Oct 21, 2022 - Things to Do

What to know about the Head of the Charles Regatta

The sun shines over the Boston skyline as rowboats move on the Charles River.

Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Rowers from 27 countries are gathering for the world's largest three-day regatta, navigating the Charles River's tight turns while alumni and loved ones watch on from the bridges.

What's happening: 11,000 rowers are making their way through the Charles, ranging from high schoolers to seasoned athletes in their 80s, says Brendan Mulvey, the Head of the Charles Regatta's director of racing.

  • Rowers take part in head races, which Mulvey says are timed, longer-distance events (4,800 meters).
  • Rowers race solo or in groups of four or eight, going one at a time.

The Charles is tough for three reasons, Mulvey says: "Twists, turns and bridges."

  • Bridges can affect water flow, sometimes making the current faster. And the course has six bridges.

When to go: There are 72 events Friday morning, Saturday and Sunday.

  • Rowers from Ukraine are scheduled to compete Sunday, per the HOCR app.

The best spots: If you don't mind crowds, watch from one of the bridges. Mulvey and others mentioned Eliot and John W. Weeks bridges, which are associated with tighter turns along the course.

  • HOCR has two beer gardens sponsored by Sam Adams: The "Reunion Village" by the bridge near Harvard Square and the FALS (Finish And Launching Site) bar near the finish line.
  • You could also bring a blanket or a chair and set up on a river bank.

Pro tips: Download the HOCR app to see the schedule, venue map and results.

  • And if you learn nothing else, the bow is the front of the boat and the stern is the back (H/T Pittsburgh Rowing Club). Usually, rowers face the stern.

The bottom line: This is a fun, friendly spectator event.

  • "There are so many crews and if you're here to look for one crew in particular, you're going to see them for about 30 seconds." Mulvey says. "A lot of our spectators are cheering for everyone going by."

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