200 Days in the Life of the College

Sunday, October 24

A wild ride, and a medal, in regatta country

By Jeff Cardoni ’11

A new, fully-rigged racing boat can cost as much as a well-equipped midsize luxury sedan, and can be about as troublesome to repair. Rounding the final turn in the Head of the Charles, another school’s boat collided with Hamilton’s varsity women’s four. Yet no one at the Hamilton trailer was particularly upset about the possibility of expensive damage to the boat’s fragile hull — the more important issue was that the collision could have cost the women a podium finish.

Every October, high schools, colleges and rowing clubs from across the country meet at the Charles River in Boston for the second-largest two-day crew regatta in the world. Here, contestants race 3.2 miles under six bridges and around numerous extremely tight corners. The level of competition makes it a test of the rowers’ physical stamina, while the complexity of the course demands tremendous skill from the coxswains who navigate the boats.

“It is arguably the most competitive race we go to all year,” says Hamilton Coach Eric Summers. Even though rowers train for competitions in both the spring and fall, Summers notes that preparing coxswains for the Charles can be especially difficult. “It’s a very challenging course to steer, and we don’t get much of a chance with the turns and bridges,” he explains — a stark contrast to the sheltered, straight water of the Erie Canal where Hamilton’s team trains.

But after two days of racing, the team’s efforts pay off. Coach Summers is very pleased with the showing of his relatively young squad. Hamilton claims its first Head of the Charles medal since he began coaching the Continentals seven years ago. It is earned by the women’s four, which takes fourth place — despite the interference in the race’s final leg.