The 43rd Annual Head Of The Charles Regatta, the world’s largest two-day rowing event, was held in Boston Oct. 20-21. It is all about competing racing shells being pulled by crews from all over the U.S. and abroad. Over 7,500 athletes from around the world compete. Schools, clubs, universities, and former rowers compete in 55 different race events – singles, doubles, fours, and eights, of both genders and all ages from youths to masters.
These races are run in parallel, with the class broken into small sections, usually pairs. The competition is based on the best time to complete the course. Each section is released about 15 minutes after the preceding section. If a boat close ahead does not know the route well, it can cause problems for the following sections.
On the lead page in the Boston Globe ‘s pre-race day section was a picture taken in 2006 of a coxswain standing in a swamped boat with a number of Peking University crewmembers swimming away from the vessel towards shore. Unfortunately, this inexperienced team’s crosswise boat blocked a narrow under-bridge passage. A number of other shells piled up there soon after the Chinese-manned shell swamped.
This reminded me of recreational boaters and their numerous unsafe boating practices. These occur with the boaters giving no thought to the potential impacts of their actions on other users of the waterway. As a licensed master, I have no patience with joy riders that have no legal requirement to learn and display good seamanship. This includes finding out in advance what the local operating conditions are and what effect they can have on your vessel.
Demonstrating a solid knowledge of seamanship during classes, tests, and on-the-water testing of Navigation Rules of the Road, engine operation, navigation and radio communications, maneuvering, and docking will determine if each applicant is eligible for an operator’s license.
The irony of the Chinese shell was that the oars were fitted in rowlocks attached to the shell and were buoyant enough to support the fully swamped vessel and all of its crewmembers. Had the crew stayed with the boat, they could have turned it and possibly moved it out of the way of oncoming racers.