< Back

Pairs Exhibition Goes Very Well

By Ananya Kulkarni and Maleri Ginsberg
Posted on October 22, 2022
Pairs Exhibition Goes Very Well

Might it Become Part of the Permanent Calendar?

It was a strange and unfamiliar sight in the Head of the Charles. There were no doubt some double-takes by the spectators on the shore as four pairs boats rowed by at the end of the championship doubles events, one in the men’s, three in the women’s.

The four US Rowing boats were part of a special exhibition, bringing the pair back to the Head of the Charles for the first time in decades.

“The pair is one of the more traditional events we used to have in the Head of the Charles,” said Blair Crawford, chairman of the HOCR Board of Directors. “We stopped doing it in the early eighties because of worries about people’s ability to steer the course. This year was in some ways a test run and they did amazingly well.”

The rowers who made their little bit of Head of the Charles history could not have been more thrilled

“It’s pretty exciting,” said Allyson Baker, who rowed Saturday with Kelsey Reelick, and has rowed in World Cup competition. “In college, we raced pairs in the fall and it was probably one of my favorite things to do. So when they offered it up I was immediately I think the first person on the team to be like ‘who’s rowing this with me?’,” Baker said. Other pairs felt similarly.

“I’m just so excited to be here. I love the pair, I think it’s a great boat and I’m so excited for the opportunity to race it at the Charles,” said Vicki Opitz who raced with Isabel Darwin.

“A pair is supposed to be slower than a double but they actually did amazingly well,” said Crawford. The Baker-Reelick boat finished second in the champ doubles field. Jessica Thoeness and Regina Salmons were fourth and Opitz and Darwin were sixth.

The pairs exhibition was limited to rowers from the U.S. national team, since steering a pair is largely impacted by the experience of the rowers in the boat, and the Head of the Charles course is a notoriously difficult course to steer. As each rower in the pair can only move the boat in one direction, successful steering largely comes down to rowers’ ability to communicate with each other while maintaining race pace.

In order to prepare for their race, Baker and Reelick employed a few different strategies such as practicing steering as well as intentionally ignoring or calling incorrect steering commands to be prepared for every eventuality during their race.

“Back at home, because we row on Mercer [Lake] 2K course, I would just randomly call port, starboard and have us swerve along the course,” Baker said.

In the anxious final hour ahead of the race, Baker finished rigging the boat, fumbling with sticker on the stern hull. Reelick wondered about the wind and the water ahead.

“I’m excited to see what the conditions are like. That’s what’s fun about the Charles course,” Reelick said. “There are times where the winds are just in one direction but usually there’s a little bit of swirl as you’re twisting and turning there’s a little bit of variance and that’s what keeps it fun and keeps it fresh. You’re never going the same speed or doing the same thing.

“We’ve just got used to that. I enjoy steering. Allyson and I have been in the pair on and off for two years together, so I trust her a great deal. It’s what we’re comfortable with and what we’re used to,” Reelick said.

As the race Baker and Reelick remained on a high after their second-place finish. “It was pure adrenaline I think the whole time.” Baker said. “It was really really hard, but it was really fun trying to navigate all the twists and turns and the passing. But it was keeping your head in the boat and doing the job.”

The exhibition pairs rowers apparently did their job very well. “We’re feeling enormously encouraged,” said Crawford of the experiment, “and we will probably be reintroducing the pairs event fully fledged next year.”


By Ananya Kulkarni and Maleri Ginsberg
Posted on October 22, 2022