How to Get the Most Out of a Day at the 2021 Head of the Charles Regatta 

Get ready for an unforgettable day on the water— for rowers and fans alike.

Photo by Michael Swensen/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

How To Be a Good Spectator

Be prepared for anything. If a cold wind or rain is coming off the water, you’ll want to have warm layers on hand, as well as a rain jacket and umbrella so you don’t get soaked. And whatever the weather, don’t forget to wear comfy shoes: The regatta and post-race celebrations span more than a few miles.

Shout words of encouragement. Hearing enthusiastic huzzahs and personalized support from the crowd “certainly makes the race go by a little quicker for rowers,” says HOCR director of operations Priscilla Livingston. Just be considerate of your neighbors: If you have a prime viewing spot and notice someone behind you trying to cheer on a specific athlete, move out of the way. “You wait so long for someone to come down the course, if you miss it—that’s it. You can’t chase after them.”

Stay in the know. Watching the regatta is a whole lot more interesting when you understand what’s going on. You’ll find a full event breakdown with corresponding bow numbers in the printed viewing guides handed out along the course, or on the HOCR app. If you’re watching from above, you can identify boats by the adhesive sticker on top of the hull. And if you’re watching from the shore, don’t sweat it; number cards will be attached to the bow of the boat, and the coxswain and bow person will also be sporting the number on their bibs.

Where to Watch

0 miles
The Boston University Bridge

Cheer on your favorite competitors at the start of the race: Just past the DeWolfe Boathouse, this often-crowded vantage point overlooks a relatively calm stretch of water. When there’s a lull in the action, you can take in a gorgeous view of the city skyline to the east.

0.5 miles
Magazine Beach Park

If joining the crowds on the bridges isn’t your thing, spread out a blanket here to catch the launch of singles and doubles from the Riverside Boat Club, where you can witness a tangle of rowers navigating their first turn as they head toward Harvard’s campus.

1.5 miles
Weeks Footbridge

Just off Harvard Square, rowers negotiate a tight turn on the water as they head in the direction of Anderson Memorial Bridge. Watch the height of the action unfold from above as boats cut each other off—if you’re lucky, you might even see some oars clash.

1.75 miles
The Weld Exhibition

Stroll the festival-like atmosphere, perusing a series of food, drink, and merchandise tents along the river. Because it’s free to the public and right on the water, this area gets lots of foot traffic, so don’t plan on finding a spot to sit for very long.

2.5 miles
The Eliot Bridge Enclosure

Buy your tickets early for a cushy spot right at the river’s edge, where you’ll find an exclusive hospitality tent featuring a gourmet buffet and an open bar.

3 Competitors to Watch

The Favorite: Kara Kohler
The California native just represented the U.S. in the women’s single sculls at the Tokyo Olympics. In the 2019 HOCR, she medaled in the women’s championship single—and everyone is eager for her return.

The Local: Gevvie Stone
The Beth Israel Deaconess resident and three-time Olympian has won the HOCR championship single title six times, but this year, you’ll finally see her racing in the master category.

The Dark Horse: Lower-Seeded Athletes
Many of the athletes racing again this year “have gained a lot of speed” after a year off from the competition, Livingston says, meaning their 2019 scores might seed them lower than their actual qualifications. That could translate to lots of unexpected shakeups this year.

Where to Celebrate

Navigating the après-regatta bar scene is almost as fun as navigating the river: Right after the race, head to Reunion Village on the Boston side of the Charles for a Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. beer garden and a concessions tent, or backtrack toward the HOCR registration tent for a celebratory brew with family and friends at FALS Bar, located right on the water. If you’re looking for sips in bustling Harvard Square, the Charles Hotel has two commemorative cocktails on deck: the “Cambridge Boat Club,” a refreshing gin drink, and the non-alcoholic “Eliot’s Day Off” negroni. For those eager to escape the crowds surrounding the river, Precinct Kitchen + Bar in the Back Bay is mixing up the “The Boathouse”— a special regatta-themed cocktail made with local Velo Vodka.