Crew teams take on fierce competition at Head of the Charles

by Kelly Chen | 10/20/14 4:53pm

The men’s and women’s championship eight boats finished 26th at the 50th annual Head of the Charles Regatta over the weekend, marking a fall from last season when the men placed 25th and the women finished 20th.

Held in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Head of the Charles Regatta was the first of the season for the Big Green, serving as a litmus test for what the teams can expect going forward. The crew teams are only slated to compete in a few regattas in the fall before the season begins in earnest in the spring.

The Big Green entered four boats in the regatta, one in each of the men’s championship and lightweight eights categories and in the women’s championship and club eights events. This is the first year that Dartmouth qualified to send two women’s boats, due to a top-20 finish last year.

This year’s Head of the Charles presented a number of challenges for the Big Green. Both the men’s heavyweight team and women’s team were competing in their first regatta with new head coaches. The teams also had to fit out boats with more underclassmen than usual, as many experienced rowers were on off-terms.

Margo Cox ’15 also said that the rowers dealt well with adverse weather conditions.

“The conditions were very windy, and the water was rough,” Cox said. “We haven’t had much preparation for that, but we handled it confidently and rowed through it.”

The men’s heavyweight team finished seventh of 11 Ivy League-affiliated boats while the lightweight boat finished seventh of nine Ancient Eight boats. The women’s championship team finished ninth of 11 Ivy League boats and the club boat came in second out of three conference foes.

The Big Green adapted well and made progress from last year in a few areas. The lightweight men’s team finished 10th, an improvement over 13th place last season. The women’s club eight, which did not compete last year, placed an impressive 13th. They qualified for next year by finishing in the top half of their event.

“The regatta had a great, positive atmosphere,” Cox said. “Usually, we don’t get spectators, but there were people lined up all the way down the race course, which is three miles long.”

Women’s head coach Linda Muri said that this regatta demonstrated the women’s technical strength, as they maintained their form throughout the race.

“Both boats looked very strong, especially toward the end of the race when everyone is tired. We were still working hard,” Muri said.

Muri also said that the regatta was a valuable opportunity to race some of the best schools and countries in the world, and for younger rowers to gain racing experience, as seven members of the Class of 2016 are currently off-campus.

“[Their] absence forces younger women to step up, both athletically and in terms of leadership,” Muri said, noting that three members of the Class of 2018 rowed in the championship boat.

Cox also pointed this out, and said that qualifying two women’s boats strengthened the team by allowing more rowers to gain experience.

Kate Griffiths ’18 was one of six freshmen on the women’s team who raced this weekend. Three members of the Class of 2018 rowed in the club eight, and another three competed in the championship event. She said the women rowed skillfully despite coaching changes and upperclassman absences.

This race, the season opener, served well to motivate the team, Cox said.

“The race was a good launching point for the team. It showed us that the league is very competitive, and we’re ready for the Princeton Chase next week,” Cox said.

The Big Green men and women next take to the water at the Princeton Chase on Oct. 26.