Caution: Falling Records at the Head Of The Charles
Last weekend in Boston saw many records fall, and new stars rise. Indeed, as pointed out by World Rowing, ideal weather conditions and tremendous talent came together to produce no fewer than 20 new course records. Also, given the proliferation of digital video cameras on the water, it was perhaps the most well-documented race in the 49-year history of the event (see above—and thanks to Phil Hoyle of Potomac Boat Club for submitting what is likely the first-ever 'five-seat view' Charles race video).
The competition was heavily laden with international stars in our sport, and the men's championship single event was a prime example, featuring newly crowned world champions Kjetil Borch and Nils Jakob Hoff of Norway, defending Olympic champion Mahe Drysdale, U.S. Olympian Tom Paradiso, and several U.S. athletes recently returned from sculling events in Chungju in the form of John Graves, Ben Dann, and Willy Cowles. Not only did Borch repeat as champion, he crushed the course record by some 17 seconds. So fast was Borch that his double partner Hoff, who also broke the record by roughly six seconds, had to settle for second place. Drysdale finished third, and looks to be getting back into the right kind of shape, with a more focused approach and attitude after having taken some time away from sculling following his Olympic title last year—not to mention some quality post-race banter:
Yes I want you back @OlafTufte08 as these other Norweigens are too young and too fast! @HOCR
— Mahe Drysdale (@MaheDrysdale) October 19, 2013
Graves finished an impressive fifth, just behind Dutch Olympian Jozef Klaassen two seconds ahead in fourth place. The result for Graves put him just over 2% back of Borch, and less than four seconds back of Drysdale.
In the women's championship single, the folks on the banks were backing Gevvie Stone—and for good reason. Stone had won the Head Of The Charles no fewer than eight times going into last weekend's event, including titles in the champ single in 2010, 2011, and 2012. While some thought that this might be the year that Olympic champion and 2013 world bronze medalist Mirka Knapkova would catch Stone for the prize, in the end, it was newly converted lightweight Kate Bertko who rose above the rest in Boston. The result for Bertko comes on the heels of her world silver medal in the lightweight double in Chungju—it seems like the conversion to lightweight sculling suits her well, given the evidence. Stone finished a close second, just two seconds back, and Knapkova made it very interesting, taking third less than 0.5 seconds back of Stone. It was just this sort of drama that set the stage for an epic day of championship eights racing the following afternoon.
As for the junior and masters events, the story of the regatta was Marin Rowing Association. Starting with the No. 1 bow marker for the third straight year, the Marin junior men made it four consecutive victories in the most prestigious head race in North America, winning by roughly seven seconds over St. Paul's of Great Britain (and 83 other entries). The Oakland junior men finished third, just one second back of St. Paul's. Shortly thereafter, the Marin junior women took a very close third place, with Oakland well out in front, but just over 0.7 seconds back of OKC Riversport (a fantastic result for program). Still closer was Saugatuck's fourth place finish, 0.02 seconds behind Marin—close racing in junior women's rowing these days! Not to be outdone, Marin crews also won gold medals in the men's and women's senior masters eights and women's four (50+), senior veteran single (70+), men's masters four (40+), and men's veteran four (70+). As you might have guessed, all of the above led to a victory in the overall points trophy, with the junior results setting the stage for what will likely be another dramatic battle in May and June between Bay Area rivals.
Members of the Dutch National team are at the awards ceremony now. Come down and say hi! #HOCR pic.twitter.com/R1GFfHfk8z
— Head Of The Charles (@HOCR) October 19, 2013
While the conditions weren't as favorable on Sunday, the racing was every bit as top-notch. The men's championship eight saw a Dutch crew, featuring multiple Olympians (including five-time Olympian Diederik Simon, and two-time Olympian Olivier Siegelaar) and the 2013 world champion men's four, win a first-ever victory for a European crew in the top-flight event in Boston. It was no easy task, however; the Dutch triumphed by less than 1.5 seconds over a U.S. crew made up of a mix of athletes from this year's worlds, as well as 2012 Olympians Charlie Cole, Steve Kasprzyk, and Zach Vlahos, and Olympic alternate Mike Gennaro. Right behind the U.S. was hometown favorite Harvard, tracked closely by two crews made up of French internationals in fourth and fifth (the fourth-place crew included the 2012 French Olympic double, Julien Bahain and Cédric Berrest. When the dust had settled, first through fourth were separated by little more than two seconds, and, while they didn't come out on top on the water, the French won the battle in the food court:
American food vs. French Rowers 0-2 ! time to go home as eat healthy ! #mangerbouger #diet @cberrest pic.twitter.com/F6M62QHt5I
— Julien Bahain (@JulienBahain) October 21, 2013
With Harvard the top-finishing collegiate crew, Northeastern claimed second place in that category, just behind the second French entry, and followed closely by Brown, California, and Washington, respectively. It's looking like were going to have a season of barn burners for the top of the podium in East and West come spring (will this be the year that someone finally topples UW?).
The women's championship eight featured an epic battle between a very strong USRowing crew and a 'Great Eight,' which featured a stacked lineup of top international small boat and sculling talent. Among those representing Cambridge Boat Club as the 2013 Great Eight were double Olympic champion Elle Logan, Mirka Knapkova, Magdalena Lobnig, Emma Twigg, and Inge Janssen—five of the six A Finalists in the W1x at worlds this year. In the end, it was the Great Eight that edged the U.S. crew by just over one second to take the victory. Finishing solidly in fourth place was Virginia, back of a Canadian crew made up of international talent. (As they have shown in the past, Virginia appears to have great depth again this season, placing two crews in the top 10 in Boston.) Yale finished fifth, with Notre Dame taking an impressive sixth place, approximately two seconds ahead of Radcliffe.
This Saturday and Sunday will see many of the same collegiate crews in action once again on the East Coast, with both the Head of the Schuylkill (click here for the 2013 draw) and the Princeton Chase on the weekend schedule, thought it looks like we'll have to wait until later this season for a rematch between Dad Vail rivals Drexel, Michigan, and Virginia—the top three finishers respectively (separated by just over 3.5 seconds) in the men's collegiate eight in Boston. Also of note was Princeton's victory in the men's lightweight eight, ending Harvard's unbeaten streak and reclaiming the title for the Tigers for the first time since 2010, when they won in record time.
For complete results from Boston, please visit the official website of the Head Of The Charles.