Posted October 14, 2014

The Head Of The Charles Regatta Rows into Boston


HOCR Rower

Photo: Massachusetts Office of Tourism.

Leave it to Massachusetts to not only have the Boston Marathon, but also the Boston Marathon of rowing: the Head Of The Charles Regatta (HOCR). It’s the world’s largest annual two-day rowing regatta, with crew teams from around the world competing in dozens of racing events. And it happens every October along the Charles River between Boston and Cambridge, MA. The 2014 HOCR is on the 18th and 19th and temperatures are expected to be in the 70s, with minimal clouds and kaleidoscopic New England autumn foliage. Whether you’re a rower or spectator, here’s what you need to know before you go:

It’s named that because it’s a head race. Which is … when rowers race against the clock. And the crew or rower who completes the course in the shortest time in their age, ability and boat-class category wins. And it takes place on the Charles River, of course.

It’s 50. Joining Michelle Obama, Keanu Reeves (whoa!) and Pop Tarts, the Head Of The Charles is turning 50 this year. But rather than sporting gray hairs, the race is more exciting than ever — it’s expected to attract 11,000 competitors (that’s more athletes than what the last Winter Olympics featured) and more than 400,000 spectators. It also means there will be a gala, held on Saturday from 6 to 9:30pm, which includes a film screening, drinks, hors d’oeuvres, dinner, and all the dancing you can muster.

Photo: Creative Commons/EandJsFilmCrew.

Photo: Creative Commons/EandJsFilmCrew.

It’s just over three miles long. It starts in Cambridge at Boston University’s DeWolf Boathouse and ends just past the Eliot Bridge near Northeastern University. The best place to watch? Anywhere along that three-mile stretch will provide a gorgeous view, but most spectators enjoy watching between the Anderson and Weeks bridges.

Don’t show up at 6pm. The event is from 8am to 5pm both days. Pro tip: the most prestigious races — including the Championship and Lightweight contests — take place at the end of each race day, so you might want to strategize to come then.

Driving or parking is kind of a no-no. In lieu of vehicular chaos, we suggest you tie on some sneakers, bring a bike (freebie alert: our Hotel Marlowe in Cambridge offers guests bikes to use during their stay), or use one of the shuttles provided by HOCR.

There will be beer. Reunion Village, positioned at the halfway point of the race, is the semiofficial social hub of the spectator set. It has a beer garden, all manner of dining tents, and is a lively place to cheer on your favorite crew.

Bambara's Basil Pick-Drill.

Bambara’s Basil Pick-Drill.

The race has its own cocktail. It’s called “The Basil Pick-Drill” and it’s available at Bambara Kitchen & Bar at Hotel Marlowe, which has a lovely setting along the Charles River Canal. A “pick drill” is a rowing technique to turn a boat around quickly. A Basil Pick-Drill is shaken with Hangar 1 vodka, fresh-squeezed lemon, St-Germaine elderflower liqueur, and fresh basil leaves. It’s then strained into a Champagne glass and topped off with Poema Cava sparkling wine. Yum. Sounds like a delicious way to raise a glass to the rowers.

The Head Of The Charles Regatta might be the most elegant sporting event you’ve ever seen. Yeah, that pretty much sums it up (but it’s casual, too, so come as you are).


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  1. Stephanie Wolfe says:

    Looks like a fun event! The Basil Pick-Drill looks amazing. Thanks for the great info!

    • Mark Hiss Mark Hiss says:

      Yup, looks like Boston is the place to be this weekend. Hope you get a chance to have a Basil Pick-Drill, Stephanie.