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Head of the Charles Regatta field has no room to grow

Yale (foreground) and Syracuse compete during the women’s championship fours. Syracuse stroked to a third-place finish, while Yale finished sixth.Aram Boghosian for The Globe/Globe Freelance

What's ahead for the Head of the Charles Regatta for its next half-century? More of the same.

The eclectic mix of clubbies, collegians, age-groupers, and Olympians that makes the world's largest two-day rowing event unique is the essence of what board chairman Ed Smith calls its "special sauce."

And unless the organizers widen the river or switch the date to the summer solstice, the natural space and time limits are fixed. With 11,000 athletes already competing in 2,252 boats in 60 events, the field can't grow.

"At this point we're kind of like the Olympics," said executive director Fred Schoch. "You'd have to take an event out to add one."


While officials could switch the veterans (60 and older), most of them retirees with flexible schedules, to Friday afternoon, that would deprive out-of-town crews of their customary practice on the course.

"They cherish that, but I think it's a waste of time to go on the river on Friday afternoon," said Schoch. "You'd learn more by riding a bike along the course with your coach and watching the video."

British invasion

The Head's version of the British Invasion may not have caused the same stir as did the original in 1964, when the Beatles played at Boston Garden in September, but Her Majesty's rowers still made a significant splash.

Cambridge's men were second in the championship fours and Oxford's women finished fourth in the championship eights. Crabtree (Cambridge's grads) were second in the master fours and third in the alumni eights. Molesey's women's master eight, with Olympic medalists Katherine Grainger and Gillian Lindsay aboard, shattered the course record while its masters men, featuring Olympic gold medalist Jonny Searle and world titlist Alex Partridge, placed second. And Molesey's senior master eight, including knighted immortals Steven Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent, finished fifth just behind the US boat that won the 1987 world title despite starting 46th in the 55-entry field.


While a boatload of current Olympic medalists making its Head debut would have been granted a more favorable place in the order in the championship event, the organizers don't make such exceptions for the masters races.

"There's no question that [Molesey] boat was an outlier and there aren't very many of them," said Schoch. "It's an unfortunate turn of events that it happened this year."

Harvard on top again

Harvard's heavyweights, who won the men's championship eights crown three years ago, collected the trophy as the top collegiate finisher for the second year in a row by placing third overall ahead of the US Rowing entry, defending national champion Washington, and the French national boat.

"The way we view it, and I imagine a lot of the other crews do, is this is a checkpoint through the whole season," said Crimson captain Max Meyer-Bosse. Virginia, which won the women's crown three years ago, was the top college boat for the third time since then, also finishing third.

Cambridge cruisesThe Cambridge Boat Club, whose members founded the regatta and still operate it, had a marvelous weekend on the water.

Besides Andrew Campbell and Gevvie Stone sweeping the championship singles (and Stone stroking the victorious women's Great Eight under the CBC banner), the blue-and-white clad competitors also won the men's and women's grand master singles, the men's veteran I and senior veteran II singles, the women's senior masters doubles, and the men's senior masters four and grand masters eight.

John Powers can be reached at jpowers@globe.com.