Head of the Charles

There is a constant buzz around Groton’s rowers during spring crew season as they stride across campus in their uniforms or are seen erging their hearts out in the foyer. But in just a few weeks, two of Groton’s boats will have their first race months before regular crew season begins. Groton will be one amongst the hundreds of teams competing at the Head of the Charles Regatta (HOCR). 

On October 20th and 21st, two coxed fours (boats with four rowers, each with one oar, and a coxswain) will head to Cambridge to compete in this renowned regatta on the Charles River. HOCR is the largest two-day regatta in the world and attracts thousands of athletes and even more spectators each year. According to Groton girls crew coach Tiffany Doggett, HOCR, hosting 11,000 athletes and 1,600 boats, “is the grand-daddy of all rowing regattas.” 

The competing boats range in age, from high school students in the youth category to the grand-veteran’s category. Rowing for the Groton girls will be Sophie Conroy ’19, Bridget Cornell ’19, Caroline Beran ’20, and Anya Hanitchak ’21 coxed by Lily Cratsley ’19. In the boys’ boat, Finn Lynch, Johnny Stankard, Clement Banwell, and Lars Caspersen ’19 will be coxed by Lucy Anderson ’20.

The racecourse on the Charles River is 5,000 meters, much longer than the typical 1,500 meter races for high school spring regattas, and takes around 15-25 minutes depending on age and gender. It is also a head race, meaning the boats launch at different times, rather than side-by-side as is common in spring high school races, and the winners are determined by comparing the time it takes each boat the finish the course.

This is not the first time Groton has competed in this esteemed regatta. For the past two years, members of the varsity teams have partaken in a sculling fall faculty sponsored activity (FSA), where they practiced a style of rowing in which each athlete has two oars and finished the season by competing at HOCR. In fact, four of this year’s participants, Anya, Caroline, Johnny, and Lars, have been rowing for the past month in doubles for their FSA. Besides these four, all of the athletes are managing practicing for the regatta on top of their other fall activities and sports. Groton boys crew coach Andy Anderson commented, “because of ISL rules, our practices are extremely limited, but our rowers will have a great time being part of this event.” Tiffany echoed this sentiment, saying, “We think getting a chance to row in the HOCR is a great experience for our athletes and we both love being a part of it too!” 

Groton’s rowers are similarly anticipating the regatta. Sophie, who has rowed in the event before, looks forward to “the excitement and enthusiasm of the whole day. Everyone there really cares about rowing.” Johnny added, “I’m very excited for head of the Charles … there are a ton of spectators which make it an amazing experience … we are all looking forward to it.”