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Boston’s fall classic

Rowing Head of the Charles Regatta

This weekend, the global rowing community will again turn its eyes to Boston for the annual Head of the Charles Regatta.

The world-famous event, which was launched in 1965 by Northeastern’s first rowing head coach, Ernie Arlett, attracts some 300,000 spectators and 9,000 competitors to the city each year.

The race—a head race, as it’s called—is a three-mile time-trial competition that winds along the scenic Charles River.

We asked John Pojednic and Joe Wilhelm, the head coaches of Northeastern men’s and women’s rowing, respectively, about the significance of the weekend’s event and their expectations for their teams.

For a full schedule of the Northeastern varsity and alumni crews competing on Saturday and Sunday, visit


What is it about the Head of the Charles Regatta that makes it such a special event—both for the international rowing community and for Boston?

Joe Wilhelm

Joe Wilhelm, women’s rowing head coach

Wilhelm: The Head of the Charles was the first race of its kind in the U.S. and is now one of the largest rowing regattas in the world. It brings the best national team, collegiate, club, and high school crews together to race on the same course on the same weekend. That doesn’t happen anywhere else.

Pojednic: It’s an inclusive event over a non-traditional distance, which makes it competitive but also a lot of fun at the same time. The event is not tied to any particular performance structure in collegiate or international rowing—it’s a standalone event over an exciting racecourse—almost anything can happen, which is just really exciting.


Does it mean something special to have one of the world’s foremost regattas hosted on your home course?

John Pojednic

John Pojednic, men’s rowing head coach

Pojednic: Of course, it’s a real thrill for the athletes to have one of the world’s most highly-attended rowing events on our home river.

Wilhelm: It is a great opportunity for our athletes to participate in one of the world’s premier regattas. It is the goal of every oarsman and oarswoman to race in the Head of the Charles. Our athletes get to practice on this course every day, and race the best crews in the world every October.


What are your goals for the team in this year’s regatta?

Pojednic: This is not a part of our collegiate schedule and we’re only about a month into the new year and training together as a team. The team we field at this point is not necessarily an early indication of what kind of team we field next spring, so it’s really just an opportunity for the guys to have fun and race hard—so my expectations are that they will do just that and make the most of the opportunity.

Wilhelm: Our goals are to row a clean race and to compete successfully with the best collegiate crews in the country.


For students and for the families who are visiting for this weekend’s Parent and Family Weekend at Northeastern, where’s the best place to watch the regatta?

Wilhelm: The best place to watch the regatta is from one of the bridges along the course. The Weeks Footbridge (map) and the Eliot Bridge (map) near the Cambridge Boat Club are prime viewing locations.

Pojednic: Anywhere between and around Weeks Bridge and Andersen Bridge, or, around the finish line area. And our boathouse (map) is just a five-minute walk from the finish line.


What’s your most memorable HOCR experience—as either a coach, athlete, or fan?

Pojednic: We were the fastest college team in 2001, which was my first year at Northeastern, so that remains a fond memory. Beyond that, the snowstorm in 2009 provided some excitement you don’t often see in rowing. We’ve had a lot of great races in the Head of the Charles—each year usually brings something you didn’t expect.

Wilhelm: We had a women’s four which started fourth in 2005. I was standing on the last turn on the course waiting for them to come toward the finish line. Northeastern was the first crew to come around the turn and through the Eliot Bridge. They had passed the three crews in front of them and were steaming toward the finish line en route to our first win in that event. That was a great moment for Northeastern women’s rowing.

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