More than 100,000 people will gather in Boston to watch the
competition. Rows of feet will hang off the Weeks Bridge as
spectators crowd the streets and sidewalks. They come to see a
sporting event that has been on the minds of many since last
spring. But these fans aren’t mainly in Boston to see the
first game of the World Series. Instead, they focus their attention
toward the river.

The Head of the Charles is the world’s largest two-day
rowing event. It has been held for the past 40 years on the Charles
River in Boston. Each year, the race draws collegiate teams from
around the nation, as well as international competitors.

Tomorrow, the Michigan rowing team will send its top-12 rowers
and two coxswains to power four- and eight- person boats down the
approximately three mile stretch of the Charles River. The Head of
the Charles gives the team an idea of its current progress at the
beginning of the season and a preview of other teams it will face
later in the season.

“(The Head of the Charles) gives us a gauge of the kind of
speed we have right now,” coach Mark Rothstein said.
“It allows us to look for the teams that are in hunting
range.”

The event draws the largest number of spectators to any rowing
event on Michigan’s schedule. While the outcome of the race
has no effect on the team’s record, the rowers get pumped up
to compete, due to the event’s long-standing traditional
value.

“The big thing is that (the Head of the Charles) is such a
traditional race and there are so many people there,” senior
coxswain Tara Medina said. “It’s so nice to race on the
river and be a part of that tradition.”

The Head of the Charles is a race much different than any
regular-season event. A regular-season race is around 2,000 meters
and takes anywhere from six to eight minutes. The Head of the
Charles is a 5,000-meter, upstream course that passes under six
bridges, has five major turns and lasts around 16 minutes. Crews
start at 10-second intervals, and coxswains’ navigational
skills are challenged, as the river gets smaller with each
additional boat.

“Head racing is very much a coxswain’s race,”
Medina said. “You don’t have a lane, so you have to
find the shortest distance to the finish.”

Medina has prepared her crew during practice by calling out
navigation points as if the team was on the Charles River. Senior
rower Leah Ketcheson feels that the visualizations have helped her
focus on her task as a rower.

“It’s like rowing in a bubble,” Ketcheson
said. “You let the coxswain be the eyes and ears of the
boat.”

The Wolverines are also looking forward to racing against the
some of the best teams in the world. While the competition is
tough, Michigan isn’t out of its league. Last year, the team
placed fifth among colleges, missing the Harvard team by just
tenths of a second.

“In any race, it’s impressive to look down (the
starting line) and see the Harvard and Yale teams,” Ketcheson
said. “But it’s even more impressive to see the United
States and Canadian National teams line up with you.”

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