British crews’ success at Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston, USA

Every year as the New England leaves turn to gold, thousands of rowers make the pilgrimage to Boston for the Head of the Charles Regatta. Joanne Harris reports

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Crabtree pictured at HOCR (c) Vicky Gillard

The two-day Head of the Charles (HOCR) rowing festival attracts entries from around the world and, this year, included over 40 clubs, schools and universities from across the UK on 19-20 October.

Four British crews won their events. Crabtree BC and Marlow RC took the men’s and women’s masters fours, Henley RC won men’s youth coxed quads, and Quintin BC’s Tom Bishop won his third consecutive senior veteran singles title.

Meanwhile Reading University won the college medal after coming second in men’s championship doubles, and Vesta RC won the club medal within the women’s club fours category. Several other British crews finished in the top 10 boats in their divisions.

I was buzzing. I knew that our row was our best yet

Crabtree’s four set a new course record, winning by a margin of over 20 seconds. Cox Alex Wenyon said she knew the race was good when they passed the final bridge, Eliot.

“I was buzzing. I knew that our row was our best yet and would give us a good shot at winning. The guys were hurting but I knew then that we could have a shot at the record if we kept stepping on,” said Wenyon.

The Marlow women – Olympians Cath Bishop, Katherine Grainger, Gillian Lindsay and Kate MacKenzie, coxed by Leigh Heyman – had won their event in 2017 and 2018.

“This year’s race was somehow special,” said Bishop. “Doing it a third time and increasing our winning margin with a storming row at the front of the field felt great. It’s brilliant to still be able to enjoy rowing and push ourselves to race just as we always have.”

Henley RC’s youth quad contained three members of the crew which lost the final of the Fawley Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta earlier this year. As well as borrowing a boat and blades they also borrowed a cox – Brian Lee from Belmont Hill School in the US.

“The boys were extremely nervous before the race, being well aware of the quality of their opposition, and the need to avoid catastrophe through collisions with other crews,” said coach Nick Mead.

It’s brilliantly organised and brings the whole rowing community together from across the world

Starting with bow number 46 the Henley crew overtook 11 crews in what Mead described as an “outstanding mature performance”.

The Vesta women also had an exciting row, pushing hard to stay ahead of the crew behind them and to overtake Potomac BC before Eliot Bridge.

“Past the finish line, we stopped in silence – we’d surprised ourselves in actually achieving exactly what we hoped to,” said stroke Charlotte Orrell.

Bishop added that her crew now races only once a year and chooses to do so at HOCR “which tells you how special it is to us”.

“It’s brilliantly organised and brings the whole rowing community together from across the world and across all ages. It’s usually great weather, Boston looks beautiful in the fall, and the rowing course is very entertaining with sharp bends, lots of bridges and huge crowds along the course,” she said.

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