Your Guide to the 2014 Head of the Charles Regatta

HOCR celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Here’s what you need to know before heading out this weekend.

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Photo by Alex Lau for Boston Magazine

The world’s largest two-day regatta celebrates its 50th anniversary this weekend. Since 1965, the Head of the Charles Regatta has lured and challenged hundreds of thousands of rowers to the Charles River in the famed sporting event, which—let’s be honest—most of us don’t even know much about (define: “coxswain”).

But we flock to the Charles anyway because it’s a rare opportunity to see the best of the best from around the world compete for glory. Before heading out, here’s a primer on where to watch, where to play, and what to bring to the 2014 Head of the Charles:


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Photo by Margaret Burdge for Boston Magazine

Where to Watch

You can watch from anywhere along the Charles, but for a better view, look for a bridge or settle near a boathouse.

Start
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Races kick off on either side of the BU Bridge near the BU Dewolfe Boathouse and BU Sailing Pavilion. Because the start of the race is also the closest to the city, here’s where you’ll capture the best photographs of rowers at their freshest with the Boston skyline in the background. Bon voyage!

The Powerhouse Stretch
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The full race is about three miles, so there’s no time to lose as rowers head into mile two. Dubbed “The Powerhouse Stretch,” spectators can watch this segment of the Head of the Charles from the River Street or Western Avenue Bridges. You’ll find the Riverside Boat Club at the northern end of Magazine Beach on the Cambridge side of the river, which also serves as the singles and doubles launch site.

Turn, Turn, Turn!
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Part of what makes the HOCR course so challenging are its twisty turns. One of many reasons a good start during the Powerhouse Stretch is so important is that once rowers get to the Weeks Bridge, the odds of getting trapped or colliding with another team increases. A 90-degree turn makes Weeks Bridge the first of several places rowers must proceed with caution.

Halfway
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Those who survive that first sharp turn will pass under Anderson Memorial Bridge, where racers can let out a quick sigh while spectators cheer at the halfway mark. At the end of River Bend Park on the Cambridge side, you’ll find Harvard’s Radcliffe Weld Boathouse, while Newell Boat House is located on the Boston side of the Charles just west of Anderson Memorial Bridge. The halfway mark is where an abundance of spectators gather, with the Weld Exhibition on the Cambridge side and Reunion Village on the Boston side (see “Where to Play” below for more).

Around the River Bend
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After navigating a brutal loop past Mt. Auburn Hospital, racers are greeted once again by spectators watching from Eliot Bridge near the Cambridge Boat Club. On the Boston side, this is also where viewers can check out the Eliot Bridge Enclosure (see “What to Do” below).

Finish
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From Eliot Bridge, it’s smooth sailing—er, paddling—to the finish line at Christian Herter Park, where times are tallied and winners rewarded. This is also the site of the Rowing and Fitness Expo, where spectators can explore all things related to rowing and boating.

You can browse the official HOCR map at hocr.org or download it in PDF form.

— OR —

You can watch from home! Since recent years, the Head of the Charles Regatta has also been live-streamed.


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Photo by Margaret Burdge for Boston Magazine

What to Do

Crowds will gather at these hot spots with food, vendors, and more.

Rowing and Fitness Expo

Located on the Boston side at the finish line, the annual expo will have food, retail vendors, demos, and more. This area is free and open for the public to explore while cheering on rowers as they finish up the race. The expo is also where award ceremonies take place, so expect to hear plenty of cheers, but hopefully not too many tears.

Weld Exhibition

By contrast, the Weld Exhibition takes place on the Cambridge side of the Charles near the halfway mark of the race. Official sponsors and other vendors will give out free samples and sell official HOCR merchandise.

Reunion Village

Across from the Weld Exhibition is Reunion Village, which includes a dining tent with food and refreshments, seating along the river, and a beer garden ($5 per beer). Here’s where you can even register for your own tent, but for those not looking to dish out $900 for a 10′ by 10′, the price of entry to Reunion Village is $10 for a one-day pass, $15 for a weekend pass, and free for children under 12.

Eliot Bridge Enclosure

The fee here is steep—$90 per day or $150 for the weekend—but it comes with breakfast and buffet luncheon from Citizen Public House & Oyster Bar, as well as two free drink tickets to an otherwise cash bar. The menu includes a raw bar, crab cakes, steak, and much more. In true sports-fan fashion, you aren’t a real spectator unless you’re stuffed and a good bit tipsy.


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Photo by Alex Lau for Boston Magazine

Pro Tips

What to bring, who to bring, and—ugh—transportation.

What to Bring

The weekend forecast—per Weather.com, last checked Wednesday—is 71 degrees with a 20 percent chance of rain on Saturday, 54 degrees and 0 percent chance of rain on Sunday. This being Boston, though, it’s never a bad idea to carry around a light jacket.

What Not to Bring

Heavy, bulky, obnoxious backpacks that not only annoy your fellow spectators, but also freak out security.

Who to Bring

Unless you’re going to corral them in Reunion Village or the Eliot Bridge Enclosure, then yes, you can absolutely bring the kids out for a nice weekend outdoors. You are also welcome to bring your pets, presuming you clean up after them—that’s not a HOCR rule, it’s a societal one.

Transportation

Let’s say you don’t want to trek the three-mile course time and time again to see your teams start and finish. Take advantage of the HOCR shuttle buses, which pick up and drop off at every mile marker, as well as past the finish line at Birmingham Parkway.

MBTA detours: There a couple bus detours planned for this weekend, but the ones related to Head of the Charles are routes 66 and 86. Check MBTA.com for the latest.


50th Anniversary Specials

Happy birthday, Head of the Charles!

There are several special programs planned in celebration of #HOCR50. These include a 50th anniversary gala on Saturday night, an anniversary documentary, and a history exhibit near Hospitality Row with artifacts, photos, and other memorabilia that visitors can check out all weekend.

The HOCR documentary is titled “Head of the Charles Regatta: The Story of the First 50 Years.” It’s available now for pre-order, will be available to rent ($3.99) and download ($6.99) on Sunday, and spectators can purchase the documentary at the event this weekend.

 

The 2014 Head of the Charles Regatta takes place Saturday and Sunday, October 18 and 19. For race schedules and more info, visit hocr.org.

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