The Head Of The Charles Regatta at 50: Still Looking Very Good—Maybe Better Than Ever?

Fall rowing at its best (Photo by Alfredo Montenegro/courtesy Long Beach Junior Crew)
Arguably the world's greatest head race lived up to its billing in Boston, as elite athletes, top-tier college programs, and junior and masters teams from across the U.S. and beyond gathered along the banks of the Charles last weekend. Not only did we see a first-ever multi-Great Eight field in the Men's Championship Eight, but also more falling records, and hometown athletes making good on their promise before family, friends, and fans. And, our picks and predictions got put to the ultimate test—here's how it all turned out.

Championship Singles

Wow. That about sums it up. While our pick for first in the men's event, 2013 champion Kjetil Borch, finished second, it was the first place finisher—lightweight sculler Andrew Campbell—who stole the show. Campbell, coming off a win in the BLM1x at U23 worlds over the summer (and an unfortunate misstep at senior worlds, where, despite flipping in the quarterfinal, Campbell came out guns blazing in the C Final and set, for a time, a new world record in the event), defended home waters in style, winning the Men's Champ Single ahead of a field that included some of the world's best scullers—and he did it record time (17:12.64, roughly three-quarters of a second faster than Borch's 17:12.31 from last year). Finishing third was Julien Bahain, just ahead of 2014 world silver medalist Mahé Drysdale, with Ben Dann rounding out the top five.

The Women's Champ Single featured an equally impressive performance from a hometown star: Gevvie Stone, our pick for third, proved once again that you just don't bet against Gevvie Stone on the Charles. Her victory in the Women's Champ Single was her ninth Head Of The Charles victory, and she did it by quite a margin—roughly 22 seconds ahead of 2013 champion Kate Bertko, in a time of 18:39.89. Our pick for first, Kim Crow of Australia, took third place overall, roughly three seconds back of Bertko, with Berkto's California Rowing Club teammate Kristin Hedstrom and Seattle Rowing Center's Lindsay Meyer taking fourth and fifth, respectively.

Championship Doubles
This one, we got right. The Sinkovic brothers have been on fire in 2014, and they weren't about to slow down at the Head Of The Charles. When the dust settled Valent and Martin Sinkovic had built a 17-second margin over the field, with multiple-time Head Of The Charles champions Pete and Tom Graves taking second representing Craftsbury. Just one second back of the Graves brothers were Willie Cowles and Sam Stitt (we should have seen this coming), with Dutch LM2x Vincent and Tycho Muda some five seconds behind them in fourth place. USA lightweight men's double Austin Meyer and Joshua Konieczny took fifth, ahead of Danish Olympian Mads Rasmussen and Steffen Bonde Jensen.

As we said at the time, the Women's Champ Double was a little more wide open. Our pick to win the event—the combination of Olympic champion Mirka Knapkova and rising star Donata Vistartaite finished a close second behind Dutch Olympians Inge Janssen and Elisabeth Hogerwerf, who won in a time of 17:27.51. In third, another combination of elite athletes from the Netherlands, Claudia Belderbos and Nicole Beukers edged Sanita Puspure and Carling Zeeman (after a five second penalty). Fifth place saw Emily Dreissigacker (now there's a household name in rowing) and her Craftsbury teammate Hayley Daniell post an excellent result, finishing ahead of the Danish Olympic lightweight double of Juliane Elander Rasmussen and Anne Lolk Thomsen.

Championship Eights
Another wow. While we took the men's sweep Great Eight to win this event, the scullers Great Eight proved that they were more than ready for the challenge of racing twice in Boston, showing their sweep counterparts that they're a force to be reckoned with, one oar or two. Still, the result was a close one—the scullers Great Eight, starting with bow number five and representing Craftsbury, raced to victory in a time of 14:20.23, just over three seconds faster than the Taurus BC sweep Great Eight.

What followed was even more impressive. While you can tell from the 'battle paddle' video with the sweepers Great Eight posted last week that the Harvard varsity men were moving quite well, for the Crimson to take third overall, edging a very talented and experienced crew from the U.S. national team by roughly two tenths of a second, is a fantastic result for the program—and maybe the first step toward righting the ship after an uncharacteristic performance at IRAs last spring. As predicted, Washington, the French national team, and California were right there in the mix as well, with another notable result coming from Boston University—BU managed to knock off both Princeton and Yale by two and three seconds, respectively, on home water. It'll be interesting to see how these results hold up at the Chase next weekend.

The Women's Champ Eight results went as we predicted, with the Cambridge Boat Club Great Eight winning the event—though by a wider margin than we expected. The Great Eight crossed the finish in 15:44.79, nearly 20 seconds faster than the USRowing entry, albeit with a last-minute switch into the lineup. The victory for the Great Eight also marked the 10th Head Of The Charles title for Gevvie Stone. Finishing in third place was Virginia—their fourth-straight year at the top of the women's collegiate field in the Championship Eight at the Charles—and just back of them were the Dark Blues of Oxford (an outstanding result, and featuring some very high-profile help in the form of Olympic champion Caryn Davies at stroke).

The Michigan Wolverines rounded out the top five in the event, adding another strong result to a weekend that already saw their alumni eight take first place on Saturday.

Lightweight Eights
On the men's side—damn. One of our top picks—a crew featuring some international talent from the Netherlands in ASR Nereus' entry—fell way back into the field (they would have finished 13th, but were assessed a 1-minute penalty, placing them solidly at the bottom), while Cornell took third place behind Princeton and Harvard (though there was only a five-second spread from first to third). Again, the Chase will be another good measuring stick for the fall among these tightly packed lightweight programs at the top of the field. Another notable result: Delaware took fourth, ahead of the other Ivy League programs—congrats to the Blue Hens on a solid performance in Boston.

The Women's Lightweight Eight, on the other hand, went as predicted, with our one-two combination of Minerva and Radcliffe doing just that.

Collegiate Eights
Our insight here again proved reasonably strong, with our predicted winners, the Wolverines of Michigan, taking first place on the men's side, while our top pick on the women's side, Trinity, took second just back of another of our 'crews to watch,' Bates.  The men's event featured a familiar top end of the field, with Hobart taking second roughly two seconds ahead of Grand Valley, and perennial contenders on the Charles, Virginia, taking fourth overall. Meanwhile, the women's event came down to an all-out battle between the top two teams, with Bates finishing just two seconds ahead of the Bantams. Wellesley College took third ahead of 2013 champions Grand Valley State, and Washington College taking fifth place.

Youth Eights
Our top three picks on the men's side—Oakland, Marin, and Long Beach—performed very well, though Long Beach, starting from 77th, couldn't quite battle all the way into the winners circle (still, they moved up 51 spots to 26th). This year, it was Marin's hometown rivals Oakland who took the title in Boston, with Marin finishing a close second and another of our crews to watch, St. Paul's, taking third—in fact, all three of the top crews in the men's event finished within two seconds of one another (Oakland in 15:38.65, Marin in 15:39.93, and St. Paul's in 15:40.5). Two local programs in BC High and CRI finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

The Women's Youth Eight event saw our top pick, Oakland, fall to seventh place, as Saugatuck stamped their influence on the event in a big way—not only did the program field the fastest first eight, but Saugatuck's second eight took eighth overall, just one second behind Oakland. OKC Riversport followed up a strong finish in 2013 with a third-place result at the 50th Head Of The Charles, back of PNRA/Mercer, while Marin took fifth behind Saratoga.

The Alumni Eights look to be gaining momentum, with significantly larger fields on both the men's and women's sides in 2014. While we didn't release picks (you never know who has been spending enough quality time with the erg), it was Brown, Michigan, and Virginia who boasted the best overall results across both men's and women's events—the Brown men's and women's eights placed second and third, respectively; the Michigan women took first, as noted above, and saw their men's eight (stroked by Olympian Tom Peszek) take fourth overall; Virginia's women took second place, with the men finishing sixth.

The Molesey Women's Masters Eight, featuring 2012 Olympic champion Katherine Grainger, demolished the course record en route to a win at the Charles this year. And, Molesey nearly made it a double, with their Men's Masters Eight (stroked by U.S. Olympian Artour Samsonov, and featuring GB Olympians Jonny Searle, Bobby Thatcher, and Alex Partridge) finishing second overall.

And while the Cambridge men's team was racing in the Men's Champ Four on the Charles, Oxford was busy racing at the British Championships, with similarly solid results:

These two will square off shortly at the Head of the River Fours, coming up in early November. For a great gallery of images from the 50th Head Of The Charles Regatta, see the below from The Boston Globe.

And, if you missed the action in Boston, there's still plenty to look forward to with some of the world's elite scullers descending on Philadelphia this weekend:


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