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Head of the Charles

Sivigny has his day in the sun

By Tony Chamberlain
Globe Correspondent / October 24, 2010

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Defending champion Michael Sivigny of the GMS Rowing Center battled a blinding sun and leg cramps late in the championship singles race at the Head of the Charles yesterday to defeat German rival Marcel Hacker by nearly five seconds.

With gusty westerlies on the nose, the singles began late in the afternoon. Because he won the event last year, Sivigny started first, breaking into open water with a 32-beat stroke — fast for a 3-mile endurance course.

Hacker, a world and Olympic champion, drew the No. 6 bow and was too far back for Sivigny to gauge his pace against the larger rower. But he could watch the boat that started just behind him, that of Michael Perry, and realize he was lengthening his starting lead.

But after the halfway mark, Sivigny encountered problems. As he rowed a very tight line that took him close to the buoys, the reflection from the lowering sun temporarily blinded him.

“I knew I was close, and I didn’t want to miss my line or any of the buoys,’’ said Sivigny. “So for a few strokes I was rowing blind out there’’

About that point, he experienced a tightening in his calf, which he hoped was not a full-scale cramp. But that did not stop him from kicking back up to a 32-beat finish.

“I just tried to keep a tight line throughout the course. I’m excited to beat Hacker,’’ said Sivigny, who hopes to make the US national team and ultimately row in the London Olympic Games.

In the women’s championship singles, Gevvie Stone from the Cambridge Boat Club held off a strong charge by Mae Joyce Gay of the Union Boat Club, winning by about three seconds.

“The halfway point, I hit a brutal headwind,’’ said Stone. “But I’m from Boston and I can pretty well predict what parts of the course are going to be tough. I knew that I could try to take advantage of the water in the powerhouse stretch — about 400 meters.

“So it was tough in stretches, but I love coming home and rowing here in Boston,’’ said Stone. “And it wasn’t as cold as last year.’’

In the men’s championship doubles, last year’s winner, Tom and Peter Graves, poured it on midway up the course to open up a huge win for the Craftsbury Sculling Center in Vermont.

The brothers beat the team of Taylor Frank and William Cowles, rowing as the Potomac Boat Club, by a whopping 45-second margin.

In third place was the GMS Rowing Center team of Peter Orlando and Richard Klein.

“We blasted off the line and there was a huge headwind,’’ said Peter Graves. “So it was kind of a battle just to preserve our bodies in the beginning so we could really push it later in the race when the conditions got better.

“In the past two years, these were the toughest conditions by far. The first five minutes, it was a real struggle just to keep the boat upright and going down the course in the right direction. When we got down around the Harvard Boathouse, we really got some traction.

“This is the first time my brother and I raced together since the summer. So it was good to get back together and find the rhythm again. The National Selection Regatta is the last time we rowed.’’

US national team boats took all three top spots in women’s championship doubles, with Jessi Reel and Meg Walsh defeating Jennifer Kaido and Jenny Barnes by about eight seconds. Desiree Burns and Miranda Cullins were another 15 seconds back.