A 1965 Champion Rows His Second HOCR

By Eva Maldonado Published on October 19, 2014

Larry Fogelberg’s first experience with the inaugural Regatta in 1965 couldn’t have been more different than the extravaganza it is today.

Larry Fogelberg

“It wasn’t a big deal,” he says, a modest statement considering he was the champion in that race. Fogelberg was the first winner of the regatta’s lightweight singles; his time of 19.54 earned him a Head Of The Charles Best for any singles competition. He first took up rowing at Phillips Exeter Academy, and after graduation, continued the sport in college with Harvard’s Eliot House crew. Thanks to this experience, he had no trouble with the twisty turns of the Charles River. Unlike the majority who were unfamiliar with the waters, he recounts simply following his usual course on race day, free of trouble or even much fanfare.

Fogelberg, who now lives in Germany, came back to Cambridge to participate in the race for the first time since 1965. Saturday morning, he finished in the middle of the field with a time of 25:52 in the Men’s senior veterans singles. But it was never going to be about winning this time around. He already has his Head Of The Charles medal. Rowing up the Charles again this weekend was a real sentimental journey. “The nostalgia is one of the greatest parts of it all,” he said.  The other great part, he acknowledged, is what comes when the racing’s done. “The beer afterwards!” he said cheerfully when asked his favorite part of the whole experience.

Being away for so long has also prompted him to think of how much his sport has changed since he last raced here. “As a whole it’s become a much more general sport. It used to be just for the prep schools, but now it’s for everybody,” he comments. It was not merely a sport but a culture, particularly at the elite collegiate level. Since these scholastic atmospheres focused on training kids as early as possible, age could also be a barrier—according to Fogelberg, “If you weren’t accomplished by the time you were twenty, you were out of luck.”

Nowadays, many of those obstacles have been struck down, and rowing is growing steadily in its popularity. This change is especially notable in women’s rowing, which was nearly an oxymoron in Fogelberg’s days. “Women are much more prominent in racing than they ever were,” he says. The introduction of Title IX (which requires institutions to provide equal opportunity in athletics for both sexes) facilitated the popularity of women’s rowing, finally giving women the chance to equally participate in a traditionally male-dominated sport. Today, women’s rowing is just as common as female participation in any other sport.

Fifty years from his historic victory, the Charles River is a very different scene on race day. Top 40 music blasts, food stands earnestly endorse their guilty pleasures, and carnival-like crowds of people flood the banks. All these changes are well and good and expected. And Larry Fogelberg is grateful to once again be a part of it. He made a point of sending his regards to the committee for “still allowing [him] to race” after all these years.

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