The weather in Boston this weekend was unseasonably warm, but the competition at the Head of the Charles Regatta was anything but mild. The historic race gave Dartmouth’s rowing teams their first tough test of the 2017-18 season. With 2,271 entries and 790 clubs competing in a variety of races, this is the largest two-day rowing event in the world.
The women’s team faced a serious challenge for the first time after cruising to victory in every event at the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Hadley Chase. Meanwhile, the men’s heavyweight and lightweight teams traveled to the Charles River to test their mettle for the first time this season.
“We have a very young, new group, so we’re excited about the group we have in the boathouse,” men’s heavyweight head coach Wyatt Allen said.
The fresh faces were on display this weekend in men’s club fours, in which Dartmouth — stroked by Harrison Taylor ’21, coxed by Avery Salumbides ’20 and manned by a team that included two first-years and a senior — took second place.
“It was a good race overall,” Taylor said. “We definitely went out very hard, which goes along with the culture of the program. We’ve always been taught in our boathouse to try and win the race early, to really press out.”
The heavyweight varsity eight has changed significantly after graduating five seniors. This year, three freshmen are among the eight rowers in the top boat.
“It’s a much different crew, much different experience level, but I think the team as a whole came into the year with a good base fitness,” Allen said. “We’re excited about this year and the next couple years.”
The Big Green, stroked by Evin Dwinell ’21 and coxed by Jake Rauh ’18, finished 10th out of 26 competitors in Sunday’s championship 8+, ahead of Boston University, which edged Dartmouth in last year’s Eastern Sprints, but behind Brown University. The finish was a one-spot improvement over last year’s Head of the Charles.
“[The results were not] a really good representation of what our speed was going into the regatta,” said Liam Keane ’21, who raced with the club 8+. “It’s definitely really special to have the D on my chest and I’m really looking forward to more of it now.”
In the women’s club fours, Dartmouth took fourth place, two spots behind the University of Pennsylvania but ahead of Boston College. The Big Green also placed eighth out of 40 entries in women’s club eights.
In the championship eights, the women finished 21st in a field of 36. Dartmouth beat Columbia University, who finished one spot ahead of the Big Green at last year’s Ivy League championship, by nearly 20 seconds. The gap separating Dartmouth and Penn was just four seconds.
The men’s lightweight team entered one boat in the men’s lightweight four.
“This fall we’ve made a lot of good changes both in terms of our rowing ability on the water and fitness but even beyond that at a more base level in terms of how we’re approaching practice, how we’re approaching everything we’re doing,” lightweight rowing head coach Sean Healey said. “It’s those little changes that have added up and have helped us gain what we feel like has been a lot of speed so far this fall.”
To decide who to put into the boat racing in the four-plus this weekend, the coaching staff has been tracking athletes’ performance since the first day of practice. Training in the early part of the fall, in combination with seat racing, helps determine which combinations of athletes can move a boat the fastest.
Generally, the four favors more technically sound rowers while the eight favors more powerful athletes. But these are subtle distinctions, according to Healey.
“We’re looking at how to make the boat fastest, and for the most part the guys who make the four go can also make the eight go, and vice versa,” Healey said.
This fall, the lightweight team has focused on volume of rowing in practice.
“We’re just doing a lot more meters this year, probably upping our volume upwards of 30 or 40 percent of what we did last year, which is pretty significant,” Healey said.
Chris Duan ’21 made his collegiate debut at the Head of the Charles.
“It’ll be real exciting to see what I can contribute to the boat,” Duan said ahead of the race.
Meanwhile, lightweight captain Robbie Van Voorhis ’18 raced in his final Head of the Charles with Dartmouth.
“This is probably the best spot I’ve ever seen the team in,” Van Voorhis said.
Together, Duan, Voorhis and teammates Will Allan ’18, Henry Cawthorne ’19 and coxswain Kiana Outen ’18 placed sixth out of 18 boats with a time of 16:13.81.
All three teams will be on the water once again next weekend at the Princeton Chase in Princeton, New Jersey.