Rowing into the Head of the Charles


Ed Hewitt

The Head of the Charles is an annual regatta that takes place in Boston. This past month, Cathedral’s crew team had the opportunity to race in this historic event

Two weeks ago, five members of Cathedral Catholic’s rowing team took to the water at the largest rowing competition in the world. Kevin Derderian, Jack DiMarzo, and Owen Mullany were among the selected few who qualified from Cathedral to race in ‘The Head of the Charles’, an annual regatta and Boston tradition. These three varsity rowers detailed their experiences during the Sunday race, and what keeps them grounded as a team despite difficult competition or rough waters.

The Head of the Charles is not only a rigorous competition, but a fascinating one to watch. “The Sunday that we went had 200,000 spectators and 10,000 rowers,” Owen remarked. People travel from all over the country, and even the world, to watch and compete. “It’s an international event,” Kevin said. Even the races include representation from a variety of countries: “We were up against the Ukraine national team, for example,” Owen adds. The act of many countries participating in the same regatta, sharing the same love for rowing, must have been a powerful thing to experience.

In order to prepare for The Head of the Charles, and other competitions like these, Cathedral’s rowing team engages in some routine activities together. I was able to gain some insight on what a typical night before, and morning of the race day, looks like. The night before the race is when the preparation begins for these rowers. “We always have a team dinner before. Usually Italian food,” Kevin shared. After the team dinner they make sure to get enough sleep, to ensure that everyone is well rested for the next day. “We get to bed early, and wake up early.” On this Sunday morning, the day of the race, is when the team zones in. “We do race prep, looking at the course,” Owen adds. For these rowers it is important to familiarize themselves with the details of the course, and mentally prepare for the physical rigor that lies ahead.

After all routines are performed, it’s time for Cathedral Catholic to begin the race. Oars moving through the water, the boat surges forward under the midday sun. The competition all around is a motivation, along with the hundreds of thousands of cheering spectators. The race finally finishes, and the rowers share their thoughts about their respective race. “It was really, really good,” Jack said. “It was a hard course to learn, but our boat did really well.” Their race was one out of many, like different heats at a swim meet. “The race we did was one of the longer ones,” Owen remarked. “It was 18 minutes of pure racing.” This amount of time racing in a regatta can be very strenuous, but the varsity rowers showed that they had what it takes to compete at that advanced level. “We placed well, 52nd out of 90 boats. Very good considering that we were racing against the best in the country.” Owen adds. This accomplishment is truly one to remember for the Cathedral crew team. “I’m so proud,” Jack smiles.

Being on the crew team at Cathedral means a lot to each of the members. Each of them shared their favorite aspects of the team, what is meaningful and fulfilling to them about rowing.

“Comradery, and teamwork,” Kevin shared. “Just pushing each other to be the best versions of ourselves on and off of the team.” They agree that the crew team is a community that inspires and encourages each other.

“I think the consistency, having something to fall back on,” Owen said. Since the sport of crew is year round, with practices every day, it is something that the rowers can look forward to. “It’s a really big support system that everyone on the team can use.”

“There are so many opportunities that rowing presents, and you can go so far with it.” Jack adds. His involvement in the crew team at Cathedral has led him to meet so many great people. “It is also something you can do at the collegiate level.” Racing in The Head of the Charles gave him, and the other Cathedral rowers, an opportunity to see high school, club and college teams in the same environment.

The crew team’s participation in this regatta has been a huge honor. “It’s super competitive to get in, Cathedral has been petitioning to get a boat in for 6 years,” Owen shared. This is the first year that they have competed in this Boston regatta, but surely not the last. Their successful race is truly a testament to what a united, strong team can achieve through teamwork and practice. Be sure to follow the Cathedral crew team throughout their season, and I can’t wait to see what they will accomplish next!