Varsity crew makes waves at Head of the Charles

Crowds line bridges and cowbells ring loudly as boats row swiftly by under the Boston skyline. Gliding through the Charles River are teams from across the world, including Brookline.

The Brookline crew teams competed in the 57th anniversary of the Head of the Charles Regatta (HOCR) on Sunday, Oct. 23. Both the boys and girls crew teams competed, with four total boats in the regatta in four separate events: the women’s under-17 (U-17) four, the men’s U-17 four, the women’s youth four and the men’s youth four. The HOCR spanned three days total, but the Brookline teams competed only on Sunday.

Girls crew head coach Brian DeDominici said that his favorite part of the whole regatta is the size of the event and the variety of rowers competing.

“It’s one of the largest regattas in the world, if not the largest,” DeDominici said. “You have everybody competing there, from high school kids who may have just started rowing all the way up to people who have medaled at the Olympics.”

Brookline crew started off early Sunday morning with the women’s youth four. Rowing in the event were sophomore Sophia Su (coxswain), senior Meghna Sundaram and juniors Aster Toole, Kalina Brookfield and Naomi Durbin.

At the HOCR, in order to qualify in the event for the next year, a boat needs to finish in the top half. However, the team placed 49th out of 90 boats due to a five second penalty. The penalty was due to a conflict with another boat, causing the Brookline team to row off course. Toole said the other boat had been an obstacle for the Brookline team.

“We had been trying to pass them for a really long time, and they weren’t yielding. They were pushing us off course, and we weren’t able to pass them,” Toole said.

The HOCR is a historic Boston event that started in Oct. 1965. Boats and fans come from all over the country and world to compete. According to the HOCR official site, as many as 11,000 athletes attend the three-day event, with 1,700 volunteers.

DeDominici said that an integral part of the event is the ambiance surrounding the river and the vendors for the whole weekend.

“It’s sort of like a festival atmosphere down there. You can walk through there and see the energy and you can see all these vendors selling different food or different rowing products, including rowing machines,” DeDominici said. “There’s lots to look at and a ton going on.”

The girls U-17 boat placed third, a requalification for next year’s race. The lineup consisted of sophomores Sita Hug (coxswain) and Georgie Harington and juniors Alisa Shchapova, Hattie Liang and Calder Shen.

Shchapova said that the toughest part of the race was undoubtedly mid-course, at Eliot Bridge.

“We had a crash right in front of us so we had to try and go around it, and to do that one side of the boat has to add in pressure while the other one reduces pressure. Your muscles are burning and you’re trying to push the boat as much as possible,” Shchapova said.

The Brookline teams all had the advantage of a home course. The teams practice on the Charles River daily, navigating the twisted course. Boys crew head coach Catie Szymanoski said that despite the team knowing the course, race day still brings its own challenges.

“When we, a local crew, get on the course, around many crews that have never been on the course before, it is really hard to navigate because they don’t know what to expect,” Szymanoski said. “The course itself is already really hard. But then on race day, when you have 90 boats, there are crashes. There are people that don’t know how to make the turns.”

The boys team raced in the same events as the girls teams, requalifying in both. The boys youth four competed against 90 other boats, one of which was the Ukrainian National Team. They placed 38th; their lineup consisting of juniors Dayton Clingingsmith (coxswain) and Owen McKendry and seniors Philip Forman, Nielsen Euvrard and Bobby Rogers.

Forman said that he is excited to pass on the boat to the next group of rowers.

“They’re going to get our boat next year, and they’re going to keep moving forward. If they re-qualify, that’s gonna be another group of people below them that is going to bring it up,” Forman said.

The boys U-17 four placed fourth in a race of 21 boats, missing third place by around 20 seconds due to a crash with the Arlington-Belmont four. The team raced with a juniors, Cullen Cox, Andrew Kim and Ben Brinckerhoff (coxswain) and sophomores Owen Baumann and Ezra Epstein.

Kim said that, despite the crash, he is proud of the way the team ended up racing and said that the results are due to the team’s practices.

“We know the course well, so we were able to steer it in a very short amount of time,” Kim said. “Every week we would do it one or two times at race speed and just keep doing it until we could drop the time as low as we possibly could, no matter the conditions.”

Kim said that his favorite part of the event is the fervor and number of spectators.

“The amount of people there, it’s really exciting,” Kim said. “Rowing isn’t that big of a sport, there’s not that many people watching so it was cool to have that many people cheering for you and to have all your teammates there.”