Crew | Head of the Charles draws athletes of all ages and places
Stone competes in world’s largest fall regatta
Published: Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 08:10
All was quiet and serene on the banks of the Charles River at one of the three−mile course’s few straight and bridge−free spots. That is, until the next wave of doubles rowed by, and a coach biked past on the road, trailing his boat and shouting encouragements.
When the boats raced under the final bridge with 500 meters to go, there was an eruption of noise, no matter whether the rowers were high school and college eights, Grand Masters, singles and doubles or the Great Eight — the elite women’s boat with eight of the top scullers in the world.
The Head of the Charles is the biggest fall regatta in the world, with almost 9,000 athletes competing in 55 events that range from the high school and collegiate level to elite rowers and veterans who have rowed the course for over 30 years. The banks of the Charles are transformed with tents, docks and viewing areas to accommodate the 1,900 boats and 300,000 spectators.
For the Tufts rowers involved in the event, that atmosphere makes for a special rowing environment.
“Pretty much at every major obstacle we had fans and friends — it was invaluable,” senior tri−captain Mariah Martin, who finished 20th in women’s doubles while rowing with classmate Sarah Camitta, said. “To go from having fans for the last ten seconds to having them the whole time was nice. Just knowing that mentally it is such a rough race getting people to pump up was awesome.”
In addition to Martin and Camitta, junior Ginny Trumble and senior Sheila Dave managed an 18th place finish. With six bridges to choose from, spectators were packed three−deep to take advantage of the bird’s eye views and the chance to shout down to crews rowing below them.
According to Gevvie Stone, Olympic athlete and current Tufts Medical student, the noise was so loud going under some of the bridges that she could barely hear her coxswain, even from stroke seat.
This was Stone’s 27th time attending the Head of the Charles and her tenth year racing. She started attending the event as a child with her parents, who met on the US national team and remain involved in rowing to this day. Her father, Gregg Stone, came in second in the Grand Masters single event, and her mother coaches at Winsor School.
Stone grew up in a world of rowing and carried her childhood experiences at the Head of the Charles to Princeton University and two bids for the Olympic team, the second of which ended with her winning the “B” final in London in 2012.
This fall, Stone had to cut her practice schedule to four days a week to make room for medical school. Despite the decrease in training, Stone was able to capture her fourth win in a single in what she described as the best course she has ever steered.
Stone recognizes the power of rowing as a communal event, both within her family and in the broader world of rowing. Stone sat in stroke seat of the Great Eight and used an oar with the US national team blade design. Behind her sat seven other women, all with their own countries’ designs on the blades, to create an international boat joined together by, as Stone put it, a desire to win.
Despite the differences in culture and training, these eight women were able to hop into a boat together for the Head of the Charles and post a time that was the second fastest in the women’s championship eight event, only behind the United States’ gold medal winning crew. According to Stone, the experience of rowing in a boat with eight women from around the world showed what all rowers share.
“It was really incredible [that] you really share so much in common with one another,” Stone said. “We all dedicated our lives to rowing.”
The Great Eight was one of the most highly anticipated boats because it showcases the entirety of rowing. For Martin, seeing the Great Eight in action was one of the highlights of racing this weekend.
“We have rowed against some talented and impressive teams before, but none compare to being five feet from Olympic rowers,” she said.
For spectators, the Head of the Charles offers a glimpse into the world of rowing and an appreciation that athletes can continue to row and excel their whole lives. For Stone, the event is something to look forward to every year.
“It’s so fun, and I’ve thought it was fun since I was little,” she said. “It’s a combination of sport, competition, reunion and fall weather.”