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HEAD OF THE CHARLES NOTEBOOK

Sponsor cashed out

Organizers forced to tap reserves

CAMBRIDGE -- One of the victims of these economic times is the sprint for cash that used to cap off the Sunday afternoon finales of the Head of the Charles. When Charles Schwab pulled out as a major sponsor, the sprint for cash was put on hold after three years.

"We'd like to do it again, and we've looked for a sponsor," said race spokesman Jim Connelly. The financial firm put up the $30,000 prize money for the sprint and covered several plane tickets and accommodations for elite international rowers.

Last year, the sprint was won for the second time by Australian Duncan Free, who, after trading places with local rower Michael Perry during the 550-meter race, got his bow out to win by about a foot. Free is not competing this weekend since there was no sponsorship money to pay his travel costs.

"This was the first year ever we had to dip into our reserve funds to make ends meet," said the regatta's executive director, Fred Schoch. "It's just the way the economy is right now."

Helping hands

One vital aspect of the event still going strong is the volunteerism, without which, said Schoch, the Head of the Charles would not happen. This year, more than 1,300 volunteers showed up to serve in myriad ways. "The volunteers are really strong this year," Connelly said. "I'm not saying we turned anyone away, but we've had plenty. People love to work this event." People also love to row in it. It is the most popular regatta of its kind in the world, and even though it has expanded to two days, said Schoch, only 52 percent of the crews that entered a lottery to win a place made it. "About 5,000 rowers did not make it here," said Connelly, adding that the number of applicants grows every year." Because of traffic on and off the river, organizers have tried to limit the numbers, especially after last year's crash between the Brown University women's eight and the George Washington men's eight during warmups. Two of the women were launched out of their boat . . . When one Australian boat beat another in club eights yesterday, a rowdy postrace party broke out, with both crews getting together to try some American beer -- Budweiser -- because, they said, no Fosters was available. "Well, this is good for rehydrating," said one of the rowdy rowers from Melbourne. "After all, it's only soda water."

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