By Matt Doherty
BU News Service
This article was originally published in the Cambridge Chronicle.
For Courtney Wilson and her 10-member volunteer race committee, the Head of the Charles Regatta is not simply an annual two-day event that attracts hundreds of thousands of people.
Instead, it’s the culmination of an entire year’s worth of hard work that comes to fruition on the third weekend of each October on the banks of the Charles River.
Now in its 54th year, the world’s largest crew race would not happen without the hard work and dedication of nearly 2,000 volunteers and 30 operation committees who are in charge of a wide range of tasks such as first aid, river control and registration.
Wilson and Nick Lloyd, both volunteers, are co-directors of the race committee which oversees all of the Regatta’s committees and volunteers.
“We figure out how to run things tighter and better and we look for improvements and figure out how to bring in new people to volunteer,” said Wilson, who served as the chair of the volunteer committee for 10 years before joining the race committee.
“We make sure that everything is in place, all the tents are going up in the right places, and the trailers are up,” she added. “During the Regatta itself, we start at the beginning of the course and we check on everything and everyone.”
Ways to improve
Wilson, in her first year as co-director, started focusing on this year’s Regatta the day after last year’s race ended. The committee discussed what went right and wrong, and what improvements need to be made. From there, the committee met monthly.
In late February, they receive the “after-action report” from every operation committee, noting the positives and negatives of the past year’s race.
“Usually it’s 10 pages and some committees do 40 pages and it breaks down everything that happened,” said Wilson. “Were the volunteer numbers correct? Did the facilities orders that they made work out? Do they need more equipment?”
The first aid committee, one of the largest, is sponsored by the American Red Cross. Amanda Arloro is a supervisor and has volunteered at the Regatta since 1995.
“We cover just about everything from blisters and Band-Aids to if someone capsizes and gets pulled out. We’re here to warm them up and make sure they don’t get injured,” said Arloro, as she stood outside her tent during the race, wearing an American Red Cross hat.
Arloro and her team of five volunteers were located at Magazine Beach, the first of seven tents along the river. They spent the majority of the eight-hour race waiting around for an incident to occur.
The river control committee focused on the boat traffic going up and down the river. During the race, the river is divided into two lanes. One lane serves as the race lane, and the other is the cool down lane, where rowers paddle back to the starting line at the Boston University DeWolfe Boathouse.
Sisters Michaela and Nicole Rosmarin were stationed next to the John W. Weeks Bridge in Cambridge. They made sure that the boats in the cool down lane passed and warned rowers about an upcoming sharp turn with a blow horn.
‘Just a lot of fun’
Michaela Rosmarin, in her fourth year volunteering for the river control committee, moved to San Francisco a year and a half ago, but still flies back to Boston each October to volunteer with her sister.
“First off, it’s really fun and every year being able to be a part of the community is really cool,” said Rosmarin. “Also, being back at the Head of the Charles and being involved because it’s such an awesome race to see and it’s nationally and globally renowned.”
Some committees, like Information, deal with the hundreds of thousands of spectators who flock to Cambridge each October. The race is three miles long, so vendors and watching spots are spread out on each side of the river in Boston and Cambridge.
That’s where first-year volunteer Beth McGinn and the Information tents come in handy. McGinn never had the opportunity to attend the Regatta until now, as she used to work on Saturdays.
“Now I get my Saturdays free so I get to come back,” McGinn said. “It’s great and I love how many people come and visit Cambridge.”
For the volunteers, preparing for the Regatta is a lot of work. Wilson said she spent on average 10-15 hours per week all year. But it pays off in the end.
“It’s just a lot of fun,” said Wilson. “It’s a lot of work but it’s a lot of fun.”