I made it to Boston and back this year unscathed — something I never take for granted when taking on the biggest rowing weekend of the year: the Head of the Charles. The Charles in an Olympic year is always a spectacle from this side of things; the window of excitement surrounding the Summer Games is nearing its close and the Charles is a bit like the last hurrah for rowing Olympians who are looking to flash bling and celebrate the summer’s successes in a festive, rowing-centric environment. The support from friends and fans at the Charles is palpable no matter what the point in the Olympic cycle, but this year was very special. I was on the go from Thursday afternoon through Monday morning with the highlight being a race in the Championship Women’s 8+ on Sunday afternoon, but I had a great experience at the 2012 HOCR, and am already looking forward to next year.
Adrienne and I drove up to Boston together on Thursday afternoon in order to be there in time for the Brooks Brothers event to support the Breast Cancer Research Foundation event. We had a good, albeit too short, appearance at the event with some amazingly kind people supporting a great cause before snagging some dinner in Little Italy and heading home for the night.
Despite being a non-regatta day, Friday was busy. I headed down to the course early in the afternoon to catch up with people at Hudson Boatworks and Concept 2 (sponsors for the USA W8+ racing at HOCR and also sponsors for the 2012 LIST), and to hopefully snag a few moments with anyone else caught wandering around regatta grounds before the masses descended on to the banks of the Charles. Practice with my USA teammates was at 3pm, and though we had a short delay waiting for our 3-seat (that would be my darling Kara… delightfully Esther was the one rolling her eyes saying “Typical!”… ironic? Maybe just a little?), we got one pretty decent row in up and down the race course which was enough for us to get a feel for the equipment and for cox Mary Whipple to test the capabilities of the Hudson rudder. Done and done, we all shuffled over to Cambridge Boat Club for the Olympians Reception.
The Reception was a treat for me and my teammates, getting to spend time eating oysters (!) with some of the biggest names in international rowing all in one room–the highlight of the evening came as soon as I walked in the door and CBC President Larry Elswit asked me discreetly, “Can you tell me who everyone is?” With pleasure! I then bulleted around the room all the members of the Great 8+s and the express versions of their rowing resumés… WorldRowing.com, let’s talk about a permanent position!
I even snagged photos with a few of the Great 8+… and caught up with one of my favorite rowers, Lassi Karonen. When I asked Lassi if he had seen the LIST this year (where he is named #2 after an appearance at #1 last year), he smiled and joked: “Yeah, what’s up with that??” He was also quick to add that he was very proud to have made all of my Lists since 2008…and that taking a year off from competition in 2013 would unfortunately end his streak on the List: “I’ll have to seriously consider this!” As always, a pleasure.
Saturday was the first real day of action down at the course which had me signing autographs with fellow Olympic Team members for USRowing and apparel sponsor, Boathouse Sports. Fans were so awesome!! It was a pleasure to meet so many young rowers from all over the country who had come to Boston to race. Demand for Olympians was high and USRowing ran out of posters before the end of the session due to the lines of people snaking around the booths and out the door of the expo tent. Truly awesome, rowing community–you rock. I was also happy to catch the inbound Championship 2Xs and outbound Championship 1Xs from the Eliot Bridge in order to yell my traditional proclamations of love to passing scullers (“I love you ________!!” is the standard). Plus got the traditional “please don’t dangle your legs over the ledge of the bridge” from the announcer at CBC. Always guilty of that one. Then it was off to the National Rowing Foundation tent to reunite with generations of USA Rowers… always a highlight of any Charles weekend for me. Rowers do throw the best parties. Then it was a quick appearance at John Harvard’s to see even more friends and then an early bedtime to rest up for Sunday’s race.
Sunday was more of the same; autographs in the expo tent for a few hours before getting ready to rip down the course in the USA W8+. I will be the first to admit that the rowing that was happening in the 2-seat of the women’s 8+ (moi) was a bit of an eyesore considering the company I was keeping. However, all things considered I didn’t catch a crab, and only took one really sweet air stroke (unfortunately that stroke was on the Eliot bridge turn in front of the biggest crowd) and we still had a pretty decent race. In case any of you were seeking confirmation: doing a head race when you are not in shape is much more difficult than doing one when you are in shape. Ow. The field in the Champ 8+ was no joke this year, with all three Olympic medalist crews in attendance (complete bronze NED and silver CAN crews, composite USA gold/bronze crew) plust a composite GBR/NZL boat and of course the Women’s Great 8+. We started 5th behind UVA, Radcliffe, Michigan and Yale, and passed the latter three boats which was a lot of fun–Whip steered a great course. It was absolutely wonderful to hear chants of “U-S-A!” as we rowed down the river, and the excitement coming in to the last bridge as we were chasing down UVA was just great, with the CBC announcer growling, “AND HERE COMES THE USA WOMEN’S 8+! GET OUT YOUR CAMERAS — IT DOESN’T GET ANY BETTER THAN THIS!” In the end we had a very close race with the legend Women’s Great 8+, who beat us on raw time by 1 second, but who unfortunately acquired a 10 second penalty for a missed buoy, passing the win on to us. Awesome racing this year against some very tough international and collegiate crews, what a cool experience. And congrats to UVA for getting an awesome result in 3rd position!
The hard thing about the Charles is that there are so many people from so many points in my rowing career that it is impossible to see and/or talk to them all. The fact that I have the opportunity to see so many friends and colleagues in one place over the course of the weekeend is amazing, but the minutes slip away too quickly and the weekend is always over before I’ve managed to see everyone. But the best thing about the Charles is that there’s always next year.
Thank you to everyone who made this weekend so special and memorable: Cambridge Boat Club and especially the Elswits who hosted us for the fourth consecutive year AND for taking me out in a double on Monday morning; Hudson Boatworks for providing us with a boat to race and gear to race in; Concept 2 for providing us with beautifully painted oars to row with; USRowing and Boathouse Sports for organizing the meet & greets that allowed us to meet so many enthusiastic athletes and supporters; the National Rowing Foundation for getting us all together on Saturday night; Susan Francia for spearheading the US Women’s appearance and all of my wonderful USA teammates for showing up and enduring 16 minutes of agony with me; and of course the organizers at the Head of the Charles Regatta who work their asses off to pull off one of the greatest weekends of the year. Thank you!
You can view my HOCR photo set on Facebook HERE.
Now, gearing up for the next big thing at the Head of the Schuylkill in Philadelphia this weekend. See you there!
Long Live the Dream,