Red Bull High Stakes Rowing Event Will Feature Top Talent on an Unusual Course

The course for head-to-head racing on the Charles

The latest in the Red Bull rowing event series, which includes the famous Red Bull XRow held in Switzerland, is coming to Boston this weekend, and there will be no shortage of talent on the Charles River. And, as is typically the case with Red Bull events, it looks to be both unusual and hair-raising for athletes and spectators alike.

Why's that? The race will feature four boat classes, with teams of mixed gender racing to navigate their crews around a buoy to complete a 180-degree turn in each heat. While we're picturing an outcome something like the image below, organizer/instigator Sean Wolf of WinTech Racing and Rowing Illustrated is hoping for something a little different.

Naumachia, by Ulpiano Checa 

"Red Bull sponsors Andrew Campbell [U.S. lightweight sculler formerly of Harvard, and winner of two U23 world titles in the LM1x], and they were talking about an event here in Boston." In thinking about whom to work with to organize the event, naturally, Wolf's name came up. "Andrew suggested my name to them, and gave me a heads up." Shortly thereafter, Red Bull reached out to Wolf. "That's when we started the connection—last October."

While Red Bull was looking for a much quicker, 500-meter race (rather than the 18km slog that makes the XRow among the most grueling rowing events in the world), the format for the High Stakes wasn't set in stone from the beginning. "We changed the format at least once or twice," Wolf explains, "just so we could keep it moving, and keep the footprint of the regatta relatively under control."

The official overview for the event

Part of the inspiration was the urban setting—the banks will offer a good view of the racing. "It's definitely an event geared toward elite athlete participation, with spectators in mind," Wolf says. "But it's really primarily a fun event for the athletes—[Red Bull is] looking to create a great event, with a new concept: 500 meters with a stake turn; team relay keeps everyone involved; and it also adds a little bit of fun for those watching." He adds, "you see the whole race—you get everything right there, and you get a turn. Most people will have done something like that in the single or double, but adding in the quad and the eight should be a good time!"

And, of course, the whole thing wouldn't have been possible if it weren't for seemingly the whole rowing community coming together. "WinTech/King Racing is supplying all the boats, Croker Oars is supplying all the oars, Shimano is supplying the warm-up, JL supplied all the shirts, and Red Bull supplied everything else."

He continues: "There's no charge for this regatta. People did have to pay their own way to get here, but once they're here, the whole set up and supplied by us. You could say that the party is on Red Bull." (Wink.)

Among the attendees will be Athens Olympians Dan Walsh and Aquil Abdullah, Beijing Olympian Sam Stitt, and 2012 Olympic champion Esther Lofgren, to name a few, and many other U.S. national team veterans. "As someone said the other day, whoever's not going to worlds is coming to race at this event," he says with a laugh. All kidding aside, there will be some very competitive athletes, from Olympic champions, to club rowers, adaptive rowers, lightweights—you name it. They'll be representing clubs like Potomac, Craftsbury, and, of course, Wolf's own Riverside Boat Club for a chance at the grand prize, and everlasting glory (or bragging rights, at least), starting tomorrow morning on the Charles.

You can learn more about the event via the official website of the Red Bull High Stakes, as well as check lineups on RegattaCentral, and get further information on rules and background for the event via Rowing Illustrated. Keep up with the goings on in Boston on social using the hashtag #redbullhighstakes.

Ramming speed! (Kidding.)


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