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Head of the Charles

Stone makes herself right at home

She repeats as singles champ

By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / October 23, 2011

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The Charles River has long been a second home for Gevvie Stone.

“It’s so fun,’’ Stone said after winning the Head of the Charles championship women’s singles yesterday. “I remember going as a little kid, being on the Harvard dock and screaming. My dad and mom were in it and I remember being there all day, eating sandwiches and helping carry oars. My dad’s college friends would be there and it was a big holiday for our family.’’

Now, Stone is the recipient of cheers in what she has turned into a 3-mile training course in front of family and friends.

Stone was timed in 19 minutes and 31.11 seconds, well ahead of Emma Twigg of New Zealand (19:58.99), in becoming the event’s first repeat winner since Anne Marden (1991-93).

“I felt headwinds the whole way,’’ Stone said. “I think the fan support made a huge difference. I heard them almost the whole way. There were a few big clusters throughout the course and they happened to be where the headwind was at its worst.

“I had a great race. I only hit one buoy wrong side, and that startled me. Other than that it was a very strong race and I kept pushing the whole way.’’

But Stone, who also won in 2008, minimized the accomplishment of consecutive wins.

“Last year was an odd year because a lot of competitive people weren’t here, but they definitely were in this one,’’ Stone said. “But it almost didn’t feel like repeating because of that.’’

Stone is working toward Olympic qualification.

“That’s the goal,’’ Stone said. “I’m making a big push this year, each week I’m training and working toward getting there. This is one steppingstone, and it seems like a big one for me.’’

Stone spoiled Twigg’s chance to complete a Kiwi singles’ double, as Mahe Drysdale took a decisive victory in the men’s race.

“I think it is very difficult to get all your lines right,’’ Twigg said of the course. “I think Gevvie took the inside line to the Powerhouse bridges, and that took quite a bit out of me.

“I’m disappointed a little bit, but it was a vast improvement on my previous couple years. I had absolute shockers, so I’m slowly getting the course right, and maybe next time I’ll be able to challenge a little bit more.

“Last time I was here, I was in the eights on Sunday when it was snowing, so I’ve seen everything. It’s a great [race], but I haven’t won it, yet, so I have to keep coming back.’’

Drysdale (17:57.33) finished well ahead of Michael Sivigny (18:25.52).

“It was a good race for me, especially the first sort of two-thirds broke really well, then I sort of ran out of gas,’’ said Drysdale, who recently won the singles in the World Championships. “That’s always been my weaker part, the first half of the race.’’

Two years ago, Drysdale said he finished well behind Sivigny, a two-time defending champion.

“He’s obviously proved it two years ago,’’ Drysdale said of Sivigny. “He cleaned me up. He’s very good and I think if you’re used to a course like this you’ve got some big advantages. It’s nice to beat him on what’s more his course than mine.

“Coming in, I was in good shape and I knew I had the all-out speed. In the past, it’s been the course and you can lose a lot of time on it - and that’s where he’s beaten me in the past.’’

Drysdale said he has had difficulty with jet lag since arriving from Auckland Wednesday. But he did not plan to get a good night’s sleep after this race, as he will be following New Zealand against France in the Rugby World Cup final.

“I think it’s a pretty historic moment for New Zealand,’’ Drysdale said. “We haven’t won since 1989. We found we can stream it on the Internet, so we’ll be up watching at 3 o’clock.’’

Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at f_dellapa@globe.com.