Hundreds flock to Head of the Charles Regatta

Senior rowing races, as part of the 54th Head of the Charles, started at 7:45 a.m. on Oct. 20, 2018. Photo by Aaron Ye / BU News Service

Senior rowing races, as part of the 54th Head of the Charles, started at 7:45 a.m. on Oct. 20, 2018. Photo by Aaron Ye / BU News Service

By Aaron Ye & Naa Dedei Coleman
BU News Service

BOSTON— Hundreds of people assembled in Boston last weekend to participate in the 54th annual Head of the Charles Regatta, which features athletes from all over the world, ranging from college athletes to former Olympians. 

The bustling crowd included both vocational rowing spectators and those who regularly practice the sport. Sophie Noirot, for example, flew from France to both visit her daughter and enjoy the Regatta. Noirot was at The Esplanade early on Saturday to catch the races for rowers over the age of 60.

Sophie Noirot of France watches the 54th Head of the Charles on Saturday Oct.20, 2018. Photo by Aaron Ye / BU News Service


Noirot is a rower in France and has rowed on the River Seine as a member of the Société Nautique de la Haute-Seine in Paris. She was hoping to stay by the Charles River to cheer on the French teams competing.

“It gives me some prospect that I can still be going on the water for many years,” she said

The Head of the Charles Regatta is one of the most prestigious rowing competitions in the world. This year, the competition drew teams from France, South Africa, and Germany.

The race course begins at the Boston University DeWolfe Boathouse and goes upstream for three miles to the finish line. Most rowers get into their boats at the Harold W. Pierce Massachusetts Institute of Technology Boathouse, then warm up until their races are called.

This year’s caller is Sarah Cowherd. Her co-chair with the starting line is John Romain, who has volunteered at the Regatta for 35 years. Their responsibilities included calling over 30 races each day and keeping track of how long each race took.

Two volunteers call countdown at the Boston University DeWolfe Boathouse, the starting line of the 54th Head of the Charles. Photo by Aaron Ye / BU News Service

Throughout his 35 years, Romain has seen the race grow to 11,000 entries, with an influx of young entrants. He attributes this growth to Title IX, which gives students an equal opportunity to participate in sports.

John Rhee, A Boston University alumni, remembers a time when rowers were chosen based solely on their physical attributes and rowing experience. These days, BU rowing coaches travel to high schools all over the country to recruit athletes. At least one current member of the BU rowing team that participated in the event this past weekend was recruited through this process.

Rhee was one of many umpires stationed at 17 stations on Saturday. The umpires were from USRowing, the national governing body of rowing in the United States and were tasked with overseeing safety and fairness in the races.

“It’s no different than, when you go to a basketball game, football game and you have referees on the field,” said Rhee. “They identify penalties. We do the same thing.”

According to Rhee, rowers were penalized for infractions such as refusing to yield to another team that was passing by and rowing outside the buoys that had been set up to demarcate the trail. Teams could be punished by minutes or seconds, depending on the infringement, added to their finishing time. Umpires filled out course violation sheets and final reports were sent to the Cambridge Boat Club, which was set up as the umpire command center.

After successfully coordinating 61 races, it is undeniable that the success of the event is largely the result of the hard work of the individuals who collaborate the many moving parts of the Regatta.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.