The Head of the Charles (or Chuck), is a name synonymous in rowing circles with a weekend of beautiful New England fall foliage and crisp autumn air, 3.2 miles of zany, challenging turns through tight bridges, and a half million of your best friends cheering you on as you gaspingly push yourself further and further into oxygen debt. It is B-e-a-utiful.
Unfortunately, William and Mary Rowing didn’t receive a guys bid to the Charles this year (the unluck of the draw), but the women, by virtue of a program best 4th place the year before, were granted an automatic bid.
After some intense erg tests and seat racing, the lineup was set. Though the team had graduated 4 of the 5 members of the medal winning boat from the previous year, the young boat was excited to prove their mettle and represent William and Mary upon the Charles River.
The weekend started off portentously, as before leaving Williamsburg the coaches had a fender bender and had to rent a car, then carefully strap the team’s set of 13 foot long oars atop the rented Chevy Impala’s roof (on multiple ocassions), call a locksmith to unlock the rented Impala’s locked doors (due to a snafu during one of the oar re-strappings), and then drive straight through to Boston on a snow filled night so the team could practice using their own oars, before their race on Saturday. (A very big THANK YOU to St Lawrence University for saving us trailering fees by lending us a Vespoli 4+ to race in) It was epic.
Once all coaches and athletes arrived in Boston, the weather began clearing up and the athletes enjoyed a smooth practice down the legendary Charles race course. The team then headed across the river to Harvard Square in Cambridge and enjoyed good food and company together, before breaking off to head back to their respective houses for the night.
Come race day, the William and Mary rowers (and coxswain) were cheered on by their legion of adoring fans on pilgimage from Williamsburg, Virginia. However, a medal for the ladies at the Charles this year was not to be. The portentous beginning to the weekend carried forward, as boat’s coxbox went out on their way up to the start line (and subsequently the rowers couldn’t hear the coxswain’s calls). But the ladies rowed on. For despite a broken coxbox, and a midrace clashing of oars and boats due to another team attempting to push William and Mary off the race course, the ladies persevered and had “a good, solid race, considering everything”, earning a 21st place. Though disappointed with the outcome, the ladies were happy to experience ‘The Chuck’, and vowed to come back with a vengeance next year.