Send oysters, crepes, and lobsters, the crews have hit the Charles.
It’s Sunday at the Head of the Charles, day two of the world’s largest rowing regatta, and one of the reasons the event draws so many thousands of loyal spectators every year is the eclectic array of food options at booths and trucks scattered along the shores. There’s warm apple crisp and hot chicken soup, likely to be popular choices as overcast skies replaced Saturday’s sun and winds kicked up to sweep out the 75-degree temperature and leave behind more seasonable fall weather. There are pulled pork sandwiches and vegan sandwiches, and old standbys like kettle corn and pizza. There’s espresso and soda pop, barbecue and burritos.
And there are the spectators—long, lean rowers of all ages and their families, friends and classmates. Many of those walking along the shore of the Charles trailed a dog on a leash and most wore rubber boots against the muddy shoreline. For the second day, they were shoulder to shoulder on the bridges crossing the Charles, and draped across the banks of the river, primed to watch friends and family race down the river.
The race is expected to draw 300,000 spectators this weekend, many wedging in a full day of spectating before heading home to watch the Patriots game, which begins at 4:25 p.m. This year, scores of Olympic athletes have made the trek to Boston, stacking the championship eights with some fierce competition, and making the day’s marquis events, the championship men’s and women’s eights, an exciting highlight.
The men’s race is at 2:55; defending champion Harvard will be challenged by USRowing, the University of Washington, and the Great8 of multinational Olympic athletes, all of whom rowed Saturday in sculling events. The women’s race begins at 3:08 with four strong college teams including 2012 NCAA champion Virginia, trying to keep up with five Olympic crews: USRowing with five of the London gold medalists in the boat, and three from the bronze medal quad; Canada’s silver medal crew; the Dutch national team; and the women’s Great8, another multinational boat of Olympic scullers, led by Newton’s Gevvie Stone, who won her fourth singles championship Saturday.
Race director Fred Schoch said he was extremely pleased with opening day crowds and crowd participation at the regatta. “The sponsors are beaming, the vendors are beaming,’’ he said. “Brooks Brothers sold out of almost everything Saturday.’’
Some families brought their own refreshments, including Boston native Melissa Lewis, who was joining other family members to lay out a spread for her daughter Arianna Alexander’s team, a youth four from Xavier Prep in Phoenix, Ariz., thrilled to make the cut for their first Head. The race is so popular Schoch said they had to turn down two-thirds of all new youth applicants (the top 50 percent get an automatic return ticket).