EBRC competed at the 53rd Head of the Charles Regatta, one of the most prestigious regattas in the country. A milestone for any rower, read below play-by-play account of what it takes, and what it’s like to compete at this thrilling event. As reported by the HOCR53 Women’s 8+.
The EBRC Competitive Women’s Team traveled to Boston to compete at the 53rd Head of the Charles Regatta (HOCR), one of 22 boats in the Women’s Masters 8+ [40+] event held Saturday, October 21, 2017.
The lineup was Pauline Velez, Stella Sidia, Christina Jenkins, Erin Griffith, Carla Jourdan, Annie Mudge, Jolie Krakauer, and Denise Martini, with Abby Rezneck as cox and Jule Zacher as alternate (who raced in place of an injured Jolie the week before and then cheered us from the shore in Boston).
It was a real blend of experienced EBRC members and recent additions to the Women’s Competitive Team, and we spent the four weeks leading up to the race focused on coming together as a boat, bringing a new technical emphasis to the front end of our stroke, and lowering our splits and 5K times on the water at every opportunity.
Once in Boston on Friday, we met at MIT’s Pierce Boathouse for a row-over in our rented Resolute … which turned out to be starboard-stroked and required quick re-rigging! We launched from Pierce, well-located right at the HOCR warm-up area, and had a solid row, taking in the many course landmarks and getting a feel for the scale of the regatta from the crowded river.
Saturday was race day. Conditions were good despite some wind, and ours was the last 8+ race of the day. Experienced Charles River coxswain Abby suggested we meet that morning for a pre-race visualization in her hotel room. Some of us had never participated in what sounded a little “woo-woo” to us, but we went along. We were greeted by a view overlooking the start chute of the racecourse, an abundance of pillows, and the command to “make yourself comfortable”; eight women stretched out on the floor and bed. What followed was a beautifully narrated trip up the Charles, as we envisioned ourselves executing the race plan, including moves on other boats, approaches to bridges, and the timing of the final sprint. The visualization took a little over 17 minutes. Now if we could ACTUALLY row the course in that time … !
By midday, we were at the boathouse ready to race. We had a good warm-up on land and then on the water before the long wait in the start chute. And then, finally, we were on the course! We started with a high 20 and lengthened to race pace, which turned out to be a higher-than-usual 32, and we stayed there for the body of the race.
In the first thousand, we quickly and steadily moved away from the boats visible behind us, and we trailed the two boats ahead of us, who were battling it out in contact with each other. We did not pass boats, and we were not passed, so it was very much our own race to row. It was not easy to keep the focus inward over 3 miles, through six spectator-filled bridges, and in front of a crowd that size, but we did, and it was a strong and aggressive race, start to finish.
The strongest part of our effort was the final 800 m. Based on our experiences as a boat at Wine Country and Head of the Port, we had changed our race plan to sprint earlier and guarantee a full opportunity to empty the tank by the very last stroke. Coming out of the Eliot Bridge, we took a 20 to start the mental drive to the finish line, and then a 10 to “step together” with powerful legs off the catch – a focus suggested by Coach Jovan. And then we shifted the rate up 3 times, for 15 rather than 10 strokes each time, which took us right across the line. No regrets about how hard we’d rowed.
We finished 13th, with a time of 19:26, shy of the 11th-place finish needed for an automatic entry into the same event next year, but it felt like a competitive showing to take much pride in. And from our HOCR53 experience, we are determined to keep building speed and solidarity for EBRC that we – and all of our teammates – can bring with us into the races to come.
Well, we placed 13/22 – so not the 11th that we wanted, but it still felt like a strong race. Super grateful to have rowed with these women for the past month. Today I investigated the #headofthecharles regatta merchandise opportunities (brought to us by Brooks Brothers, because Boston), watched some races (on the Eliot Bridge, ten feet from Malia Obama!), met up with my former student @mdubs14 who rows for Connecticut College (❤️), and ate an unreasonable amount of 🍟🌭🍺 and mayo (not pictured). Heading back to Oakland tomorrow, and practice with @eastbayrowingclub on Tuesday. Our next race is the #headoftheamerican in Sacramento on Saturday!