Utah Crew goes to HOCR


Alex Campbell, Sports Writer

On October 21st, Utah Crew, a junior rowing club in Salt Lake City went to Cambridge to race in The Head of the Charles (HOCR), the largest crew regatta in the world. With over 2,300 entries from eight hundred clubs across the world, competition is always fierce with spectator numbers peaking ten thousand almost consistently.  

Utah crew entered a single boat, a Men’s coxed quadruple scull, which is a four-man boat with a coxswain and two oars per person, one on port (left) and one on starboard (right) side. Utah Crew took 17th place of 40 boats entered with a corrected time of 19:24.220, automatically qualifying for next year’s event.

Head races are usually 5,000 meter races, with boats starting at intervals of fifteen seconds to a minute. Each race takes between fifteen and twenty minutes, for collegiate teams. The Head of the Charles (HOCR) course is notoriously hard for crews to navigate without penalty, going under six bridges in total. The races start at the DeWolfe boathouse, and ends shortly after Eliot bridge.

Utah Crew is a medium-sized junior crew team created in 2004 to provide children ages 12 to 18 with rowing experience, taking in every skill level with a no-cut policy. There are two racing seasons, in the Fall and Spring. Fall racing is generally long-distance, with head races (5,000m) and with sprint racing in the Spring (1,000-2,000m). During racing seasons, Utah Crew will enter into anywhere between two and four regattas, usually with one local regatta. Training for any race is rigorous, with some taking months of training. The Head of the Charles is no exception here, with strict speed requirements, and training starting in the winter on rowing machines. On a normal practice day, the quad that was sent would average 26 kilometers on the water (16.15 miles).

From the race website: “Founders and Cambridge boat club members D’Arcy McMahon, Howard McIntyre, and Jack Vincent, created the Regatta on the advice of Harvard university sculling instructor Ernest Arlett. Arlett proposed a ‘head of the river’ race to be held on the Charles.”

Each year, competitors who did not finish in the top half of their class may submit an entry and be subject to a “lottery” where each boat in an event will be named and put into a bowl. Each name will be pulled out until the event is full, and the process is repeated until each event is full. Event directors can grant acceptance of extra boat entries, which will not earn points toward medals to a limited set of local clubs and institutions in sweep-oared categories. Similarly, no person is eligible to compete in more than one race, including coxswains. The single exception to this is in the Director’s Challenge events.

As with any large scale regatta, volunteers are needed to assist in the safety of each competitor and to enforce race rules and sportsmanship. This year, over two thousand volunteers were accepted to help with the event, according to WBUR 90.9, a local boston radio station. That number is a massive amount of people, no doubt. But even with two thousand working to make the event possible, syncing every stopwatch, changing every battery, and putting together floating docks near 180 feet long, that’s only about 60 per cent of all volunteers applied. Some positions, such as the race umpire, need a specific set of skills-memorizing pages of race rules for each event, with events such as the Women’s and Men’s youth fours, and Men’s youth eights each having eighty-five boats in contention for the gold medal.

Utah Crew has a past of entering in prestigious events, entering in the 2016 Henley Royal Regatta, winning in two races against Tideway Scullers and Stratford-Upon-Avon. They had fell to Sport Imperial Crew, and had also taken their first ever international victory, after winning in the Reading Town Regatta in the same weekend. This year, Sasha Jovanovic-Hacon and Daniel Carlebach, who were stroke and three seat of the Men’s quad, went to USRowing Club National Championships, progressing to semi-finals in a single, rowed by Daniel, and a double scull, rowed by both Daniel and Sasha. Their finish in club nationals automatically qualifies them for the same category of racing in 2019.