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HEAD OF THE CHARLES NOTEBOOK

New field test for regatta?

Entry format may be under review

Should an entry for next year's race be guaranteed for any boat finishing within 10 percent of the victor's time? That'll likely be a topic for the Head of the Charles's race directors in their eternal balancing act between quality and diversity for the regatta's 48 events.

"My feeling is, if it ain't broke, don't fix it," said race co-founder D'Arcy MacMahon, who feels the present format is entirely fair.

Since the organizers have twice as many applications as they can accommodate, they use a compromise system that reserves places for boats finishing within 5 percent of the winner and awards the rest by lottery. "Since there are so many people who can't get into the regatta, the more you limit it, the more unfair it becomes," MacMahon said.

Fred Schoch, the event's executive director, wouldn't mind the 10 percent solution if it wouldn't cause the numbers to skyrocket. "We have to do the math," he said. "I don't think it's an inordinate amount."

The Head has used the 5 percent cutoff since the regatta began limiting entries during the 1970s, and MacMahon didn't make the cut.

Luck of the draw

Why did the Canadian men, the two-time world champions and Olympic favorites, end up starting in the 16th spot in the championship eights race? Because they didn't enter last year and had to accept the luck of the draw. "Unfortunately, a lot of last year's crews made the 5 percent threshold," said Schoch. "It was bad luck for them. But they had the right attitude about it. They treated it as a victory lap from the world championships." While a head-to-head duel with the Americans would have been marvelous for the spectators, it would have been against the traditional spirit of "head of the river" racing, which seeds crews based on the previous year's placement. As it was, the Canadians, who finished second, got a break by being drawn in the first group after the guaranteed entries.

Harvard's yard

Harvard had eight (count 'em) men's eights in action over the weekend -- two in the championship event (last year's varsity and last year's freshmen), two in the lightweight event (last year's varsity and JV), two in the youth event (the victorious freshman heavies and lights), one in the club event (the third varsity), and one in the collegiate event (the fourth varsity/second freshman). Half of them were entered under the Charles River RA banner. Sitting out this year as a sculling competitor was head coach Harry Parker, who had hernia surgery last month. "Not too serious, but a setback," reported Parker, who says he'll be back in the chase next year, possibly as "Ted Lazarus," his alter ego. Harvard freshman lightweight coach Linda Muri, meanwhile, finished sixth in the women's senior master singles . . . Army, which finished dead last among 40 crews in the collegiate men's event, had steering problems after the Larz Anderson Bridge and nearly beached its shell on the Cambridge shore. "Maybe they think they're Marines," cracked one dockside observer.

Smacked down

Kent Smack, Saturday's apparent winner of the prestigious men's championship singles, lost his bid for the Curtis Trophy when judges penalized him 20 seconds for missing two buoys near the start of the race off Magazine Beach. According to Schoch, the decision is final, despite Smack's threat to appeal the ruling with a protest. "You can only appeal if someone runs you off the course," Schoch said yesterday. "Kent missed the buoys and those are the consequences. It's all in a day's racing." The penalty moved Smack from first place to sixth. A similar situation arose in the women's championship singles, which was apparently won by Bulgarian champion Rumyana Nekova. Nekova was also penalized 20 seconds for missing buoys, knocking her from first to third.

Records fall

A dozen course records were set yesterday, with the New York Athletic Club (15:49.633) busting the old record for men's lightweight fours by 18 seconds. Though two of the events were new this year (men's and women's senior master fours), the number of records reflects the flat water and light wind. Other record-breakers were Brooke Stevens (women's veteran singles), Judy Geer (women's grand master singles), Margarita Jekabsons (women's senior master singles), University of Minnesota men (men's collegiate eights), Queens University, Canada (women's collegiate eights), Riverside Boat Club (women's lightweight eights), Anne Marie De Zwager/Jane Rumball (women's championship doubles), London Training Center, Canada (women's championship fours and women's championship eights), Kent Mitchell Rowing Club (men's senior master fours 50-plus), and Community Rowing (women's senior master fours 50-plus).

Never too cold . . .

Despite the damp 40-degree temperatures, the crowd was three-deep near a huge statue of a black and white cow signaling free ice cream. Turkey Hill Farm from Lancaster County, Pa., brought 30,000 cups of vanilla and chocolate ice cream. Peggy Good, a marketing executive at Turkey Hill, said "No matter how cold they are, people will always eat ice cream." . . . Even with relatively cool temperatures and spitting rain, event organizers estimated yesterday's attendance at 123,000, somewhat lower than record years. On Saturday, the estimated crowd total was 86,000.

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