Shrewsbury School

The Head of the Charles Regatta

Monday 5 November 2018

Over half-term, the Boat Club took 27 pupils to compete at the Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston, USA - the biggest rowing regatta in the world, with nearly 11,000 competitors taking part.


The crews flew out on the afternoon of Wednesday 17th October and arrived at their accommodation late that evening. On Thursday the boys’ crews were kindly hosted by Harvard University for a paddle out of the Newell Boathouse and a chance to familiarise themselves with the corners and bridges that they would need to navigate on the Sunday. The girls rowed out of the Hudson boating area with the use of blades and a launch kindly provided by Northeastern University.

After lunch and a walk around Cambridge, the pupils had the opportunity to see some of the Harvard facilities with the generous insight of former Shrewsbury oarsman Patrick Lapage, who is now the Assistant Coach at Harvard.

Friday morning was the last opportunity for the crews to paddle down on course as things started to gear up for racing. It was an impressive sight watching the significant number of trailers arriving with boats from all over the US, as the site changed from a quiet park to a mass of boats and stalls preparing for the quarter of a million people expected to be present during the biggest two-day regatta in the world.

On Saturday morning the rowers and coaches surprised a few locals with a fairly early morning jog and stretching at Tucks Point in Manchester-by-the-Sea.

The squad then headed off to the Regatta to see some of the racing and enjoy the atmosphere. They also got the chance to take in a game of American Football at the impressive Harvard Stadium between Harvard and Princeton. The squad then headed back to the Old Corner Inn for a fantastic meal, kindly prepared by Michael and Fiona Kerr.

Sunday was race day and began with an early start to head into Boston and go through final equipment checks and preparations. The squad competed in four boat classes JW8+, JM8+, JM4+ and JM4X+.

All four crews started relatively far back in the field as we hadn’t competed in the event last year. This provided some different challenges, as the crews had to overtake other crews while navigating the bridges and corners. It makes for exciting racing and the coxed four loved the challenge as they overtook nine crews along the route. Unfortunately it does have a negative impact on your time, as you cannot always follow the fastest line. That is one of the factors that makes the regatta tough but also a great one to win if it all comes off.

There was a large entry in all events, with the JM8+, JW8+ and JM4+ all fully subscribed and 85 crews competing, including multiple British entries.



The JW8+, JM4X+ and JM4+ were all the fastest British crews in their events, with 53rd/85, 29th /40 and 8th/85 place finishes respectively. The JM8+ came 41st/ 85.




Following the racing we all headed out to the Hodgsons’ lovely home in Ipswich for a fantastic team dinner with all the travelling supporters. It was a fantastic way to wind down after a tough day of racing.

On Monday the squad piled into the three minibuses and headed north-west to Dartmouth College in Hanover. Dartmouth is one of the eight Ivy League Universities and provided a great opportunity for the pupils to get an insight to College life in the US. On arrival we met at the boathouse before getting out on the water in three pupil-selected eights.

The crews got the opportunity to enjoying rowing on the Connecticut River as we paddled upstream doing technical work. On the way back to the boathouse the crews did a couple of races, which provided some great racing and interesting situations as two of the boats slightly misjudged the distance back to the boathouse – making the final minutes of racing particularly gruelling.

We were very grateful to be given an informative tour of the campus with a chance to see some of the academic facilities and hear about life on the campus. The highlight for most of the boys and girls was the very impressive dining hall, which had virtually every option covered in the eat-as-much-as-you-like serving area.

On the Tuesday morning we went to the beach for a training session before heading to Groton School to for a chance to get a flavour of school life in the US, before heading down to their boathouse and training on the Nashua River. We were very kindly hosted by Deputy Head and Master in Charge of Rowing, Andy Anderson for a tour of their beautiful school.

The final day of the trip saw the group enjoy another training session on the beach before getting some last minute shopping done prior to our return departure. The beach session ended with all the boys and girls opting to go for a swim in the freezing North Atlantic, much to the horror and amusement of many Manchester-by-the-Sea locals.

A huge thank you goes to all those who made the trip possible and not least the host families of the Kerrs and Hodgsons for inviting us into their homes. A big thank you to Mike at the Old Corner Inn for putting up with us taking over the place for the week. Many thanks to Harvard, Northeastern, Virginia, Groton and St Joe’s Prep for the generous use of their equipment on the Charles. Finally thank you to Mr Grant and Mr & Mrs Reynolds for giving of their time over their half-term to help manage the logistics of the trip.

Athol Hundermark
Director of Rowing

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