Head of the Charles 2013 – the coxswains' story

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All members of the varsity eight raced on the Charles River for the first time October 20. Courtesy of Emily Sabia ’15

All members of the varsity eight raced on the Charles River for the first time October 20. Courtesy of Emily Sabia '15
All members of the varsity eight raced on the Charles River for the first time October 20.
Courtesy of Emily Sabia ’15

Friday October 18, 12 rowers, three coxswains, two alternates, and four coaches from Convent of the Sacred Heart traveled to Boston, Massachusetts to participate in the Head of the Charles Regatta. Every member of the Sacred Heart crew team were new to the course, which made the weekend a learning experience for all. Coxswains, senior Regina Ferrara and sophomore Catherine Eagan, coxed their boat to the finish without any time penalties.
According to hocr.org, this event, held on the Charles River in Boston, attracts over 9,000 athletes and 300,000 spectators. Racing began Saturday October 18 and ended Sunday October 20.
“It is obvious that everyone there goes to the Charles because they love it and appreciate rowing. Getting to watch people of all ages race one of the most difficult race courses is just a great experience,” Regina said.
The Head of the Charles course is three miles (4,800 meters), and is notorious for being one of the most difficult rivers to steer a boat on. For this reason, it is called “The Coxswains Race.” Coxswains must navigate seven bridges and five turns including a sharp turn through the Weeks Bridge.
To prepare for these obstacles, Regina, coxswain of the varsity eight, and Catherine, coxswain of the varsity four, studied the course map during the weeks prior to the race.
“I watched many videos of the race course on YouTube, including the official coxswain video for Head of the Charles,” Catherine said. “I also studied the map of the course, especially the names of the bridges, sequence and traffic patterns, and all of the significant turns.”
Regina and Catherine also attended a two hour coxswain clinic early Saturday morning to learn more about the course. They learned how to enter bridges and the protocol for how to pass other boats safely.
“The most important tip I learned form the clinic was how to make it though the Weeks Bridge, which is a 90 degree turn on the river combined with a bridge,” Regina said.
Sunday October 20, the varsity four raced at 12:25 pm, and the varsity eight raced at 1:22 pm. Regina and Catherine had to be on guard throughout the entire race because Head of the Charles officials mark down any violations which lead to time penalties for the boat.
“It was such a rewarding feeling knowing that we had the privilege to race in the biggest regatta in the world,” Regina said. “The sport is extremely demanding, and just to have had the chance to row on the river with no penalties was a great experience.”
– Emily Hirshorn, Co-Opinions Editor