The Club's Results

Head of the Charles, Mich Term 2001

A high profile head race upstream on the Charles River, Boston-Cambridge, Massachusetts USA
Sat 20th October

The event was organised by Head of the Charles, Inc.. At the bottom of this page there is a link to Cambridge weather. Club members, please go here to add (or correct) results, crews or race reports.


BPBC 1st men's VIII

34th of 67 club VIIIs
Time: 16:29
Seeking a wider audience for their talents (and some time off work), a Black Prince crew hopped across the pond this weekend to row in the Head Of The Charles Regatta. Where this idea had originated, nobody can quite remember, but for the last few months Messrs Dewire and Darley had been making the necessary arrangements.

Being a hospitable bunch, we welcomed onboard oarsmen of the Filth (Mr Jim Brooks of Merton Gannets and Thames RC) and the Scum (Mr Paul Alexander, familiar to many at FaT through his coaching and now with Tideway Scullers). Bona fide BPBC presence came in the form of Messrs Carbonell, Dewire, Lowish, Darley, Ingram, Fisher G. and Ponsonby. A couple of practice paddles on the Tideway were ably subbed by Messrs Blackburn, Bevan and Glass and Miss Evans.

By the Wednesday before the race, we were ready and raring to go. At that point, we hit our first snag, when Dan happened to discover that our outward flight had been cancelled. STA Travel, in their infinite wisdom, had decided not to tell us, as that would have been far too simple, sensible and dull. With work commitments unmovable for some, the crew was now split into four: Raf in Miami, Jim touring all over the States, four more flying from London on the Thursday and the rest a day later.

Everything was going smoothly as the time of Friday's outing loomed. It was to be the first time that the whole crew would meet, on or off the water, so we just needed everyone there and healthy. It was then that Chris and Clive wandered into an anthrax scare. Streets sealed off, emergency services out in force, biohazard suits galore. all the authentic sights and sounds of America today.

Undeterred, we got on with the outing. Boating from the indescribably fantastic Boston University boathouse (arranged thanks to Gordon Hamilton - Head of the Mays with 1st & 3rd in 1971 and now head of rowing at MIT), we had our first paddle on the Charles, which was altogether pleasant, apart from Jim being showered in birdshit.

With appetites magnified through jetlag and exercise, we sought an eatery to gorge ourselves before Saturday's exertions. Here American cuisine showed its true colours. Just one of us could finish his meal, and that's only because I skimped on the industrial plateloads of nachos that paraded as an appetiser. Quite what Uno's Pizzeria, Bar and Grill make their pizza bases from is unclear, but it appears to have many properties in common with the body of a neutron star. Many was the diner who mocked the pitiful radius of his serving and then left with a full gut and slices still uneaten.

Our reputations as trenchermen were not to be wholly undone, though. Pancakes with syrup and bacon, eggs, home fries, french toast, doughnuts, muffins and bagels (Paul's were Finagled) were put away in bulk all weekend. And that was just breakfast. In fact, Paul seemed to be averaging three full breakfasts a day. Lightweight rowing in America must be pure torture. In the end, it was on the riverbank that the real culinary epiphany happened. Among the many food vendors were stalls selling greasy simplicity: fried dough - huge slabs of the stuff. The signs boasted "cholesterol free", but I fear that Chris and Dan in particular may never be the same again.

Although the sun had been shining down on us, it wasn't enough to explain the redness of Rich's arm. Or the fact that said redness radiated from a putrid and painful blister on his hand, tracking the veins up his arm. By Saturday's early morning (!) outing, it was pretty obviously blood poisoning, so Rich did the only sensible (?) thing - got on with rowing and dealt with it later. By the time he was admitted to Cambridge Hospital's ER that evening, his arm had become a classic case study for the medical staff and required double the normal dosage of intravenous antibiotics. Still, he tells us that the nursing care was of, er, a very high standard.

Back on the water, we had a huge crowd watching the race. Official estimates vary between 200,000 and 300,000 - a few may even have been there to support some of the other crews. Guaranteeing ourselves an individual mention my sitting around the start line until the marshals told us to sod off, we joined the queue milling around the Charles Basin and went through final preparations. Learning from the mistakes of others, this included all eight oarsmen checking that their gates were securely fastened.

The Charles is wide, scenic and non-tidal - a fantastic setting for a race - but the course is no pussycat. After the opening corners and a substantial "powerhouse" straight past the thronged masses of Magazine Beach, things become interesting with some seriously nasty corners. Experience of the Cam came in very useful as first one side then another had to haul us round tight to the buoys. Bowside in particular had a real tester - a bend of Grassyesque curvature but noticeably longer. They coped admirably and we came into the final minutes suitably knackered but determined to crank the rate up in a dash for the line. Despite some strong crews around us, notably Frankfurter Rudergesellschaft (apologies for missing or misspelled words), we had not been overtaken and, starting at number 54, had cruised past crew 48 ahead of us.

The first set of provisional results put us in the third quartile of the Club VIIIs, but Mr Carbonell's impeccable line and the waywardness of others meant that their time penalties promoted us to 34th - the median crew in the event. With crews competing from all over the world, many of them having had more than two outings as a crew, this wasn't too shabby. The one downside was the performance of Boar's Head, who had the temerity to go faster than us (by the best part of 15 seconds, too). Like all good things, our 100% record against them was always going to come to an end some day, but with it happening in such a high-profile event you may rest assured that we will be spurred on to reclaim our place at the top of the college alumni heap. For those who like to draw such parallels, Boar's Head made their HOCR debut last year, and fared less well than BPBC this year.

Talking of alumni, we were not the only 1st & 3rd old boys competing on Saturday. Nigel Kaye and Gio Traverso were in Baltimore RC's coxed four and finished 17th out of 71, with their time being sufficiently fast to allow them to bypass the lottery for places next year. Ex-CUBC President Richard Stokes was also spotted over the race weekend, but it is understood that so far he has been content with sitting at his Harvard window, watching others row.

The drama off the water was only about to begin. Our hugely generous host for the weekend had been former OULRC oarsman Dominick Layfield, and he had lent us his car for the weekend, as he was heading off the New Hampshire to go climbing. This had made getting to the early morning outing much easier - bundle into the car, drive close to the river, find a space on a quiet residential backstreet and walk the remaining few yards. Nothing simpler. To avoid cock-ups, we carefully noted where we had parked. What we failed to note was that Acorn St allows parking by permit only (except on Sundays, and this wasn't a Sunday).

Imagine then our dismay upon returning post-race and finding the car gone. Its owner was halfway up a mountain and hence uncontactable, we didn't even know the licence plate number and the more we went over and over things in our heads the less sure we were that it was a Legacy and not some other kind of Subaru. We were to discover two things about vehicle towing in Cambridge, Massachusetts: firstly, that it is entirely sub-contracted to three firms, leaving the police with little involvement and no records to speak of, and secondly that all three of those companies are staffed by unhelpful morons.

We reached a stage on Saturday evening where nothing more could be done - B&B's, Phil's and Pat's (for they are the towing companies) each denied having any red or maroon Subarus, hence raising the horrible spectre that it could have been stolen. At that point, BPBC's books looked in very poor repair: club assets - a few nuts and bolts purchased to fix bow's foot stretcher in BP2; club liabilities - one Japanese "stickshift" estate, approximately six years old. As ever in such situations, there was only one solution - booze and plenty of it. Some fell by the wayside early on, but others ploughed on to a Halloween party (on the 20th!). This left our coxswain unable to solve the ancient key/door equation, so we awoke on Sunday having lost both the car and Raf.

All's well that ends well, however, and in summary (but not necessarily in order):

- Raf turned up
- The car was located (at B&soddingB's) - a $400 fine to pay for us, but Dom gets his vehicle back
- Rich's arm is on the mend
- During Sunday's Championship VIIIs the chants of "U-S-A" were so irritating that we became the German VIII's fanclub
- No taxi driver in the Greater Boston area knows where he is going
- There is a garage near Harvard called the Dewire Garage
- Nowhere in Massachusetts sells booze on a Sunday - makes buying your host a present in a hurry much trickier
- We must have aroused suspicion at the airport as we were subjected to endless bag searches - clearly Ingram is internationally notorious
- A fantastic time was had by all - back for more next year. (Graham Fisher)

1. A clearly-marked tow...
2. Rich finds a home fr...
3. JET picture 1, from ...
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