By Alejandro Serrano, news correspondent
Thousands of rowers cut through winds and underneath bridges in front of more than 400,000 spectators, rowers and coaches on the Charles River on Saturday and Sunday for the 51st Annual Head of the Charles Regatta.
The Northeastern University (NU) Huskies had five boats racing this weekend, starting with the men’s and women’s club eights on Saturday afternoon. The men’s club eight finished in second place with a time of 15:08.323. Brown University won the event in 15:04.950.
“We had a very young lineup, and practices had been going well, so morale was high and everyone was ready to race hard,” MacKenzie Dafferner, coxswain of the men’s club eight, said in an email to The News. “It was disappointing to come in second place… We came across one big obstacle coming through the last bridge, which was the last boat from the event before. They didn’t slow us down because I was able to get them to move out of our way just in time. All in all, we had a solid race.”
With temperatures recorded around 50 degrees and 15 mph headwinds, competitors had to face a number of obstacles on the river, from boat traffic to sharp turns along the course.
The women’s club eight finished in fourth place with a time of 17:35.254, behind Brown University, Radcliffe (Harvard University’s heavyweight women’s crew) and Riverside Rowing Club.
“There was a pretty heavy headwind, so the times overall were slower… but training in New England and in Boston has us more than prepared for when the wind will hit,” Kristen Brozowski, fourth-seat in women’s club eight, said in an email to The News. “The most difficult part of the race is around the Eliot [Bridge] turn… It’s a sharp turn that can take away a great amount of speed. However, we were able to get out of the turn and pick up significant speed to finish strong.”
On Sunday, NU had three boats on the water. In the first event, the men’s championship four, the Huskies finished in sixth place with a 16:30.239 finish time after starting the race as bow number seven. Camp Randall won the event in 16:08.535.
Rowing conditions were similar to Saturday’s with a temperature drop of about five degrees and more overcast skies.
“We rowed extremely well in the powerhouse stretch [from Riverside Boat Club to the Weeks Bridge], and we caught up to Cornell right before the Weeks Bridge,” Ole Henrik Bang-Andreasen, stroke-seat of the championship four, said in an email to The News. “However, Cornell chose not to move [to yield to the passing boat] and steered into us when we were about to pass them. We lost our momentum… I would say the hardest part of the race was to reset mentally after the crash.”
Two events later came the fleet of men’s championship eights. NU came in 10th place at 14:52.689. The top-three order of finish was Yale University, California Rowing Club and Harvard.
The women’s championship eight closed the racing weekend for NU with a 12th-place finish, missing the top 10 by 3.41 seconds.
“We were really happy with the way that we raced,” women’s Head Coach Joe Wilhelm said. “I think our main focus in preparing for now is our races in the spring. We practice long-distance pieces, which lend themselves to head races. The next race we are really focusing on is the Foot of the Charles in four weeks. We are looking to improve on speed for then, and we will also race everyone on the team.”
The Head of the Charles Regatta was first held in 1965, with almost 300 competitors. Now, it is one of the biggest rowing competitions internationally with more than 10,000 competitors, 1,500 volunteers and over 25 countries represented, according to the regatta’s program.
“Rowing up the course when everyone is cheering at you is an amazing thing to experience, and something we all are very thankful to be a part of with the team,” Bang-Andreasen said.
Photo by Zack Williamson, Northeastern Athletics