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Organizers seek sponsors

With the 42d Head of the Charles Regatta successfully in the books, the next challenge for race organizers will be getting their sponsors to sign on for 2007. Audi, Nautica, Virgin Atlantic, and Tourism Massachusetts all are up for renewal in what has become a year-to-year undertaking.

"It's harder to get a long-term contract," said executive director Fred Schoch.

It's harder still to get a Boston-area company to step up, as John Hancock has for the Boston Marathon. "It helps to have the support from the international corporations," Schoch said. "But it would be special and fitting for a local company to participate. A brokerage firm would be spot-on for this."

Regatta officials, who ask sponsors to recommit by year's end, are optimistic they can get renewals. "For us, this has been a terrific alignment with our brand," said Denise Seegal, Nautica's chief executive. "The Nautica brand is about water sports."

But just in case, the Head people are planning to launch a capital drive to raise $5 million to boost their endowment and reduce their dependency on whimsical marketing departments.

Yesterday's conditions -- sunny skies, temperatures in the mid-50s, a 6-mile-an-hour wind rippling the water -- was as close to perfect as it gets here in October. "If I could bottle this weather today . . .," mused Schoch. "This is ideal."

The crisp autumn atmosphere produced what Schoch reckoned was the best spectator turnout in five years, a State Police estimated 325,000 for the two days.

For the first time in five years, new champions were crowned in both divisions of the senior veteran singles (70-plus). Carlo Zezza, making his debut in the event, won the men's race after six-time victor Richard Kendall scratched. And Laurette Rindlaub upset four-time champ Eve Green in the women's race. Seventeen other events produced new winners: Dale Hawkins (men's master singles), Antje Siems (women's master singles), Brendan McEwan-Nate Kelly (men's youth doubles), Margaret Duggan-Sarah Bates (women's youth doubles), St. Catharines (men's youth fours), Pocock RC (women's youth fours), Cal-Berkeley (men's youth eights), Jason Rose (men's club singles), Amy Westenfeld (women's club singles), Western RC (a course record of 15:08.301 in men's collegiate eights), Yale (women's collegiate eights), Richard Montgomery (men's lightweight singles), Renee Hykel (women's lightweight singles), Undine Barge Club (lightweight women's fours), Rowing Canada (men's lightweight eights), University of British Columbia (women's championship fours), and US Rowing (men's championship eights).

Duncan Howat, dethroned by Zezza last year, regained his men's veteran singles title and Community Rowing did the same in the women's youth eights.

Only five of last year's winners repeated: Catherine Kemper (women's veteran singles), Ottawa RC (three straight men's lightweight fours), London Training Center (women's lightweight eights), Thunderbird RC (men's championship fours), and US Rowing (women's championship eights).

The winner of the weekend's unofficial Wayward Mariner award was Amherst's men's alumni club eight, which had 3 minutes 20 seconds' worth of penalties tacked on to its time after being called for two arch violations, interference and cutting a buoy.

Not that it made any difference. The Lord Jeffs still would have finished last out of 57 without the assessments.

With mounting pressure from rowing clubs trying to enter the Head, regatta organizers have been looking into ways to accommodate more entrants. In a virtual lottery system now in use, some 51 percent of the applicants are turned away, according to Schoch.

The problem is, the schedule is booked, Schoch said. "We have a computer telling us how many boats can be on the river in the time we have, and we're there. We can't accommodate any more, unless we added another day, and we're not about to do that."

The Head grew from a one-day event in 1995 to a two-day event starting in 1997 on Saturday and Sunday. And the last two years, a race was held on Friday.

Schoch said the growth of the sport has led to more interest. "If we didn't have any limits, we could easily put 4,000 boats on the water," he said.

Currently, there are 1,621 entrants.

Tony Chamberlain of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.

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