Head of the Charles Regatta: A complete guide

Watch Olympians and Harvard students race in the biggest rowing event of the fall

This weekend, October 22-23, marks the 52nd annual Head of the Charles Regatta. It’s the world’s largest two-day regatta, and this year, 2,257 boats representing clubs from 28 different countries will be competing. Rowing does not typically draw many spectators, but HOCR weekend is a rare chance for the sport to get some time in the spotlight.

Rowers of all ages will be competing, including some Olympians. Cambridge’s own Gevvie Stone, Rio silver medalist in the women’s single sculls, will be looking to claim her seventh Charles title.

When a prestigious international sporting event is happening right in our backyard and Harvard student-athletes are competing, there’s no excuse not to go (even though I may be somewhat biased because I am racing in the event). Here’s everything you need to know to make the most out of your HOCR experience.

SO close! 6 days until #HOCR52

A photo posted by HOCR (@hocr1965) on

About the race

The racecourse is 4,800 meters long (about three miles), starting at Boston University’s Dewolfe Boathouse and finishing between Eliot Bridge and Northeastern’s Henderson Boathouse. Harvard’s Weld and Newell Boathouses are conveniently situated around the halfway point of the race. Weeks and Anderson bridges are both great viewing locations, and if those are too crowded, anywhere along the banks of the river in between the two works as well. This is also where you will find plenty of food vendors and free samples.

With a winding three-mile course and so many boats competing, it would be impossible to race side-by-side. Instead, the start is staggered with about 15-second intervals between boats. The starting order is based on results from the previous year, so the fastest boats typically start first in each event. This helps reduce the amount of passing traffic during the race, although passing is inevitable.

It is crucial to have a skilled coxswain who can steer an aggressive, direct course and avoid other boats. Taking a turn too wide or clashing oars with another boat adds time to the race, and there are additional time penalties for interfering with another crew.

Harvard boats

All four rowing squads (Harvard heavyweight and lightweight men, Radcliffe heavyweight and lightweight women) have been training hard for HOCR, the main racing event of the fall. They have a total of 18 boats racing in various events throughout the weekend.

The events are mainly categorized by boat type and weight class. Lightweight men and women must weigh in at a maximum of 165 or 133 lbs., respectively, to be eligible to compete in lightweight events.

The easiest ways to identify the boats are by their blades (crimson and white for Harvard, black and white for Radcliffe) and by the numbers attached to the bow of each boat. Here is a complete list of Harvard and Radcliffe boats so that you can cheer them on.

12:51 pm- Men’s club fours
-Heavyweight and lightweight men, bow numbers 10 and 22

1:37 pm- Men’s club eights
-Heavyweight and lightweight men, bow numbers 4, 13, and 14

1:51 pm- Women’s club eights
-Heavyweight women, bow number 2

3:34 pm – Women’s championship double sculls
– Lightweight women, bow number 11

1:48 pm- Men’s championship (bows 1-18) and lightweight (bows 19-34) fours
– Heavyweight and lightweight men, bow numbers 11 and 33

The boys and Catherine out for a stroll at 30 #WALKING #GameDay #freebrady? #HVLnation

A video posted by @harvardlights on

2:02 pm – women’s championship (bows 1-19) and lightweight (bows 20-30) fours
-Heavyweight and lightweight women, bow numbers 10 and 21

2:20 pm – men’s championship (bows 1-26) and lightweight (bows 27-40) eights
-Heavyweight and lightweight men, bow numbers 3, 10, 28, and 36

Head of the Charles may be next up, but racin' in the basin is where the real action happens #sidebyside #strokeforstroke #untilyoureaseatdown #thenjacktherate #hopenoonenotices

A video posted by @harvardheavies on

2:36 pm – women’s championship (bows 1-33) and lightweight eights (bows 34-44)
– Heavyweight and lightweight women, bow numbers 19, 33, and 35 (my boat!)

Gorgeous morning with three 8s across in the basin! ☀️?

A video posted by @radlwtcrew on