On homecoming weekend, 2,235 boats from 779 different clubs will converge onto the Charles River for one of the fall’s annual highlights. The Head of the Charles, now in its 51st installment, is a race steeped in rowing tradition. Novice, high school, collegiate, and even world champion rowers will wind down the notoriously difficult course, which has, over the years, claimed countless boats. The collisions, screaming coxswains, and unpredictable conditions attract over 400,000 spectators to the banks of the Charles each October.
The Head of the Charles Regatta arose from humble origins. The idea was first raised around a dinner table by a handful of Cambridge Boat Club members, including Belmont Hill alumni D’Arcy MacMahon and Larry Cabot. Modeled after “head of the river” races in England, yet lacking the customary snobbery of British rowing events, the regatta fundamentally changed American rowing. Crew, which up till then had been only a spring sport in the States, now became a year-round endeavor.
According to Mr. Wood, an alumnus of Belmont Hill Crew, the team has rowed in the Head since the late seventies, taking part in the race “pretty much every year since then.” Because of Belmont Hill’s role in the founding of the Head of the Charles and its continued involvement, the school is closely tied to the Head. It continues to be a presence in the school’s fall athletic calendar.
This year, the crew team looks to provide another strong showing, having an entry in both the Men’s Youth Fours and Men’s Youth Eights. The boats this year seem to be, according to head coach Mr. Richards, “very promising.” Since crew is not a fall sport, the boats are only able to row once every Sunday. However, despite having much less water time compared to other crews, Belmont Hill boats have finished in very respectable positions in the past. This year seems to be no exception, as both the eight and the four are moving very well together. Though certainly striving for a competitive finish, the oarsmen look forward to rowing in the august regatta with some of rowing’s greats. Co-captain Chris Wilkins, who is rowing in the four seat this year, said that “it’s incredible to now be in the boat; the Head of the Charles is such a staple of Boston’s pastime, and I feel really fortunate to be a part of this event.” Indeed, simply being part of, as Mr. Richards put it in the Boys in the Boat Chapel, one of the “most prestigious regattas in the world” is almost something of a divine experience for everyone involved: rowers, coaches, and fans alike.
Belmont Hill Crew will race on Sunday, October 18 in the Men’s Youth Four at 9:26 am and in the Men’s Youth Eight at 10:23 am. The boats always row faster when a crowd cheers them on and, as always, Belmont Hill and Winsor will host a joint cookout at the boathouse, open to the entire school community.