It's just over a week until the Head of the Charles, and looking through the entries, there are very many events that are wide open this year with Worlds being held down in Karapiro. That said, there are a few events where the front-runners seem clear. Let's take a look.
In the Champ Single, the only appearance from the international scene (this year, anyway) is Marcel Hacker, who won't be racing at Worlds due to his recovery period from an injury. Though typically that might put him at the top of the heap, I don't know what kind of form he is in coming back from injury (broken rib), and he can be very unpredictable even when healthy. For these reasons, Jamie Koven is my pick to win the Champ 1x. Hacker is more than capable of winning, depending on the day and his condition, so I would certainly expect him to be in the top 10, along with Mike Perry (Dolphin Club, San Francisco), Michael Sivigny, Geoffrey Hoffman, Jens Robatzek, and possibly Donny Simkin. I'm not familiar with J. Rodriguez from Club España A.C., but he may show some speed as well (though it is a course much like the Thames -- it really helps to know its idiosyncrasies).
In the Championship Double, my pick is a repeat from the Graves brothers. Tom Graves and brother Pete won the Champ 2x at the Charles last season, in a field that included Hacker and Drysdale, among others. They know the course, and they know how to win. I just don't see anyone toppling these two from the podium this year.
In the Lightweight Single, Rich Montgomery is making a comeback, and is a wild card. The other entry from the NYAC is Bill Golden, who has a great engine, and is someone I would definitely expect to see in the top 10. Alex Zosuls should make that group, and I would expect Cody Lowry to be in the mix as well. Based on the results from Trials, however, I would expect it to come down to a fight between Rob Zechmann, Sam Cunningham, Robert Meenk and David Smith. All four just missed the final at Trials, and Zechmann and Smith both have the advantage of home water. As with all things lightweight, it will be a dogfight.
In the Champ VIII, the field will be without the strongest entries from US and foreign national teams this year, so, as indicated in Rowing News, I would lean toward a US Collegiate winner this year. Cal and Washington are the top two, and I'm going to pick the Golden Bears to win the Champ VIII this year. I'm not sure who'll fill out the US Rowing entry, but outside of Cal and Washington, there is one crew that will undoubtedly be very strong as well -- Penn A.C. The boat will have four oarsmen who were very close to going to Karapiro in the coxed pair (Steve Kasprzyk and Troy Kepper were edged out by two tenths of a second at Trials), and a chip on their shoulder because of it. Look for Penn A.C. to be in the top three. Keep an eye on Old Glory Boat Club, and Oxford University Boat Club as well (take a look at a few of the names in that lineup).
In the Lightweight VIII, the final event on the schedule this year, the top contenders look to be Yale, Harvard and Princeton, as you might expect. However, my dark horse to win the event is the entry from the NYAC. They have a great deal of experience, both ivy league and international, and they will be gunning for a title in a field that, for the first time in some time, does not feature an entry from Riverside.
The racing will no doubt be intense and close, and I look forward to seeing how it all turns out -- not to mention doing a bit of racing myself!