October 13, 2003
As the oars dip into the water, the sculls skim across the river and the coxswains shout, the 39th annual Head of the Charles Regatta is set to row across the glistening waters of the Charles River, October 18 and 19. The largest rowing event of its kind in the world and one of the most prestigious, the Head of the Charles attracts some 6,000 rowers from all ends of the globe to compete in dozens of different races. More than 300,000 spectators line the three-mile course route, from Boston University’s DeWolfe Boathouse, through Cambridge near Harvard Square, and ending at Herter Park on Soldier’s Field Road.
Launched on October 16, 1965, by members of the Cambridge Boat Club and Harvard University sculling coach Ernest Arlett, the event was meant to resemble races in Arlett’s native England. Sporting only about 100 competitors in its inaugural year, the regatta has grown tremendously in size and scope since those humble beginnings. This year, more than 500 rowing organizations from 16 different countries—including such faraway locales as Germany, England, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands and Australia—are participating.
Dozens of elite rowers from around the world participate every year, but there is also a great deal of rooting interest for local rowing fans, as teams from area colleges and universities—such as Northeastern University, Boston College, Boston University, Harvard and M.I.T.—vie for top honors in many of the crew events.
Other race-related events include the Rowing and Fitness Expo (October 18 & 19 8 a.m.–6 p.m.) at Magazine Beach on the Cambridge side of the Charles River. In addition, a variety of food and merchandise vendors line the river, adding a little extra color and flavor to the race day experience.
Recommended viewing spots for the race include the Boston University Bridge near the start line, Larz Andersen Bridge near the two-mile mark, the nearby Weeks Footbridge adjacent to Harvard Square and the Eliot Bridge overlooking the finish line near the Cambridge Boat Club. Spectators can reach all events by taking the T either to the Harvard Square stop on the Red Line or one of the Boston University stops on the Green Line’s B train.