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30th Anniversary for HOCR Executive Director

By Marta Hill - HOCR
Posted on October 24, 2021
30th Anniversary for HOCR Executive Director

Fred Schoch arrived as the Regatta’s first full time employee in 1991, for 30 years he’s been “keeping the plates spinning.” 

From a boathouse at at Princeton University to Executive Director of the Head of the Charles Regatta, Fred Schoch has been involved in the rowing community for his whole life. Now, he is celebrating his 30th anniversary as Executive Director of the Regatta and has helped the event grow into the pivotal rowing event that it is today.

“I wear a lot of different hats, which is a fun part of the job and has kept me engaged for 30 years,” Schoch said. “I do community relations, and I do public relations, and I do fundraising, and I do regatta management.”

Schoch was recruited to be the Executive Director in 1991 and was the first full-time paid employee of the Regatta.

Before taking over the Regatta, Schoch taught English for a few years before moving onto coaching. He coached crew at Connecticut College, Princeton University, the Naval Academy and Georgetown University, as well multiple national teams.

“I was the perfect candidate at the time because I’ve been a national team and collegiate coach and high school coach, so I understood the DNA of the rowing community, and I was able to transfer that into the product that they would be most interested in,” Schoch said.

Since he was hired, the paid staff of the Regatta has grown to five, but it is still a relatively small operation.

“When I first started in ‘91 there was no email,” Schoch said. “We would send out proposals to companies to be a sponsor by hard mail. And then I would have to wait a week and then start to call. It was back in the stone age.”

When Schoch started, the regatta was 25 years old with about 3,500 athletes participating and was only one day long. Now, in its 57th year, the regatta has hosted more than 11,000 athletes in a year, is three days long and has 10 times the budget it used to.

“It’s fun to be the brand custodian and see it grow in stature around the world and become the destination for all rowers around the world in the fall,” Schoch said. “Rowers like to say this is Christmas for rowers, or is the Kentucky Derby and the Super Bowl all combined for rowing.”

Between serving on planning committees for the Olympics and attending World Cups and World Championships, Schoch was able to recruit many international rowers to come to Boston for the Head of the Charles.

“The real thing that I’m proud of is the growth of the international field,” Schoch said. “I got to know many of the international coaches and athletes, and I would recruit them to come to the Head of the Charles. So that exposure enhanced the Regatta.”

Schoch said he will continue in his role for another few years to make sure he leaves the regatta in good shape.

“We’ve built up our endowment over the years to keep the Regatta going when we have a dip in revenues. That’s been a real source of pride to just put the Regatta on strong financial footing,” Schoch said.

This year marks the first year of Friday racing, a change brought in by high levels of demand and COVID-19 precautions.

With the growth of the event, Schoch said there are many more tasks that need volunteer support than 30 years ago. The whole set-up process now takes close to two weeks and the Regatta has a crew of 2,000 volunteers.

“Everything has to come together in one weekend. All the plates are in the air and you have to get it right,” Schoch said. “I think one of the most challenging things is that you don’t have different achievements along the year, it’s all in one basket at the end of the year and you either get it right or you don’t. Fortunately, we’ve really managed to [get it right], at least from the outside looking in.”

Schoch spends about 75 percent of his time on the business side of the regatta, and the rest on the operations. A big part of the business element is recruiting and retaining sponsors for the event. Early in his time as executive director, the Regatta was sponsored by Cape Cod chips. Since then the sponsorships have continued to grow — this year major sponsors include BNY Mellon and Vineyard Vines.

“I think part of my success has been just being doggedly persistent in pursuing excellence for the regatta in corporate sponsorship and rule changes and listening for the athletes, listening to the coaches,” Schoch said.

The workload of running one of the most well-established regattas in the country is very seasonal for Schoch. From about a month after the Regatta ends to the end of the year, the staff gets to take a bit of a break.

“We’re not working 12 hours a day in January, February and March, but we know the clock is ticking,” Schoch said.

Schoch said it’s amazing to witness how many people give up so much time to make the Regatta work and that he feels “blessed to run this organization.”

“I couldn’t do it without this board, the staff and the volunteers. My name is on the door but it’s a whole army of soldiers that win the war,” Schoch said. “It takes a village.”

In his 30 years at the regatta, Schoch has used his understanding of the rowing community to make the regatta the best that it can be.

“I just feel like the luckiest guy in the world because I combined my love of sport with a career and not everybody gets to do that,” Schoch said. “Some people just go to work every day and they work for somebody else — I’ve never felt like I go to work in the morning, I always feel like I’m just doing what I love to do.”



By Marta Hill - HOCR
Posted on October 24, 2021