late in the morning, after what he called a “good” race, Desjardins reclined barefoot on a patch of grass eating an energy bar, waiting for his time to be posted. He gestured toward the colorful leaves rattling in the sunlight on the Cambridge side of the river.

“We don’t get that where I’m from, that’s for sure,” he said.

Willow Coronella, a Lesley University sophomore sitting with her mother, Carol Coronella of Putney, Vt., sketched the scene in green pen.

“She keeps adding more people as they come up on the [Eliot] Bridge,” Carol Coronella said.


Carol Coronella raced last year, and has been coming to Boston to watch the regatta for the last four. There are other large rowing events and challenging courses, she said, but the Head of the Charles, with its six bridges and winding final turn, is worth watching.

“There is a pageantry about this — it’s pretty nice,” she said.

The riverbanks grew much more crowded by early afternoon. People walked between booths advertising cruises or cars, offering lobster rolls, and selling casual checkered Brooks Brothers shirts.

Peter and Maura Abreu of Braintree stood at the Allston end of the Anderson Memorial Bridge, trying to identify the college teams as they passed by.

Both grew up in Dorchester, a few miles away, but had never been to the regatta.


“Never made it up,” Peter Abreu said. “Knew about it for years, but never made it up.”

But they were in the neighborhood anyway Saturday to see their daughter, who is on the University of Massachusetts Amherst club swim team compete at Harvard University. They arrived early and stood among rowing fans, enjoying the weather.

“Our kids are grown now, we have a little more time. We’re not running them around anymore,” Peter Abreu said.

Gal Tziperman Lotan can be reached at