On October 23 and 24, about 40 Williams Crew members joined 6,500 of their fellow oarsmen and oarswomen, as well as tens of thousands of spectators, at the 35th annual Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston, the world’s largest two day rowing event.
On Saturday, early rains had cleared up long before any of the competition had started. However, a 25 mph wind, blowing up the three-mile Charles River course, turned what on some days appears to be an effortless, graceful dance across the peaceful river into a raging upstream battle. Watching the crews warming up for the men’s Club Eight event, Williams captain Geordie McClelland ’00 joked “At least our record won’t be broken,” referring to the course record he had set in the event, along with the rest of the varsity eight, under much more favorable conditions in the 1997 regatta.
In addition to being strenuous on the rowers (the engines of the racing shell machines), the strong winds threw one more challenge at the coxswains of the long, unwieldy craft. Even at the best of times, the Charles is a notorious test of a coxswain’s abilities, due to its sharp turns, passage through several narrow bridge abutments and, of course, the sheer volume of boats, with as many as eighty crews in a single event. In fact, some of the appeal to spectators is the possibility of multi-crew pileups at the bridges.
Nonetheless, Rebecca Cover ’00, who had only been coxing for six weeks, ably directed the men’s JV crew down the course in the Club Eight (the JV men placed 34th out of a field of 79 crews). Under the direction of cox Emilie Mathieu ’02, an incredibly strong performance was given in the event by the JV women, who placed 9th out of 75 in a field which featured many of the competing programs’ top boats.
Sunday brought calmer water and warmer weather, pleasing both spectators and competitors in the regatta’s showcase events. Williams’ top eights appeared in the final two events of the regatta, the men’s and women’s Championship Eights. In the men’s race, the Williams crew (Tony Salerno ’01, Dan Clayburgh ’01, Chris Sommerfeld ’03, Ben Martell ’03, Geordie McClelland ’00, Matt Fineman ’00, stroke Jonathan Kallay ’00 and cox Emily Boer ’00) found itself in a difficult position, sandwiched between Princeton Training Center (the US National Team’s second string) and Division I powerhouse Brown University.
In the previous year’s regatta, both crews had received stiff time penalties due to buoy violations, resulting in draws for this year’s regatta that belied their true speed. Brown pushed Williams hard off the line for the right to the inside of the first turn, and Boer bravely fought their attack for half a mile before yielding the right-of-way. Williams raced hard down the rest of the course, with perennial national champion Georgetown University in its wake. They placed 28th out of nearly 50 crews, beating Georgetown by under a second as well as rival Colby, and RIT, who had allegedly instigated a three crew collision on itsway down the course. Brown finished fourth behind the US and German national teams.
The Williams women (Celina Zlotoff ’01, Lisa Cohan ’02, Laura Spero ’02, Juliet Van Pelt ’01, captain Sara Kate May ’00, Shoshana Clark ’02, Izzy Lowell ’02, stroke Ginel Hill ’00 and cox Carol Lynn Higgins ’02) passed UMass in their race, after clashing oars with the slower boat which failed to yield. They placed 27th out of 67, defeating all other division II and III crews in the event.
The Head of the Charles was also an opportunity to watch several former Williams rowers. Rowing in Williams’ own fours were oarsmen and oarswomen from University of Chicago, coached by Matt Wheeler ’98, who is filling the position of head coach while enrolled in the MD-PhD program at the university.
Rowing in the Augusta Training Center national team double was Biz Smith, a one time member of the Williams class of 2000 (Biz looks forward to returning to Williams next fall, after her return from Sydney). Yng-Rhu Chen, formerly Williams ’00, coxed the Duke Women to a third place finish in the Club Eights.
Finally, Williams sent out two alumni crews, one in the mens’ Club Eights, containing members from Williams classes between ’91 and ’98, and an entry in the Masters Eight, an event for crews averaging 40 years of age.
The final fall regatta for Williams Crew takes place at Saratoga Springs on the 30th, at the Head of the Fish regatta. The event will feature the debut of the novice men and women from the class of ’03.