Post-HOC, crew looks back with pride
The Bowdoin crew took five boats to the Head of the Charles Regatta last
weekend, and fared well amidst international competition.
The Head of the Charles is a race unlike any other. Boats start at ten-second
intervals, and the object is to catch and pass as many boats as possible,
thus finishing the three-mile course faster than anyone else. Add 6,500
athletes and 300,000 spectators over two days, and you have the race of
"Not every sport here at Bowdoin gets the chance to compete against
Division I colleges, national teams, and even international teams,"
sophomore Alicia Smith said. "This past Sunday, we had five boats
compete in the largest crew regatta in the world. Bottle neck bridges,
on-water collisions, and thousands of fans in the grand stands, were all
things Bowdoin Crew got to experience this past weekend."
In a strong performance on Saturday, the second varsity men's boat earned
an impressive 20th place finish among 71 boats. This finish placed the
men in the top five percent of their racing category, club men's fours,
and earned them an automatic bid to next year's club race.
Coxswain Ben Needham '05 showed good composure in the third race of his
career. In the HOC, avoiding collisions with bridges or other crews along
the river's winding path means a job well done.
Needham led the men to a time of 18:03, just hundredths of a second off
19th place Vassar College. They edged out crews from Middlebury, Northeastern,
Notre Dame, and others. Bowdoin's third varsity men placed 56th in the
Coach Gil Birney was excited about the strength and depth that his men
showed at the HOC, the largest head race in the world. He indicated that
the automatic bid for next year is a huge boost to the Bowdoin rowing
In the women's club fours, Bowdoin's second varsity women finished 46th
in a 58-boat field. The boat, consisting of four sophomores and first-year
coxswain Takara Larsen, was a bit nervous going into the race. They were
happy with their finish and excited to have raced on the Charles. "It
was the fastest twenty minutes of my life!" sophomore Marya Washburn
Bowdoin's first varsity men's and women's boats competed on Sunday afternoon
in the championship division. Rowing alongside top college programs and
powerful international teams, Bowdoin showed that it belonged in the division.
Juleah Swanson's first varsity women picked up a solid 26th place, just
seconds behind Boston College and the Copenhagen Rowing Club. Taking first
place in the race was the Frankfurter Rudergesellschaft Germania 1869,
followed closely by the U.S. National women and the Danish Rowing Federation,
a boat that won last year's Olympics.
The first varsity men rowed a technically sound and powerful race that
placed them 15th among thirty boats.
The men were able to take advantage of a crash and violent oar fight
between two crews; while Northeastern untangled themselves from another
boat, the Bowdoin men squeezed by and picked up valuable seconds.
In the second half of the race, Bowdoin came up quickly behind Dartmouth
on a tight turn. The Dartmouth coxswain, ignoring race rules, refused
to give way to the Bowdoin boat.
After the turn, Bowdoin swung around outside and pulled up even with
them at the finish line. The coxswain from Dartmouth was awarded a two-minute
penalty that knocked the boat down to a 28th place finish.
The men were ecstatic after their race. "It was the most amazing
feeling, being able to compete with such good schools and hearing people
cheering for three straight miles," said sophomore Tom Ricciardi.
"It was an incredible experience. The course was demanding, but a
lot of fun."
Coach Birney knew that the HOC Regatta is much different from other head
races, most of which follow a quiet course through brilliant foliage.
Before they launched, Birney told his men to "go out there and enjoy.
This is the Charles River... Have a lot of fun."
As many Bowdoin rowers found this weekend, racing on the Charles is something
they will always remember.