HOCR 50th: Remembering the Beginnings, with Some Who Were There

“Destined to Become a Classic”

 

 

By Charles Fountain Published on October 28, 2014

On Labor Day weekend in 1965, a scant five weeks before the inaugural Head Of The Charles Regatta, the river smelled like an unflushed toilet. Motorists on Storrow and Memorial drives rolled up their windows against the stink.

This was not an uncommon condition on the Charles River, of course. These were the love-that-dirty-water days, remember—that hit record by the Standells was coming by the end of the year— when the river occasionally smelled like an unflushed toilet because that is exactly what it was. Boston, Brookline and Cambridge all pumped raw sewage into the Charles. Rainwater usually washed the waste out into the Harbor, and made the whole thing sorta livable, and when the rains did not come, the Metropolitan District Commission helped things along by flushing out the river with water from its reservoirs. Rowers and riverbank strollers got along by just not thinking too much about what toxic soup the Charles actually was.  But now, the odor of raw sewage mixed with the smell of rotten eggs made it impossible to think of anything else. It hadn’t rained for weeks, but more importantly, it hadn’t rained much at all in the last five years; greater Boston was in the throes of one of the worst and most prolonged droughts in its history. The MDC reservoirs, from the Sudbury to the Wachusett to the distant Quabbin, were at less than half their capacity; the MDC just couldn’t spare the water to help nature along when it came to flushing out the Charles. Around the Cambridge Boat Club, Howard McIntyre and D’Arcy MacMahon—the two guys putting this new Regatta together—added “pray for rain” to the list of things they had to do before Columbus Day weekend.

And no sooner did the rains come in mid-September to sweeten the river than McIntyre and MacMahon faced another worry that no one could have ever imagined, much less anticipated.

Now, Pope Paul VI was causing trouble for the Regatta. Really. The pope came to New York City on October 4, the first pope to ever to visit the United States, the first pontiff to even travel outside Italy in more than 150 years. He was in and out of New York and back on the plane for the Vatican in a mere fourteen hours. But his visit had seized hold of the American imagination and hadn’t let go. Ten days after the pope had come and gone, a New Jersey curio maker—the same company contracted to make the Head Of The Charles medals—was working around the clock to satisfy the demand for keepsakes and artifacts commemorating the pope’s coming to the New World. The Head Of The Charles would just have to wait.

The medal was to be the nascent Regatta’s first triumph. McIntyre had gone to an old friend—a one-time featherweight boxer turned sculptor and Princeton University faculty member named Joseph Brown—and told him to make something special. Brown outdid himself, fashioning a weighty, two-and-a-half-inch bronze medallion with the raised relief of a single sculler running north and south on its front. “That’s an awfully fancy medal for a Regatta that might not see a second year,” said MacMahon to McIntyre when he saw the mock-up. But everybody loved the medal. “Oh, that medal,” gushed one rower who would win a bunch of them in the decades ahead. “No rower had ever seen a medal like that. That was really beautiful.”

And now it was possible they wouldn’t even arrive. “We may have as close a race getting the medals here in time for the presentations Saturday as we will have on the river,” McIntyre told a reporter. The medals were struck on the last possible day and shipped up by bus, arriving the day before the Regatta, a good omen.

Weather on race day—everyone’s great pre-race worry, whatever the regatta—wasn’t bad, either. October 16, 1965, the Saturday of Columbus Day weekend, had clouds and occasional drizzle, but temps were in the low sixties, and winds were a manageable ten miles per hour. And when the first shell started upsteam at exactly 1:30—“Regattas were notorious for starting late in those days. We said we were going to start on time and we did,” said MacMahon proudly—it looked like everything had come together perfectly.

It had all begun nearly a year before, when Dr. Howard McIntyre and D’Arcy MacMahon began talking. McIntyre, a thirty-two-year-old Boston neurologist, was the chairman of the Cambridge Boat Club rowing committee. MacMahon, a twenty-five-

Regatta founder D'Arcy MacMahon in the 1960s.

year-old John Hancock executive and one-time stroke of the Penn lightweight four, was his deputy. They both wanted to see more Cambridge members out racing. They also wondered why more people didn’t row in the splendid weather of the fall. “The club rowers sort of shut it down after Labor Day,” remembered MacMahon. So they talked about hosting a fall regatta. The college crews would be back in town and no doubt grateful for something that would give them a competitive goal that was not a whole winter away; the club members would be in shape from summer’s rowing. So an idea began to take form. McIntyre, MacMahon and their committee, a dozen-odd Cambridge Boat Club members, would invite everyone, young and old, big boats and small. The Head Of The Charles would be a regatta that would bring the whole rowing world together—or at least that portion of it that lived within driving distance of Boston.

But what of that fall weather, often splendid but sometimes foreshadowing the cruel months ahead? The Basin, the broad stretch of the Charles below the B.U. Bridge where the 2000-meter racecourse was located, turned notoriously choppy and breezy when the leaves turned. McIntyre and MacMahon immediately thought of their friend Ernie Arlett, and the stories he had told them about British “head” racing. They invited him out to McIntyre’s home in Wellesley in December of 1964 to tell them more.

The fifty-two-year-old Arlett, had just been named Northeastern’s first crew coach that fall. But every day of his life to that point had been connected to rowing in some way. He was born in Henley-on-Thames, England, the very crucible of the sport, the son of a professional boatman, running a rowing livery across the Thames, and rigging and fixing rowing shells at some of the Henley clubs. Ernie followed in his father’s footsteps as a boatman, and along the way became one of England’s best scullers, before starting his long career as a coach. Coming to America after the war, he coached four-time Olympian John Kelly, Jr. in Philadelphia, then coached at Rutgers and Harvard before Northeastern brought him across the river to begin the program there.

At the December meeting in McIntyre’s home, Arlett again explained that idea of a head race—single file, against the clock—was to allow racers to use the narrower, more protected sections of the river when the weather was iffy. Everything about it sounded perfect to McIntyre and MacMahon. But when they started talking about what they wanted to do, Arlett was aghast.

“Ernie told us head racing was done with only one kind of boat,” remembered MacMahon. “He said we were crazy to be combining fours and eights and doubles and singles in the same regatta, this had never been done in England. And we were also crazy to be doing it in the fall, this is a spring event; it usually preceded the college racing season.

“He gave us hell whenever we did things that wasn’t the way the British did it.”

But McIntyre and MacMahon didn’t feel at all bound by British tradition. They weren’t trying to replicate anything, and figured that if they were doing something that nobody had ever done before, they could do it anyway they wanted.

Seeking official sanction for their regatta at the National Association of Amateur Oarsmen meeting in New York that January, MacMahon told his rowing brethren his regatta was “destined to become a classic.” He then bought an ad in the N.A.A.O. yearbook—“A full-page ad, probably cost us five bucks,” he said— a save-the-date reminder for 1965’s must-attend regattas. “Its headline said: ‘Dates for Major Regattas,’” said McMahon, “and it listed Royal Henley, the World Championships and the Head Of The Charles.”

Of such puckish prescience was the Regatta born.

The first order of business when the weather broke in the spring was to determine a course. It started with practical matters. The computerized timing system set up by volunteer Barron Watson in concert with I.B.M. and M.I.T. required electricity, so setting the start became easy. The most upstream point in the Basin with electricity was the M.I.T. Boathouse. This was not today’s Pierce Boathouse, down by the Mass Ave Bridge; that would not be built for another year. This was the original M.I.T. Boathouse, a ramshackle structure tucked into the downstream shadow of the B.U. Bridge. Shared now by the B.U. program, it was originally built by the Boston Athletic Association in 1913, but abandoned to M.I.T. in the twenties once the B.A.A determined its athletes much preferred racing on land to water. While it was chosen for its electricity, serendipity made it the perfect choice from a racing perspective. The broad waters of the Basin below the start line provided an uncongested staging area, and the more protected waters of the racecourse were but a hundred meters away.

The finish line was always going to be at the Cambridge Boat Club—until everyone took a good look at it. Sure, the porch of the boathouse provided a pleasant venue for members and guests to watch the finish. But the river was at its skinniest point right there. It had that nasty curve that no one was quite sure an eight under full power was going to be able to negotiate cleanly. Add in the boats launching and landing from the Cambridge dock all day long, and McIntyre and MacMahon had visions of a demolition derby in front of the boathouse. Besides, in a head race, the finish was no more or less exciting a place to watch than anywhere else on the course.

So the finish line moved upstream to what was then called the Charles River Reservation, and is today Herter Park. It was time now to find out how long a race course they had. MacMahon found a bicycle in his mother’s garage in Cambridge that had an odometer on it, and rode the riverbank alongside the river. When the bike’s odometer said three miles, the Regatta had its finish line, and MacMahon’s mischievous personality inspired him to declare to reporters and rowers that the race would be run over a “precisely measured three-mile course.” And insofar as that odometer on his mother’s bicycle was precise, he was correct.

“Howard and I sort of made up this pact at the beginning, that the race had to be fun,” said MacMahon. “It has to be fun to race in, it has to be fun for the people who were working on it, and it has to be fun for the people whose neighborhood it runs through.” MacMahon would lead by example in the fun department.

But there were constant challenges. It was becoming clear as the Regatta approached that entry fees—it was $2 for a single; $5 for a four and $10 for an eight—were not going to come anywhere near covering the cost of staging the Regatta. Total revenue from entry fees would come $289. The medals alone cost more than $1000—$415 to make the die and another $641 to make the medals. The Regatta was almost $800 in the hole before they started paying for insurance and police details and any of a dozen other expenses involved in putting on a civic and athletic event along three miles of public riverfront. The race committee started thinking about a partner. The word “sponsor” was never used, it was always “partner.” Race committee member Jerry Olrich—a fifty-two-year-old, new-to-rowing NYU grad, who would win the Head Of The Charles veterans race that first year, and a record eleven times more—had an suggestion. What if he asked his friend Dave Taylor?

Jerry Olrich and Dave Taylor were the Oscar and Felix of the Charles River rowing fraternity. William Davis Taylor, a Union Boat Club member, was the urbane, third-generation publisher of The Boston Globe; Jerry Olrich was a machinist and a shop steward at the Herald. In their professional lives they would spar over union contracts. But on the river they got along like old school chums, frequently rowing a double together. When Olrich went to Taylor and told him they could use some help in promoting and paying for the Regatta, the Globe signed on officially as a supporter to the tune of $2000, which almost exactly covered the Regatta’s first year losses. For the partnership, the Globe got its logo next to the Cambridge Boat Club logo on the Regatta’s literature and posters, and got to call the Regatta the “Cambridge Boat Club, Boston Globe, Head of the River Regatta” in its news stories. For a new, somewhat mysterious, and out-of-season event, the first Head Of The Charles received some pretty good space in the newspapers in the weeks before the racing. Perhaps because the Red Sox were completing a 100-loss season and the Patriots had opened up 1-4.

Entries for the Regatta came in late. At one point MacMahon got nervous and took a bunch of entry forms down to Harvard coach Harry Parker in his Newell boathouse office and told him: “Harry, you’ve got to help us out here. Enter some boats,” as he thrust the entry forms his way and waited until Parker filled them out.

But once the entries started, they came in a rush. Ninety boats had entered by the deadline, comprising some 290 rowers. (Eighty boats would actually start on race day.) And the field had pedigree and geographical diversity—well, East Coast geographical diversity anyway— as well as size. Harvard, M.I.T., Penn, Northeastern and Dartmouth all sent boats, but it was the big city boat clubs that had the biggest presence on race day. From Washington came the Potomac Boat Club. From Boathouse Row in Philadelphia came Vesper, Fairmont, Penn A.C. and the University Barge Club. The New York Athletic Club had ten different entries, and the Charles River clubs—Union, Cambridge and Riverside—all had boats in nearly every event. The Argonaut Boat Club of Toronto gave the new Regatta some international cachet.

 

“Hey, We Passed Those Guys! How’d they Beat Us?”

 

Nobody had ever raced in a head race before. “We didn’t know what a head race was,” admitted Jerry Dudley, an eighteen-year-old LaSalle College freshman, rowing in the senior fours for the Penn A. C. “We didn’t understand splits and time differences and that. We didn’t have a race plan. We basically just went out there and rowed.”

But racing is racing, everyone quickly understood, and whether your competition is a seat ahead in the next lane, or a quarter of a mile downstream, the only way to beat them is to row hard.

“I didn’t know what I was doing then,” said Jim Dietz, who rowed for the New York Athletic Club in the junior singles and the senior eights in the first Regatta. “But rowing in head races over the years, I am always reminded of Henry Fonda in [Drums Along the Mohawk], and the scene where he’s running from the Indians. He doesn’t know exactly how close the Indians are, but he knows they’re out there, he knows they’re coming, he knows they’re running fast, and he knows what will happen to him if they catch him. So he ran as hard as he could, as long as he could. That’s what it’s like in a head race. You don’t know exactly how anyone else is doing, so all you can do is row as hard as you can and hope that you don’t give out until you’re one stroke past the finish line.“

In 1965, Jim Dietz was a was a sixteen-year-old high school junior at St. Helena’s High School in the Bronx, rowing for the legendary Jack Sulger at the New York Athletic Club. He was riding up to the Head Of The Charles on the Friday before the Regatta in a 1956 Chevy with four or five other NYAC junior rowers, but got only as far as the Mass Pike when the car broke down. They found a phone and called Sulger and asked what they should do, and he told them to leave the car where it was and hitchhike the rest of the way. And that’s how the young man destined to become one of the great legends in the Head Of The Charles got to his first Boston race—he hitchhiked. He and his friends spent the night at a Harvard residence house, guests of some Harvard rowers who had come up through Sulger’s NYAC junior program. On Saturday afternoon, Dietz borrowed a boat from the Cambridge Boat Club, and took his first strokes on the Charles River as he rowed to the start line for the junior singles race, where he finished second.

Larry Fogelberg, by contrast, had rowed the course hundreds of times, knew it very well. Fogelberg rowed for the Harvard lightweights, and had rowed for Harvard’s Eliot House crew in the 1965 Royal Henley. He spent the summer of 1965 back at Harvard, taking summer classes and sculling daily out of the Weld boathouse, rowing 500-meter intervals all summer long. He learned of the Head Of The Charles somehow that summer, can’t remember whether or saw a poster or what. But when he heard of it, he entered, together with Eliot House teammate Paul Wilson; Wilson in the college singles event, Fogelberg in the senior lightweight singles. Both would win.

Fogelberg had heard of head racing before—somewhere in Europe, he’s sure, probably at his first Henley in 1964—but, like virtually every other competitor in the field, he had had no experience with head racing. But his experience with the course served him well. “I joke that I won because I knew the course,” says Fogelberg today, “but I just did my thing, very familiar with the course, no steering problems.” No problems of any sort for Fogelberg that day. Not only did he win the lightweight singles, his time of 19.54 was three seconds faster than Wilson’s winning time in the college singles, and a full thirty seconds faster than the winning time in the heavyweight singles. It would stand as a Head Of The Charles best for any singles competition until 1968, when Wilson would finally better it in winning that year’s championship singles.

As the small boats crossed the finish line, they found a welcoming committee of D’Arcy MacMahon and Leonard “Zeus” Wade. They wanted their boats. “We didn’t have enough singles and doubles,” said MacMahon, “So whenever someone would finish, we’d grab the boat and put it on the top of Zeus’s old station wagon and drive it back to the starting line where there was somebody waiting for it. We were constantly ferrying cars between the finish and the start.”

What it meant was that boats effectively started when they were ready, never mind what event they were in. “Everyone was rowing out of order,” said MacMahon. “We didn’t think it was going to be a problem, it was a timed race, and it was all for fun anyway. But we were wrong on that. And we would change it before the second race.”

Kit Wise, a senior at Phillips Andover Academy, has few specific memories of the race where he and his boat mates defeated crews from Lowell Tech and Marist College to win the junior eights race, but he does clearly remember having a sense of elation at being a part of the Regatta. “To be honest, I felt that way about every race,” he said today. “There were so few schools that rowed in those days, that I really felt that I was a part of an exclusive club, being a rower, and I’d always felt very privileged and excited to be a part of it. And race days were always extra special.”

Privileged and excited though he may have felt in the moment, it wasn’t until many years later that a sense of history kicked in. “For years, I had it in my mind that this was the second Head Of The Charles,” he said. “I thought our coach had told us that they had held the race before and we were going to do it this year. It wasn’t until seven or eight years ago when I was looking into something, that I realized I had been a part of the first.”

Jerry Dudley, Greg Stefan, John Campbell and Phil Jonik had all come up through the junior program together at the Penn A.C. Rowing Association on Philadelphia’s storied Boathouse Row. Just recently graduated to the club’s senior program, they had all been part of a boat that had won the intermediate eights race at that summer’s national championships at the Orchard Beach Lagoon in New York City. The start of the school year had scattered the Penn A.C. rowers, and coach Jack Galloway couldn’t put a full eight together for the Head Of The Charles. But Dudley, Stefan, Campbell and Jonik were at least all in the northeast—Dudley and Stefan in Philadelphia, Campbell at Syracuse and Jonik at Holy Cross—and he recruited them all for a four. Galloway drove the Philly guys up in his Mustang; Campbell hitchhiked from Syracuse, and Jonik made his way out the Mass Pike from Holy Cross. They had never raced as a four before, and knew they were racing against a boat full of Harvard national champions. They rowed fast enough to pass a bunch of boats, but finished the race not thinking they had won, not really having any idea how they had done. The results announcement came as a happy surprise; they had beaten Harvard by eleven seconds.

Somehow D’Arcy MacMahon, in between shuttling boats between the finish and start, checking in on the timing, and doing a hundred other things, still managed to get out on the river as part of a combined Cambridge-Riverside lightweight four. He might have told his boatmates—Chuck Roth, Rick Metzinger and Fred Thompkins—that he could not be away from his race director duties for very long and they’d better row fast and get him quickly back to shore. Whatever may have inspired them up the river, they won their race by nine seconds over boats from Penn A.C., M.I.T. and Argonaut. But MacMahon’s mind was evidently elsewhere during the race. “I have no memories at all of our race that day,” said MacMahon. “Most of my memories from that day are on how everything went wrong.”

He means the timing. When the results began to go up throughout the afternoon, there were some confused racers. There were a lot of quizzical looks as rowers studied the lists, followed quickly by some noisy protests. “Hey, we passed that boat,” came the common cry. “How could they have beaten us?”

Double checking results at an early Regatta.

The answer was a sticky hand on one of the clocks. There were two sets of three large clocks, one set at the start, another at the finish. One clock showed the hours, one the minutes, the last the seconds. As each boat crossed the start and finish lines someone a volunteer with a Polaroid camera would snap a picture of the boat set against the backdrop of the clock. From these photos Barron Watson, the race committee member overseeing the timing, was able to determine that the hand on the seconds clock at the finish line had sometimes gotten stuck and paused at the bottom of its cycle, down by the six. Not on every revolution, and not during every race, not all results were wrong. But some were; some medals had already gone to the wrong people. By looking at every Polaroid, both start and finish, Watson was able to reconstruct when and for how long the second hand had stopped and adjust the results. But it was going to take some time, and D’Arcy MacMahon and Howard McIntyre remembered something else Ernie Arlett had told them about English head racing. “We told the competitors that head races in England sometimes didn’t have results for two or three days,” said MacMahon, “and that we would get it right and mail out the medals.” It took until Tuesday of the following week, but Watson finally had results he had confidence in. “We did figure out who won,” said MacMahon, “the results are accurate.”

While all this was being worked out, racers, officials and friends were distracted establishing what would become one of grand Head Of The Charles traditions—the post-Regatta party. This first one was across the street from the Cambridge Boat Club, in the penthouse of a still-under-construction apartment building.

“We had such a great post regatta party at 1010 Memorial Drive,” said MacMahon, “and the more alcohol we poured into everybody the calmer they became on whether the results were right or not.”

 

And, Suddenly, It’s the 50th HOCR

 

After Andover, Kit Wise went to Harvard and found himself in a meeting at Newell with freshman coach Ted Washburn in the fall of 1966. “And Washburn said: ‘any of you guys here who don’t think you will be in the Olympics in two years are in the wrong place,’” Wise remembered, “and I said to myself: Boy, this is a lot different from Andover.” He rowed for the freshman team and stroked the third varsity boat as a sophomore before rowing in the house program. Following Harvard College he went to the Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and has spent his professional life as an architect.

He rowed a couple of times in the Head Of The Charles in the late seventies and early eighties, but spent most of his athletic energies through those years bicycle racing. But when he reconnected with his Andover teammates for a fortieth anniversary reunion of their 1965 Henley crew, he reconnected with the sport of rowing as well. “That reunion sort of got me inspired to start rowing again,” he said, and he has been a regular rower at the Narragansett Boat Club ever since. He’s rowed in a handful of HOCRs over the last decade, in singles, doubles and fours. “I enter every year,” he said, “but of course, I don’t always get in,” a common lament since the mid-seventies, when demand for certain events first exceeded supply and the Regatta was forced to adopt an entry lottery. Today every event in the Head Of The Charles is oversubscribed, and roughly forty percent of all entries are turned away. But Wise is in this year, together with more than a dozen veterans of 1965 sprinkled throughout the field. He will be the only one of his Andover crew to make it back, however, rowing with this year with a Narragansett teammate in the senior master’s doubles.

A banking career took Larry Fogelberg to Germany following his graduation from Harvard, and Germany has been his home ever since. He drifted away from rowing for about fifteen years, but a temporary posting to Australia in the early 1980s got him back into a shell, and when he returned to Germany, he joined the Frankfurter Rudergesellschaft Germania 1869, where he has been rowing now for over thirty years. Through the years he retuned to the Head Of The Charles only once, as a spectator in 1996, when a business trip took him to Boston and a near-hurricane wiped out the entire slate of races. But he will be back for the 50th, rowing in the grand veterans singles, and aside from the passing of a half-century, much will be the same for Larry Fogelberg. He will stay at Harvard’s Eliot House, his home back in 1965, and will once again row out of Weld.

Jerry Dudley, Greg Stefan and John Campbell all made their careers in Philadelphia, Dudley with Procter and Gamble, Stefan running his own small business and Campbell in financial services, They all still row out of Boathouse Row; Dudley and Stefan with the Fairmont Rowing Association, Campbell with the University Barge Club. After two tours with the Navy in Vietnam, Phil Jonik made his way to California and a career as a high school principal. He too has continued to row.

They will return almost intact to the 50th Head Of The Charles, rowing in the senior master fours. Only coxswain Tom Fox is missing from their 1965 boat, replaced for this race by Jonik’s sister Marie. And there will be one more similarity from 1965, one they’d probably just as soon not have to contend with. “We rowed for the first time as a four in that first Head Of The Charles,” said Dudley, “and we’ll row for the second time as a four at this Regatta.”

Jim Dietz in the 2014 Regatta.

Jim Dietz would go on to fashion one of the most historic rowing and sculling resumes in American history. The U.S. Olympic single sculler in 1972 and ’76, he also rowed on seven world championship teams, and won a total of forty-five United States championships. He is also the most decorated rower in Head Of The Charles history, a seven-time winner of the championship singles, and, together with partner Larry Klecatsky, a seven-time winner of the champ doubles. He also twice won championship-eight gold while rowing for Northeastern, and has added a basket full of medals as a masters and veteran racer.

He spent some time on Wall Street early in his career, but the lure of the water proved too great, and for the last thirty years he has made his living in the sport he has so distinguished. From 1983-94, he was coach of the crew teams at the Coast Guard Academy, before moving on to begin the women’s varsity program at the University of Massachusetts, where he remains today.

Dietz has also been the most loyal of all Head Of The Charles competitors. When he crosses the line in the veterans single race in this year’s 50th race, it will mark the forty-ninth time his name will appear on the results sheet. He missed only 1984, when back surgery put him on the shelf. “You know, you look at the calendar and you know there are certain days when you know just what you’ll be doing,” he said. “Thanksgiving and Christmas, those are family days; you’re never going to be anywhere else except with your family.

“Head Of The Charles?” Same thing. It’s a family day. It’s the day you’re going to spend with your rowing family, the people you’ve grown up racing with and against. And you’re never going to be anywhere else on that day except the Head Of The Charles.”

D’Arcy MacMahon, who started sculling in 1948, when he was eight years old, has never stopped rowing. But as the Regatta grew, he quickly found himself too busy with race duties to row in the Head Of The Charles. He hasn’t done it now in more than twenty-five years. But he is returning for the 50th, rowing a single in the grand veterans race on Saturday morning. He continued to work at John Hancock—“Over the years, the photocopy machines at John Hancock made great contributions to the Head Of The Charles,” he said—while remaining the man in charge of the Head Of The Charles. But running the Regatta became more and more of a full-time job, particularly after corporate sponsors became a part of the Regatta in the 1980s. In 1990, he went to the board of directors and said: “You need a full-time director of this race, and I don’t want to be it.” Fred Schoch came aboard as the full-time executive director a year later. MacMahon remained involved, serving on the board of directors for another decade. He finally stepped away from the HOCR when he moved to the Massachusetts south coast. There, he was among the founders of the open-to-all New Bedford Rowing Center, and today serves as its director.

And in the young men and women—and their masters-age parents—who come to the New Bedford Rowing Center and pick up an oar for the first time, MacMahon sees the legacy of his years of work with the Head Of The Charles.

“You know, I’m thrilled that national teams and world champions now come to the Head Of The Charles,” he said. “But that’s not what gets me excited about the Regatta. You can seriously miss the point of the Head Of The Charles if you pay too much attention to results.

“What I think is great about the Head Of The Charles is the way it’s been a part of the growth of this sport. The Head Of The Charles is about the high school, or small college, from some faraway place, who raise money with car washes and bake sales to come to the Head Of The Charles, borrow a boat, just to take part. And now they have a lifetime connection with the sport.”

This article originally appeared in the 2014 HOCR Official Program. Charles Fountain teaches journalism at Northeastern University. On Regatta weekend, he is the editor of the Regatta News Page on this site. Stories there are reported and written by Northeastern University journalism students. 

 

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