Notre Dame Fighting Irish - Official Athletics Website

Head of the Charles - Five Things To Know

Oct. 19, 2016

By Alan Wasielewski

52nd Annual Head of the Charles Regatta
Charles River, Cambridge, Mass.
Shells Competing –
Women’s Club Four – 1:10 p.m. ET, Saturday, Oct. 22
Women’s Championship Four – 2:02 p.m. ET, Sunday, Oct. 23
Women’s Championship Eight – 2:36 p.m. ET, Sunday, Oct. 23

1. This is the biggest celebration of rowing in the world.

The Head of the Charles is the largest and most celebrated general regatta in the world where hundreds of boats and thousands of competitors crowd into a three-mile race course. Tens of thousands of spectators line the route through Boston and Cambridge, Mass., while the competitors have to navigate through sharp turns and under six bridges. The field will be full of current olympians, former olympians, collegiate champions and amateurs.

2. Don’t get distracted by the environment.

“To be a part of the Head of the Charles is phenomenal, but you have to be careful as you can get caught up in the chaos of such a large event,” Irish head coach Martin Stone said.

“For 18 minutes we plan on going really fast on a really difficult course in Boston. We talk about it with the team. If you don’t prepare for it the elements can overwhelm you. We traditionally perform well in crazy situations and will continue to do that this weekend.”

3. All eyes will be on the coxswains.

The Head of the Charles is a time trial race with each boat starting 10-15 seconds apart. The coxswains of each boat must navigate the warm up area, maneuver the boat in the right starting position at the assigned time, avoid possible slower competitors in front, hug the tight turns and steer under six bridges.

Laura Schoonmaker (freshman, Arlington, Mass.) in the Club Four, Samantha Hedrick (senior, Hawaii Kai, Hawaii) in the Championship Four and Reilly Kearney (junior, San Mateo, Calif.) in the Championship Eight will play a key role in each boat’s performance this weekend.

4. There are three ways for Notre Dame to measure the results.

  • Finish in the top 50 percent of the race each boat is participating in.

It is a simple goal, but necessary to qualify for the Head of the Charles for the same race next year.

  • Compare the results to other NCAA-championship caliber teams.

It is early in the collegiate rowing season for a result to have an effect on the NCAA Championship in May of 2017, but a performance in the Head of the Charles can provide an indicator of where you match up with peer boats across the nation at this point in the season. Notre Dame has competed in the Head of the Charles for the past five years and can judge its effort this weekend compared to where previous Irish teams finished and what that result meant for the team throughout that particular season.

  • Self assessment.

“There are several questions we will ask ourselves after the competition,” Stone said. “Did we race smart? Did we stay physical throughout the race? That is self assessment after the fact. Each race of the season builds on itself and we will be able to build off of our performance in Boston.”

5. Notre Dame’s Head of the Charles results history.

2015 –
Championship Four – Seventh, 18:56.107
Championship Eight – 13th, 19:26.258

2014 –
Championship Four – Ninth, 19:09.609
Championship Eight – 16th 17:18:707

2013 –
Championship Four – Seventh, 19:22.544
Championship Eight – Sixth, 16:58.595

2012 –
Championship Four – 11th, 20:09.96
Championship Eight – 31st, 17:21.23

2011 –
Championship Four – Fifth, 18:40.01

2003 –
Championship Eight – 29th, 17:16.833

Follow along with the Head of the Charles regatta at


Alan Wasielewski is an Associate Athletics Communication Director at the University of Notre Dame. He works primarily with the men’s basketball and rowing team. A 2000 graduate of the University, Wasielewski is entering his 16th year at Notre Dame, working in both the multimedia productions and athletics communications offices in his time on campus.