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Smack to protest after victory taken away

CAMBRIDGE -- Kent Smack, last year's fourth-place finisher in men's championship singles, appeared to better that result by three places in the Head of the Charles Regatta yesterday, edging Jonathan Beare by 1 1/2 seconds after 3.5 miles of rowing, but he will have to wait until today to find out if he will get the Curtis Trophy.

Hours after Smack, of the Riverside Boat Club, had finished in 18 minutes 6.4 seconds, the race jury added 20 seconds to his time for missing a buoy. That dropped him into sixth place, but Smack said he will protest that ruling today.

Smack said a buoy near the start of the race moved out of place and that he and several other rowers missed it. Last year, a similar situation developed, and rowers were disqualified by the jury but then reinstated when they protested.

If Smack's protest is denied, Beare, of the London Training Center in Toronto, will get the victory. The runner-up spot would go to Aquil Abdullah, who was just another second back in one of the tightest men's singles races in recent memory. In fact, 18 of the 27 starting boats' times were within 5 percent of the winner, according to race statisticians.

Smack, who rowed at Hobart College and Rutgers, grew up in Boston and calls the Charles his home river.

"I consider myself advantaged here because I rowed on this course for 10 years," Smack said before the reversal was made. "I know all the turns and can set the best course through it."

Smack, who rowed on the US National team in 2001, works as a strategy consultant for Balance Score Card in Lincoln. The job puts a bit of a crimp in his athletic life.

"I figure less is more," he said. "This year, I've probably improved my stamina and increased my focus even though I travel on business. I'm still at about the same level I was [on the national team]."

In the last race of the day, women's championship singles, Bulgarian champion Rumyana Nekova, starting in the No. 1 position, stayed ahead of Kristin Goodrich, of the Saugatuc Rowing Club in Westport, Conn. But after Nekova was assessed a 20-second penalty, she was dropped to third place. Jennifer Devine, from Pocock Rowing Club in Seattle, who began in 18th position, powered through the fleet to finish third, but was awarded second after Nekova was moved down.

Australia was the story in the men's club eights -- a 54-boat field -- as the Melbourne University Boat Club beat the Drummoyne Rowing Club from Sydney.

The win was especially sweet for stroke Peter Antonie, who at 45 was rowing his last race.

"This race was a highlight in the twilight," said Antonie, a three-time Olympic veteran with a gold medal from the Barcelona Games.

In August, Antonie, who acts as surrogate coach of the team, was awarded the Thomas Keller Medal, the highest honor in rowing.

"This is the first time we've ever rowed at the Head of the Charles, and it's just fantastic," Antonie said. "The level of competition here is terrific. There are some really big boys here, so we're just glad to win it."

A pair of local rowers helped spark the Riverside Boat Club in the women's club eights. Stroke Stephanie Jones from Cambridge and 5-seat Kate Sullivan of Brighton said they picked up their stroke rate to power past the Lake Union crew from Washington and hold off the University of Tennessee.

"We were passing Lake Union right in front of our own boathouse," said Jones, who rowed for Princeton in her undergraduate years. "There was this huge roar from the crowd as we were passing them.

"It was great."

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