Looking Back at the Head of the Charles Regatta Circa 1984


Photo courtesy of Boston Globe/Getty

Since the inaugural Head of the Charles Regatta in 1965, the 3-mile boat race down Boston’s notoriously twisty and hazard-strewn river has grown into the world’s largest event of its kind. But back in 1991, when Fred Schoch became the executive director of the organization, it was “just a handful of scullers and cool boats,” he says.

William Reimann, a Cambridge Boat Club member who’s been rowing for 64 years, adds that in spite of the sport’s increased popularity and technological innovations, one thing has remained constant in the dozens of Head of the Charles races in which he’s competed: his ­eagerness to reach the finish line so he can quit yanking on his oars. “My favorite part is when it’s over and ‘ya kin stop,’” he says. Two miles in, he says, “I feel like I’m going to die if I do this any longer…but I still have a mile to go.”

Now that the event draws up to 400,000 spectators, security is ­paramount—which means you’ll no longer see people hanging off the railroad trestle that runs below the BU Bridge, as shown in this 30-year-old photo. “They got by for a few years,” Schoch says, “but now with international politics and insecurity being an issue, we keep people off them.”