The Jacket

Official Volunteer Jacket is HOCR’s Most Coveted Souvenir

By Matthew MacCormack – Posted on October 16, 2015

Bonnie Fuller-Kaska beamed as she walked out of the volunteer check-in tent Friday afternoon. In her hands was a brand new prize; the reward for coming to work as one of the nearly 2,000 volunteers that line the Charles on regatta weekend, doing everything from lugging sculls to handing out awards.

The prize: the 2015 edition of the Head of the Charles volunteer jacket provided by Brooks Brothers.

“It’s just a very comfortable, very well made, very good looking jacket,” said Fuller-Kaska, 59, who will row under the colors of Duluth Rowing Club on Saturday, and will double as a volunteer supporting the Para rowers on Sunday. “It’s very fun to go back to my club in Minnesota and advertise, and I’m very proud that I can come out and row.”

The shiny, navy blue jacket has become a symbol of the world’s marquee rowing event since Brooks Brothers became the official premium apparel sponsor in 2010. Dedicated volunteers await the newest coat every year, eager to represent their favorite event. The jacket even entices new volunteers to participate, bringing more helpers to Cambridge on race weekend. Over a thousand volunteers are turned away.

Courtney Wilson, who has led the volunteer check-in and coat distribution since before the Brooks involvement, said the jackets are always a draw.

Courtney Wilson (standing, right) oversees distribution of the volunteer jackets.

“Everyone wants one, so it’s made it easier for us to get volunteers,” said Wilson. “I love dealing with the jackets. It makes me one of the most popular people at regatta weekend.”

Wilson said that most volunteers love the jackets, and those who were unable to secure a volunteer assignment sometimes try to get their hands on the coveted coat. She recounted a story of one man who tried to impersonate the son of regatta CFO Tom Martin, only to discover that Martin’s actual son was standing nearby.

“People are adamant,” Wilson said. “They are relentless in trying to get a jacket.”

For the staff of Brooks Brothers, the coat represents a token of thanks to the volunteers that are so necessary to making the race function. The yearly volunteers have inspired the company’s brass to change the jacket’s color scheme every year. This year, the unisex jacket is similar to the 2014 model, but features a slimmer fit, new red and blue color scheme, waterproof zipper, and Velcro sleeves.

“It’s a challenge to come up with something that makes it new and interesting every year,” said Dan Feinberg, director of men’s merchandising for Brooks Brothers. “We know that there’s a lot of people that volunteer year after year so we wanna’ make sure that we are making it slightly different.”

Wilson said the Head of the Charles is special in that it can give its volunteers a versatile jacket from a well-known brand.

“A lot of races like this just have t-shirts for their volunteers, but we have these beautiful, very cool jackets,” Wilson added.

Arthur Wayne, the company’s vice president of public relations, said the jacket not only helps volunteers stay warm in the

Arthur Wayne (L) and Dan Feinberg (R) of Brooks Brothers

unpredictable New England weather, but also becomes a symbol of the regatta across the world. With so many rowers coming from so many different places, Wayne said, the Brooks Brothers brand is spread.

“You see this jacket around the world. Even after Head of the Charles is over, it’s an item that people can continue to wear,” Wayne said. “It’s nice to have something which is enduring: which lasts.”

Williams estimates that the race will give out close to 1,850 jackets this weekend, while Brooks Brothers representatives said they will be selling some additional coats at their merchandise tent.

While many volunteers said that the jacket isn’t the sole reason to volunteer, it definitely makes their time on the Charles more worthwhile. Justin Andrukonis, 31, from Falmouth, said the volunteer jacket helps him connect with the rowing community beyond the regatta.

“It’s a great way for other rowers and people in the rowing community to sort of identify with one another,” Andrukonis said before he set out for his post at back-up timing. “Around Boston and Cambridge I’ve seen other people with the jackets and we swap stories and talk about our crew experience.”

Even students from the Boston area are enticed to volunteer. Dan Wolfish, 20, and Anthony Perry, 19, both students at Boston University and members of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity who will spend the weekend as sales volunteers, said the Brooks Brothers name sparked their interest.

“It gives you some incentive to come out, sacrifice a little time on a Friday or Saturday morning or afternoon,” said Wolfish, who is the fraternity’s Community Service Chair.

Whether they’re helping with timing or results, dock setup or emergency services, one is bound to see the regatta’s volunteers flashing the signature jacket this weekend and beyond. Every year the rowing community comes together to make the race happen, and every year the volunteers proudly display their token of appreciation from the regatta.

Kate Andres, 51, of Cambridge, who volunteers as a bike messenger, said that ever since the new jackets have come in, volunteer numbers have skyrocketed. Now, Andres said, she has to register in August just to get a chance to help out.

“[The jackets have] made volunteering very popular,” Andres said. “This race is so much about the volunteers because it takes so much to put it on.”






Volunteer for HOCR

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Make this year’s Head Of The Charles® a success. There are many opportunities to get involved over race weekend and before.