Brookline Rowing races at Head of the Charles Regatta

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ROWAN ROUDEBUSH/SAGAMORE STAFF

Brookline boys rowing Varsity four crosses the finish line in front of large crowds at the Head of the Charles Regatta.

Roughly a quarter million people lined the Charles River this weekend to watch one of the largest rowing regattas in the world, the Head of the Charles Regatta (HOCR). The event holds a special place in the international rowing community, with thousands of volunteers coming from across the globe to make the event possible.

‘Rowing Christmas’, as boys varsity rowing coach Catie Szymanoski calls it, gave high school athletes the opportunity to compete in the same waters as world class rowers. The boys team raced a four person boat with seniors Jacob Noe (coxswain), Jonah Barer, Jonah Katz and juniors Winston Stoll and Nielsen Euvrard. Girls varsity rowing also raced a four person boat with seniors Marlyn Li (coxswain), Nina Brinckerhoff, Rayna Rose, Basie Briney and sophomore Hattie Liang.

There are two ways for youth teams to get a competing spot at this historic regatta: being in the top half of boats that competed in last year’s HOCR or winning a raffle. The girls managed to secure a spot for next year, making the top half of boats by less than a second.

Brinckerhoff said as a senior, it’s nice to leave a legacy for next year’s team.

“It’s cool to know that even though I’m not going to be on the team next year because I’m graduating, we get to pass something on,” Brinckerhoff said.

In the HOCR countless factors go into the results. Brian DeDominici, the new girls varsity rowing head coach, said the HOCR is a different kind of challenge than other races.

“For the athletes, I’d say the biggest thing about the Head of the Charles is the anxiety of not knowing what’s going to happen,” DeDominici said. “When you’ve got 84 boats trying to make it through these turns that you can only really fit two boats through at a time, it’s luck of the draw.”

According to Brinckerhoff, in the final stretch of the girls race, Li maneuvered around a collision directly in front of the boat underneath the Elliot street bridge.

“We were about to crash and she expertly maneuvered us around. We would have been really in trouble if it wasn’t for her,” Brinckerhoff said.

Being watched by large crowds of people and rowing alongside Olympic athletes does not go unnoticed by the athletes. Barer, one of the captains of the boys rowing team, said it was intimidating to approach the finish line.

“There’s something different about racing in a big regatta,” Barer said. “Rowing is very mental; if you are feeling good, you will row a lot better.”

The boys got 49th place out of 82 boats, meaning they did not requalify for a spot next year. Szymanoski said they are taking the result in stride.

“They had a great race. They were really proud of their piece . Our results didn’t show what we had hoped, however, the attitude is we’re just going to work harder and do whatever we can to continue on through the rest of the fall season and for the spring,” Szymanoski said. “I think this is good motivation going forward.”

It was impossible to walk more than a few steps without hearing people reuniting or cheering on their peers. Beyond competition, the deep sense of community at the HOCR is what makes it possible. To ensure safety and fairness, volunteer umpires are stationed along the course to make sure boats stay within the buoy lines and yield when necessary. Umpires Marty Sweeder and Jennifer Palermo said it is the love for the sport and desire to give back that inspires the volunteers, as well as the opportunity to reconnect with the international rowing community.

DeDominici said rowing is a small world and a tight knit community.

“Even though there’s thousands of people both participating and spectating, it’s like a huge reunion,” DeDominici said. “I saw other coaches that I haven’t seen in two or three years, I saw athletes that I used to coach years ago. It’s a place where everyone comes back together.”