Cambridge, Massachusetts -- The Head of the Charles is a 4,800 meter race on the Charles River, and thousands compete in the 2-day event. The Williams women sent three boats this year: a club four, a collegiate eight, and a collegiate four.
On Saturday, junior stroke seat Fiona Yonkman led a boat of freshmen Catherine Powell, junior Stephanie Brown, freshmen Maddie Lacasse, and junior coxswain Morgan Whaley. The club four re-qualified to race in the same category next year by placing 26th out of 52 competing boats. Fiona said: "We prepared all week in really bad conditions on Onota, so we were well prepared and pleasantly surprised that Saturday's wind wasn't bad. We had our best piece together as a boat and got to compare ourselves to some D1 crews!" Morgan, in her first time ever racing on the Charles, managed to shave some meters off of the length of the course through her flawless steering, doing everything she could to give her crew an advantage.
The collegiate eight and collegiate four raced in tough conditions on Sunday, and both faced some close calls. The race commentators frequently noted the wind gusts forcing boats to take wider turns than desired. That said, the commentators loved coxswain Ava Palmo's approach to the race course as she tried to get her crew the best possible line, commenting on her well-executed steering coming into the last 750 meters of the race. Ava coxed a boat of Sam Lazar, Maddy Boutet, Eileen Russell, Julia Mini, Annie Rush, Brynn Moynihan, Diana Matthiesen, and Caroline Kessler. Senior 5-seat Julia Mini noted that "yesterday's race was an amazing reflection of our hard work so far. We managed the conditions really well and when things got tight with Wesleyan, Ava kept us calm and internal. It was so fun to race down the Charles one last time with this group." Ava echoed this sentiment, noting how impressed she was with the focus and maturity of her rowers: "Our primary goal was to pass Wesleyan, and it felt great to live that out, even if it was a little dicey!" The Williams eight caught the Wesleyan eight at Weeks turn and clashed blades under the bridge; running on the adrenaline of a close call, Williams walked through the Wesleyan boat in just ten strokes.
The collegiate eight's calm management of the situation gained them a second place finish, 20 seconds behind the first place-finisher: Bates College. This is an improvement in both place and margin over last year's third place finish at this event.
The collegiate four finished off the day of racing. Rebecca Tauber coxed her crew, composed of Betsy Button, Kate Latimore, Katherine Melkonian, and Katrina Wheelan through a dicey moment of their own. Rebecca summarizes, "we were two across and about to pass a boat under Anderson bridge when a boat behind us unsafely attempted to pass both of us under the arch. They ended up hitting us and we both had to stop under the bridge." Stroke seat Betsy said that "racing in a 25-30 mph headwind is never easy, but yesterday was certainly exciting!" The girls found some good water despite the conditions and were able to regroup and gain momentum after the collision. Even with this setback, the crew re-qualified for next year. "We definitely encountered the craziness that comes with head racing but did a good job of regrouping; we're excited to have requalified the four for next year!" says Rebecca.
Overall, the three boats put together a weekend that all can be proud of. Women's crew will race again next weekend in our final fall race.The walk-ons and freshmen will perform in their first race at the Head of the Fish in Saratoga.