Held on the third weekend in October every year, the Head of the Charles Regatta is considered to be the biggest two-day rowing race in the world. With more than 11 thousands elite athletes competing, the event takes place along the Charles River just when fall foliage colors are beginning to peak. With such impressive athletic performances on display along with the beautiful fall colors, it is no surprise that the event attracts crowds of up to 300,000 spectators every year.
The Head of the Charles Regatta: The Beginning
Started in 1965 by three members of the Cambridge Boat Club, the Head of the Charles Regatta was dreamed up as a way to simply break up the monotony of the training season. While the three members had little hope that the regatta would be a success due to the odd timing of the event, it didn’t take long for the event to catch on. By 1997, it had expanded to a two-day event. Today, the regatta hosts more than 55 events and attracts members of racing clubs, college crew teams and even high school teams from around the world.
In England, a “head” is a type of boat race where the boats depart at 15-second intervals on a 3-mile race. The winner of each race is called the head. The Head of the Charles Regatta holds true to this format, with the winner of each race being called the “Head of the Charles”. With around 2,000 boats competing and race events starting at roughly 15-second intervals, the event provides for an action-packed day with record-breaking numbers.
The race itself starts at Boston University’s DeWolfe Boathouse, which is located near the BU bridge. It finishes just past the Eliot Bridge located near the Artesani Playground in Brighton.
In addition to the race, the Head of the Charles Regatta also offers a number of other attractions for racers and spectators to enjoy. Among these are displays by boat builders, a rowing and fitness expo and displays from other sponsors. Food is also available at the event. Reunion Village, which is an area located on the Boston side of the river between the Weeks and Anderson Bridges, is filled each year with tents set up by participants and sponsors. The area serves as a lively social and networking scene for those with a passion for boating. In addition, many of the university and private boat houses along the river host open houses that are open to the public. Some of the sponsors even offer free giveaways.
Watching the Race
The Head of the Charles Regatta is free to watch, with many areas along the way offering a great vantage point. Seven bridges span the river along the 3-mile course, each offering excellent views of the passing boats. Eliot Bridge is particularly popular among spectators because it offers views of a bend in the river where the skills of the rowers are put on display as they navigate a hairpin turn before passing under the bridge. For a fee, spectators can watch from the Eliot Bridge Enclosure, which also serves breakfast, lunch and drinks.