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2009 Head of the Charles Regatta: a guide

Posted by guest  October 13, 2009 01:29 PM

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This weekend brings with it one of the highlights of the Boston sporting calendar: the Head of the Charles Regatta. The 45th edition of the race is this Saturday and Sunday (October 17-18), and a trip to this autumnal tradition is definitely one of the top 10 things that all Boston fans must do before the fat lady sings.

If you’re interested in watching the armada of 8,000 rowers navigate the snaking course, headwinds, and bridges, here are a few spectator tips to the 2009 Head of the Charles:

--If you can take the T, do so. You can walk to the river from the Central and Harvard stops on the Red Line and the BU Central stop on the Green Line's B Branch.

--Parking is much easier on Sunday. If you're driving to the regatta, free parking is much easier to find on Sunday since you'll be allowed to park for free on the side streets in Cambridge without a permit. Be aware that the parking lots along Soldiers Field Road are closed to the public and that Harvard football is playing on Saturday so parking on the first day of the regatta will be at even more of a premium.

--Take a shuttle. If you want to watch the action along the winding three-mile course from the starting line to the finish line, and don't want to walk, there is a free shuttle bus with stops at the Singles and Doubles Launch Site, Lars Andersen Bridge (Boston-side), Cambridge Boat Club, and the Finish Area Launch Site.

--Bring a draw and schedule with you. There are more than 50 race events, some with as many as 60 or more competitors, so it's tough to keep track of who's who. Each boat has a number on its bow, so if you have the draw with you, you'll be able to identify competitors and teams. You can purchase a program at one of the vendor areas along the river, but a cheaper option is to get a copy of the Friday Boston Globe. It has the complete schedule and list of competitors, which you can easily tear out, fold up, and take with you.

--Watch the clock. Rowers start at 15-second intervals near the BU Boathouse, so they compete against the clock and not each other. You won't be able to follow a race from start to finish or even get a good sense of who is winning at any given point in time. One clue of how the boats are doing is, if you're watching down the course, if you see a bow with a higher number in front of one with a lower number. That means they are racing at least 15 seconds faster through that point on the course. You'll need to catch a glimpse of one of the race results boards to see who has won a particular race.

--Stake out a bridge. There are seven bridges that span the Charles River along the race course. They are great places from which to catch the action. If you get there early enough, you should be able to stake out a spot from on top of the bridge and see the competitors as they row underneath. I actually like seeing the action from the banks right next to the bridge. Much like Boston rush hour, traffic on the river can be treacherous, and fender benders and close-quarter collisions worthy of NASCAR are common as boats try to pass each other and squeeze through the narrow arches of the bridges. If you're on the banks, you can have a good view of the commotion. The Eliot Bridge is my favorite spot from which to watch. You'll see the competitors having to negotiate the hairpin turn and straighten out to get through the bridge. Plus, you can listen to the commentary being broadcast from the deck of the Cambridge Boat Club, which is the race headquarters.

--Need some food? There are concession stands located at the Cambridge Boat Club, the Rowing and Fitness Expo (which also sells workout and rowing gear) near the finish line, the north bank of the Charles right outside of Harvard Square near the Weld Boathouse, and at Magazine Beach near the launch. Think fair food: lots of kettle corn, hot chocolate, chowder, hot cider, burgers, hot dogs, fried dough. There's also food and drink at the Reunion Village (see below). Sometimes the exhibitors near the Weld Boathouse will be giving out free samples of food and drink products; you might be able to get all the Kashi and Monster Energy drinks you'll ever want.

--Reunited and it feels so good. Many colleges and prep schools, mostly ones with teams racing in the regatta, have alumni reunion events at the regatta. Most of these schools have tents set up inside the Reunion Village, which is on the south bank of the Charles near Harvard Square, between the Weeks and Anderson bridges. Even if you're not an alumni member, the Reunion Village is open to everyone for a $3 admission. Breakfast and lunch are served in the dining tent, and the Reunion Village is the only place along the route where you can legally get a beer or other alcohol.

--Bring a blanket or chair. There are plenty of spots along the banks of the Charles to watch the action, but bring a blanket or lawn chair and you'll be a lot more comfortable.

Posted by Christopher Klein, Globe correspondent.

Christopher Klein, author of "The Die-Hard Sports Fan's Guide to Boston," writes his own blog, HubTrotter.

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19 comments so far...
  1. Is there also a guide for help getting the empty beer cans and bottles off of my Dad's front yard? While it's great to have this event for those of us that live near it we deal with the trash that people just toss on the ground in our neighborhood.

    Posted by Karl October 16, 09 09:45 AM
  1. Excellent information. This is a great event for working poor Americans have some fun without spend a dollar.

    Posted by Janathan from Newton, ma October 16, 09 04:16 PM
  1. Karl, then don't live there. Honestly you know where you live, either deal with it or move further away. It's like at B.C. residents complain when there is a football game and they have to deal with the parking and the crowds.

    Posted by Lisa October 17, 09 08:37 AM
  1. Karl,
    Shut up Pick up and Recycle.

    The location of the house near the river and the events on the river keep you house values way way up.
    The quality of life there is better than most places.

    Lose the curmudgeonly tude and enjoy. or sell

    Posted by Harold October 17, 09 08:45 AM
  1. To the first commenter: relax dude. Maybe we should cancel all events in Cambridge so your daddy's lawn doesn't get a few beer cans on it. WEINER!

    Posted by Finbar Shannon October 17, 09 08:52 AM
  1. The guide to get the beer can and trash off the lawn:

    1.) Go get a trash bag. (maybe 2)

    2) Collect all trash and cans put them in the bag.

    3) Throw away the bag(s)

    If this doesn't work, then move to western MA.

    Posted by Dickie October 17, 09 09:00 AM
  1. Karl, here is a guide.
    1. Get an empty trash bag
    2. Go outside to your father's front yard with this trash can
    3. Pick up all the empty beer cans
    4. Put all these beer cans in the garbage bag
    5. Dispose of garbage bag.

    Hope this helps!!!

    Posted by Sam October 17, 09 10:40 AM
  1. There's this leaf outside my window, I think it may turn color at any moment,
    yeah, plus I really need to floss, yeah, so like, I don't think I can go?

    Posted by Enabler October 17, 09 10:55 AM
  1. Head of the Charles is the biggest social event of the Fall for local college students
    good times back in the day
    BC 95'

    Posted by goeagles October 17, 09 10:57 AM
  1. How about have it when the weather doesn't suck? Nothing like sitting in the cold rain.

    Posted by polsinelli October 17, 09 10:58 AM
  1. Wow, I feel so bad for this poster. His daddy has to pick up his yard. Hopefully we can get rid of events like this that the whole community and those who aren't privileged enough to live in it can come and enjoy.

    Posted by Matt Olson October 17, 09 11:22 AM
  1. Maybe you could put a trash can out there.
    Or simply suck it up!
    You decide.

    Posted by Simply Sam October 17, 09 12:27 PM
  1. Thanks Karl, I didn't know this is a BYOB event - how great!
    And don't worry, I follow carry-in carry-out.

    Besides - all the resident homeless people in Cambridge will be happy to help you recycle all these cans and bottles - just leave a big bin outside, marked "Beer - Cans and Bottles".

    Posted by JP October 17, 09 12:39 PM
  1. Not to mention all of the Lacoste outerwear and cashmere sweaters that the Heathers left behind...

    Posted by hstoza October 17, 09 02:09 PM
  1. Karl, recycle them and enjoy the cash!

    Posted by DanFromBoston October 17, 09 05:26 PM
  1. Karl - There are plenty of AA meetings to be found in Cambridge. As far as clean up, any of the homeless in Central Square would be glad to help you out with that.

    Posted by mp October 17, 09 06:23 PM
  1. What broadcast media cover the regatta?...

    Posted by thezak October 18, 09 08:27 AM
  1. hahahahaha, oh god. just relax.

    Posted by bobby sue October 18, 09 10:25 AM
  1. Just recycle them and stop your hating.

    Posted by ralston1 October 18, 09 07:35 PM
About globe-trotting Travel news, tips, deals and dispatches.
  • Anne Fitzgerald, Globe Travel Editor
  • Paul Makishima, Globe Assistant Sunday Editor
  • Eric Wilbur, staff
  • Kari Bodnarchuk writes about outdoor adventures, offbeat places, and New England.
  • Patricia Borns, a frequent contributor to Globe Travel, writes and photographs travel, maritime, and historical narratives as well as blogs and books.
  • Patricia Harris, a regular contributor to Globe Travel, is author or co-author of more than 20 books on travel, food, and popular culture.
  • Paul E. Kandarian, a frequent contributor to Globe Travel, writes and photographs New England and Caribbean stories.
  • Chris Klein is a regular contributor to Globe Travel. His latest book is "The Die-Hard Sports Fan's Guide to Boston."
  • David Lyon, a regular contributor to Globe Travel, is author or co-author of more than 20 books on travel, food, and popular culture.
  • Hilary Nangle, author of Moon Maine, Moon Coastal Maine, and Moon Acadia National Park, writes about soft adventure, skiing, cultural travel, and food.
  • Joe Ray, a frequent contributor to Globe Travel, writes and photographs food and travel stories from Europe.
  • Necee Regis is a regular contributor to Globe Travel.