Head of the Charles regatta challenges men’s crew

Men’s crew was graced with beautiful weather for the 43rd Head of the Charles, the East Coast’s premier fall regatta. Williams’ hopes were high when they arrived in Boston for the race, but by the time they left attitudes reflected a mixed bag of happiness and frustration, which the weather could do little to mitigate.

The first and second varsity eight both raced in the Collegiate Eights event, which is increasingly geared towards similar-sized Div. III and New England crew teams. Racing against the Ephs were conference rivals Bates, Wesleyan and perennial powerhouse Trinity. The Bantams unsurprisingly took the gold in the event, but the Ephs’ first eight came off the water hopeful.

The race strategy for both boats was simple: take advantage of the tailwind and curvature of the course and lay down the fastest time to Radcliffe’s Weld Boathouse. From there, the turns in the course minimize advantages in speed, flattening the field. “We caught up with and moved through McGill almost immediately,” Cameron Skinner ’08 said. “I think there was a definite surge in energy passing Weld when we all realized that we were exhausted, because we executed our race plan up to that point, and that after that was our opportunity to make a statement.”

Similarly, the second varsity described a “scrappy” race. Competing against a field almost wholly of first varsity eights, the second eight finished solidly ahead of spring rivals like Tufts, Boston College and UNH. “We definitely scrapped it out with the crew ahead of us at the end,” first-time coxswain Jenny Schnabl ’10 said. Their final time, barely a minute behind the first eight, was also indicative of solid depth in a program that has notoriously lacked in depth in years past. Andy Lee ’10 stroked for the second eight, which consisted mainly of underclassmen, including two first-years. For many this was their first race down the Charles, compared to some in the first eight, for whom it was their sixth.

When results were announced, however, the first eight reeled with disappointment. Not only had their banner row only landed them an 11th place finish – after systematic adjustments designed to improve from the historically low 17th place finish in 2006 – but they had fallen behind not only arch-rivals Wesleyan, but Hobart, with whom they had a close race two weeks prior in Rochester. “It’s time to get angry,” Head Coach Peter Wells said.

Captains Peter Clements ’08, McLane Daniel ’08 and Riley Maddox ’08 have a lot on their minds going into this weekend’s Head of the Fish regatta, where the team will face Hobart and Wesleyan for the last time this fall. Additionally, the tone they set when captains’ practices begin for the team on Nov. 15 will determine whether their rival squads have broken away from Williams, or whether the underdog spirit men’s crew clings to can win once again.