General Responsibilities & Rules of Racing


Interference and/or buoy penalties are assigned at the sole discretion of the Jury following their review of the observations and recommendations of the Umpires. Repeated or severe interference may result in disqualification.

10.1. Disregard for Safety (SV):

Any boat showing a blatant disregard for safety will be severely penalized (time penalties awarded by the Jury) and may be disqualified from the Regatta.

10.2. Coxswain on Board:

Fours and eights must have their coxswain on board during the entire race. Failure to do so will result in disqualification.

10.3. Buoys During Racing:

During racing, boats must stay on the Course that is between the orange buoys to port (Boston side) and the green buoys to starboard (Cambridge side). Oar blades may go over the buoys but the hull of the shell must stay inside the buoy line. If a boat takes a buoy on the wrong side of the hull during an event, it will be assessed a 5-second penalty for the first buoy, and a 10-second penalty for any additional buoys passed on the wrong side during the same event. A crew that has left the course may only return to the course when it is safe to do so.  Re-entry that causes an unsafe situation or impedes the progress of another crew may incur a 60-second SV penalty

10.4. Bridges:

Going through the right arch (closest to the Cambridge shore) of the Lars Andersen Bridge (by Harvard’s Weld Boathouse) and the BU Railroad Trestle Bridge, or going through any bridge’s left (closest to the Boston shore) arch, will result in a 60-second penalty in addition to any buoy violations incurred by doing so.

10.5. Non-Yield (NY):

When a passing crew (The Passer) closes to within one length of open water on the boat being overtaken, it is the responsibility of the slower crew to yield the line chosen by the Passer in a timely manner. The Yield should be completed by the time the overtaking boat has closed within ½ boat length.  A crew failing to yield to a Passer when there is adequate room and time to yield will incur the following interference penalty; Non-Yield (NY):

1st infraction   60 second penalty

2nd infraction 120 second penalty

3rd infraction  disqualification from the Regatta

10.6. Severe Collision (SC):

A passing crew (The Passer) has the right to pass on the side of its choice if and when a safe pass can be accomplished. The Passer must allow sufficient room for both their boat and the boat overtaken to stay safely within the race course.  If a pass is attempted, the Passer shall not press the right to overtake to the point of severe collision. The actual severe collision incident can be caused by either a Passer or a Passee.  During a severe collision one or more of the following may occur:

(A) damage to a boat

(B) personal injury

(C) the boat being overtaken is forced either off the race course or into a bridge or

(D) a rower is struck by the blades of another boat

If a crew causes a severe collision that crew may be assessed a 60 second (SC) Severe Collision time penalty and may face further sanctions under Rule 10.1.

10.7. Safety of Rowers:

If one or more rowers are lost from a boat during the race, the affected crew should first ensure the safety or rescue of the rower(s).  If the rower(s) is (are) safe, the crew may continue to the finish line.

10.8. Unsportsmanlike Conduct:

Incidents of unsportsmanlike conduct by a competitor or crew, including the use of personally abusive language shall be reported to the Jury by the witnessing official.  The Jury may impose penalties ranging from reprimand to time penalties up to 60 seconds!

10.9. Public urination is strictly forbidden at all times.


11.1. Appeals vs Protests:

Scullers, and institutions represented by sweep-oared entries, may appeal for relief from any ruling of ineligibility or any penalty imposed upon them by the Regatta for alleged infractions, e.g. interference, course violations, etc., but no protest alleging interference by a competing entry shall be heard.  Appeals must be made by a race participant who observed the incident.  Coaches can be present to support the appeal.

11.2. Enforcement of Racing Rules:

The Regatta covers every section of the course, from start to finish, with fully trained Umpires. Their calls on questions of interference and buoy violations will be considered final. No re-rows or time credits to fouled entries will be possible. Offenders WILL BE PENALIZED according to the racing rules. Preliminary results will be released immediately following each race, and Official Results will be released once all Umpires’ calls have been reviewed by the Jury.

11.3. Appeals Process :

Appeals seeking changes to the Official Results may be received, in writing, to the Jury Clerk at Cambridge Boat Club until 1 hour after results are posted for the last race on Saturday for Saturday’s races and 6:00 PM on Sunday for Sunday’s races.  Should a crew want to appeal but not be able to make the deadline on Saturday they can call the Jury Leader at 617-454-HOCR (617-454-4627) and leave a message that they intend to appeal.  Such appeals must be submitted as above within 1 hour after the first race ends on Sunday.  Appeals received after this time will not be considered. The Race Committee reserves the right to extend the deadline due to scheduling changes of the Regatta.  Appeals will no longer be accepted on Monday. Official Results will be posted at

11.4. Eligibility:

Objections to any entry’s eligibility may be made to the Jury Clerk at the Cambridge Boat Club and the Rowing & Fitness Expo at any time, but preferably before the race in question.

11.5. Note:

(A)       The Race Committee reserves the right to rule on any situation not covered in these or other printed rules and to penalize or disqualify any competitor or crew that appears to violate the spirit or letter of the Regatta’s rules.

(B)       Any sculler/crew which has solicited sponsorship or otherwise obtained any kind of sponsorship and wishes to wear company identification, or place company identification (“logo”) on rowing equipment during the race or during any sanctioned Head Of The Charles Regatta activity, must seek approval from the Executive Director. In the event the approval is given, all identification must conform to the current FISA standards regarding size of corporate logos on all uniforms, shells, oars and related equipment. Failure to conform to this policy may lead to disqualification.



The Charles River is a narrow course with many tight turns. Good sportsmanship is expected at all times and costly penalties have been assigned in the past in cases of bad sportsmanship. The ability to accomplish effective and safe passing is an important aspect of successful racing. However, there are many situations when passing cannot be accomplished safely due to traffic congestion and physical obstacles. The following are the basic responsibilities of scullers and crews in these situations:

12.1. Responsibility of Overtaking Boat (Passer):

The boat overtaking (Passer) has the right of way to pass (on the side of its choice) if a safe pass can be accomplished.  However, crews and scullers must take note of the following:

(A)       If a pass is attempted and there is not adequate room and time to perform the pass, the Passer is at risk of incurring interference penalties.

(B)       In situations involving three and more boats, there are areas such as bridge arches and narrow, tight turns where passing cannot be accomplished safely. In these situations the Passer must be prudent and delay the act of passing until the pass can be accomplished without incident.  The wise sculler or crew knows that more time can be lost by pressing a situation rather than by slowing down and waiting for the right moment to pass.

(C)       Communicate effectively during racing. All shells with bow-loaded coxswains are strongly advised to have their bow seat rower notify the coxswain when there is clear water astern after completing the pass. Timely instruction from the bow seat rower may assist the Passer’s coxswain in avoiding stern-to-bow collision and/or an interference penalty due to cutting in too soon.

(D)       When boats come together and interlock, this does not necessarily result in a penalty situation if there were no specific violations of the racing rules (section 10).

12.2. Responsibility of Overtaken Boat (Overtakee):

The boat being overtaken (Overtakee) must yield and give suitable room to the Passer (on the side chosen by the Passer) if a safe pass can be accomplished. Generally this will be the shortest line that gives an advantage. Failure to yield to the Passer is one of the most serious infractions of competitive conduct. Crews and scullers must:

(A)       Be alert to possible upcoming passing attempts and promptly yield when there is adequate room and time.

(B)       Be prepared to miss a few strokes to allow the Passer to pass safely and without interference.

(C)       Communicate effectively during racing. All shells with bow-loaded coxswains are strongly advised to have their bow seat rower notify the coxswain if a following crew is about to make a pass and on which side the passer is approaching. Timely instruction from the bow seat rower may assist the coxswain in avoiding an interference penalty.

12.3. Safety:

Respect for the safety of other competitors and their equipment must be observed at all times. At no time should an oar be used in anger toward another crew or competitor.

12.4. Race Pace:

While racing, boats must proceed at a racing pace along the entire course, except where safety considerations dictate otherwise. Any boat whose time is more than 10 minutes slower than that of the fastest time in its event-division may be recorded as “did not finish.”



13.1. Singles and Doubles:

Rowers of singles and doubles will store their boats and launch from the Singles and Doubles Launch (SADL) at Magazine Beach, off Memorial Drive on the Cambridge side of the Charles River.  Competitors will be directed to an off-site lot.  SADL opens on Friday, October 20.

13.2. Driving to SADL:

I-90 (Mass Pike) East to Exit 18 Brighton/Cambridge. Follow signs to Cambridge. Proceed through several traffic lights and cross the Charles River via the River Street Bridge. Once across the bridge, take a right onto Memorial Drive so the river is on your right.

13.3. Fours/Eights/Quads:

Boat launching and storage space will be available at the Finish Area Launch Site (FALS) on Soldiers Field Road on the Boston side of the Charles River, between Eliot Bridge and Northeastern’s Henderson Boathouse.  FALS consists of one large parking lot adjacent to the finish line, and three smaller lots nearer to Eliot Bridge.  Trailers will be parked very close together and not necessarily in close proximity to the launching docks. The Regatta will provide rack space near the docks for storage of boats during the weekend and use of these racks is strongly encouraged.

13.4. Trailer Parking Registration:

Due to limited space for parking and rigging, Trailer Parking at FALS will be limited to trailers carrying at least four sweep hulls.  All other trailers will be asked to offload at a designated location at the Finish Area Launch Site and move to an over-flow location.  Trailer parking pre-registration is  required.  All organizations planning to bring a trailer on-site must register at HERE by October 1.  In order to park on-site, trailers must carry a minimum of 4 sweep-oared hulls.

13.5. Driving to FALS:

I-90 (Mass Pike) East to Exit 18 Brighton/Cambridge. Follow signs to Cambridge. Proceed through several traffic lights and cross the Charles River via the River Street Bridge. Once across the bridge, take a LEFT onto Memorial Drive so the river is on your left.  Continue for 1.6 miles.  When the road forks (near the Cambridge Boat Club), stay to the left, following signs for Watertown/Newton. Proceed through the traffic light, staying in the left or center lane to approach the Eliot Bridge.  While crossing the Eliot Bridge, move to the right, and then turn to the right, following signs for Newton.  A Regatta Volunteer will meet trailers and direct them to a parking space.  Please use the utmost caution when traveling on Soldiers Field Road, which is not designed for large vehicles. DO NOT attempt to drive under any overpasses on Soldiers Field Road.  A portion of this route closes at 8:00 AM Saturday and Sunday.  Trailers arriving after that should contact the Regatta for alternate directions.

13.6. FALS Parking Policy:

The FALS area will open for trailer parking from 11AM – 4PM on Thursday, and 7AM – 6 PM on Friday of Regatta Weekend. Those arriving outside of the designated times will be directed to an off-site lot until opening time.  All trailers must approach the area from the Eliot Bridge end of Memorial Drive/Soldiers Field Road. A Regatta Volunteer will meet all trailers and issue the driver a parking permit for a specific area and direct the driver to that area. Courteous cooperation with their direction is expected.  NO OTHER VEHICLES ARE PERMITTED TO ENTER THE PARKING AREA.  All unauthorized parked vehicles will be towed.

13.7. Notes:

(A)       Due to limited space, preference will be given to fully loaded trailers.  Partially loaded and late arriving trailers may be asked to unload and then park in an offsite lot.   Those arriving before 7AM Friday will be directed to an off-site lot until opening time.  If your vehicle is carrying shells to be used only Saturday and you wish to remove the vehicle permanently after Saturday’s racing, please let the Regatta Volunteer know; an attempt will be made to assign an unobstructed space to allow you to leave. Trucks which detach from trailers and leave the parking area may not return until late Sunday afternoon.  Vehicles carrying only single or double shells will not be permitted to enter FALS. They will be directed to the Singles and Doubles Launching (SADL) area at Magazine Beach.

(B)     Officers will be on-site Friday and Saturday evenings to provide security, but the Regatta cannot assume responsibility for equipment. The DCR and State Police will also control traffic at each end of Soldiers Field Road when the Regatta is over.

13.8. Vehicular Parking:

Parking is available on Birmingham Parkway on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and on Greenough Boulevard on Saturday and Sunday. Drivers should obey posted regulations and should not park after dark.  A shuttle bus for athletes and spectators will circulate throughout the race area Friday afternoon and Saturday and Sunday.


Tents, fires, alcohol, littering, unauthorized tents, and/or unauthorized selling of any kind on the banks of the Charles River and adjacent roadways is prohibited by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). Please help us assure the continuance of the Regatta by seeing that everyone from your organization is fully aware of these prohibitions, and by informing your Boston area Alumni leaders as soon as possible.


15.1. First Aid:

First Aid is provided by volunteers from the American Red Cross (ARC). Along the course there are six (6) First Aid Stations; six (6) Launches with First Aid and three (3) Ambulances staffed by professional EMTs. All Emergency Services, including State Police, Cambridge Fire Department, and the Ambulance Companies are in radio contact with the Emergency Communications Center at the Cambridge Boat Club.

15.2 Emergency Response:

If you see or have an emergency:

(A) Alert the nearest American Red Cross Station, Launch Volunteer, Police Officer or Course Umpire. You can call the Emergency Communications Center directly at 617-868-0002.

(B) Describe the emergency. State the location (e.g.:  Boston or Cambridge side of the river; up or down stream from a specific landmark). State the nature of the incident and number of people involved.

(C) Stay calm! Help will be on the way immediately, as there is a radio network at HOCR for emergency situations. If possible, prevent people from interfering with response efforts.