If there was one regatta for both men’s and women’s crew to win this fall, it was Head of the Charles. Held last weekend in Boston on the Charles River, Head of the Charles is one of the biggest events in crew, attracting 1,786 boats and 8,478 competitors from all over the world. For the first time in each program’s history, both the men’s and women’s varsity eight boats came home with first place victories. Through the teams’ historic performances, the Ephs let the rowing world know that both Williams crew teams are forces to be reckoned with.
The windy conditions in Boston last weekend forced rough weather and challenging races, but women’s crew was able to focus on rowing as a team. The team, which often practices on rough waters on Lake Onota, was ready to overcome conference rival and defending champ Trinity.
The Bantams, in the first bow, jumped out to an early lead, but Williams, seeded second, did not take long to catch up. About a mile into the three mile race Williams was able to shrink Trinity’s lead, and in the last mile, with strong maneuvering around a sharp 180 degree turn, women’s crew pulled away. Coasting into the finish line, seconds ahead of the Bantams, women’s crew was excited for topping Trinity, but not yet sure of its title.
The Bates varsity eight, who started the race in the fourth bow, finished not long after Williams, deflating the security of the Ephs’ title-worthy race. After the completion of the race, the results came in, announcing Williams with the fastest time of 17:11.65, four seconds faster than Bates.
Women’s crew’s second varsity boat competed from the 14th bow and finished the race with a fourth place overall finish in a time of 17:40.82.
Men’s crew, which was a much bigger underdog than the reigning NCAA championship women, also came out on top in the collegiate eight race. Seeded 11th out of a field of 38 crews, the Ephs’ top eight walked through the University of Texas crew by Weeks Bridge, the halfway mark. The crew then managed to cut the difficult turn perfectly to set itself up for a strong finish and the fastest time of 15:11.487.
In the program’s history, men’s crew has never finished a collegiate eight event at Head of the Charles above 11th place. The only previous victory for men’s crew at the Charles came in the club eights event in 1997, when the Ephs set a course record of 14:56.49 in that event. The team has also struggled in recent years to overcome the strong Trinity boat.
“This is a historic win for the team,” co-captain Rob Buesing ’09 said. “We have firmly established ourselves as the team to beat in New England,” Buesing said. “We have to make sure that we maintain this level of work and even go harder over the next five months in winter training. To put it plainly, whatever Trinity does this winter, we have to do it better.”
The men’s second varsity eight boat also found success at the Charles, placing 21st in the event, with the second-fastest time of any second varsity crew. Williams finished three seconds behind Trinity’s second varsity eight, but the Ephs final time was 13 seconds slower due to a 10 second penalty for hitting a buoy.
The combination of improved fitness and excellent work by the coxswains in both boats made the difference in this successful Head of the Charles, according to Interim Head Coach Ben Lewis.
“I would say the main thing was that the guys were fit enough to maintain the intensity in the second part of the course and capitalize on the tail wind,” Lewis said. “[Winning the Head of the Charles] is probably the most satisfying win to date for a wide variety of reasons, but if we don’t achieve what we want in the spring, it will not have the same ring. It is just a part of the bigger picture.”
On Oct. 11, both men’s and women’s crew competed in the Head of the Housatonic for their first regatta of the fall season. The women’s first and second varsity eight boats took the top two spots of the race, foreshadowing the Charles results by beating Trinity. Men’s crew placed second in the non-IRA collegiate eights event, behind Fordham by 12 seconds. Trinity, which competed in the IRA collegiate eights event finished seven seconds ahead of the Ephs. The second varsity placed ninth, behind Wesleyan’s second varsity and ahead of Trinity’s third varsity.
With a historic weekend of championship racing behind both teams, men’s and women’s crew hope to continue their dominance from the last race of the fall season this weekend at the Head of the Fish.