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Head of the Charles

Stars will be visible

Great Eight loaded with the world’s best

By John Powers
Globe Staff / October 15, 2009

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The Great Eight, rowing’s version of an All-Star team, will come in both male and female versions in Sunday’s championship events at the 45th Head of the Charles Regatta. The men’s boat features virtually all of the top scullers from last year’s Olympics, while the women’s will be made up of Olympians and global medalists from five countries.

The men’s lineup includes Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic and Mahe Drysdale of New Zealand, who won the silver and bronze in Beijing, as well as fellow finalists Tim Maeyens of Belgium, Alan Campbell of Great Britain, and Lassi Karonen of Sweden, plus former Olympic medalists Iztok Cop of Slovenia and Marcel Hacker of Germany. Olaf Tufte, a two-time Olympic gold medalist whose wife is expecting a child, will be replaced by Warren Anderson, a US sculler at last summer’s world regatta in Poland.

The members who arrived early will give an outreach clinic to veterans, adaptive rowers, and Boston Public School students this afternoon at Community Rowing’s Harry Parker Boathouse.

The women’s eight will be comprised of Olympic champions Susan Francia and Erin Cafaro of the US, who earned global gold in both the pair and the eight this year, Femke Dekker and Nienke Kingma of the Netherlands, who won silver in the eight in Beijing, Annie Vernon of Great Britain, who won silver in the Olympic quad, and countrywoman Anna Benington, who took bronze in the double, as well as Olympians Jane Rumball of Canada, the defending Head singles champion, and Emma Twigg of New Zealand.

They’ll be coxed by Katelin Snyder, who steered the Washington men’s eight to the Head title last year and the US women to the world crown.

If the men’s victory in the Head of the River race on the Thames in March is any guide, both Great Eights figure to be prime contenders here against fields filled with top international and collegiate entries.

Head of the Charles organizers have suspended their usual one-race rule to allow for a double feature - any rower who competed in the world regatta will be eligible to race in one sweep and one sculling event this weekend

Together they can
To allow for old boys (and girls) to have their annual reunion rows together, the Head has added a new race for alumni eights Saturday morning. Many of them, like Harvard’s Rude and Smooth and Princeton’s Fat Cats, have been competing for years in other events like club and masters, often with ringers of questionable provenance. The new category, which will be age-handicapped, will require all rowers in an entry to sport the same school tie . . . Though he was born without a right arm and a partial left, Holy Cross coxswain Chris Hayden will be navigating the world’s most challenging Head course on Sunday. The senior from Garden City, N.Y., will be at the tiller for the Crusader men’s varsity in the championship eights.

Prices are right
Community Rowing Inc., which already is the country’s largest organization of its kind, wants to enhance its mission as “A Place to Row for Everybody.’’ So it is reducing or eliminating the costs of half a dozen programs (e.g., Introduction to Rowing from $125 to $25) and restoring supporting memberships, which provide year-round use of indoor training equipment for $95. CRI will have its own flotilla on the water this weekend, with nearly three dozen Head entries in more than 20 categories, ranging from youth eights to veteran singles. The boathouse, located upstream of the finish line at 20 Nonantum Road in Brighton, will be open for tours all weekend . . . Early-bird arrivals got the best of the practice water this week. Weather for tomorrow’s final warm-up day, which annually makes the amateur shark-hunting scene in “Jaws’’ look orderly by comparison, is expected to be wretched - temperatures in the mid-40s with rain likely and a northeast wind between 15 and 25 miles an hour. Conditions will improve during the weekend - overcast skies, the chance of rain diminishing to between 30 and 40 percent, and temperatures rising to the lower-50s . . . With the weekend weather less than splendid, Reunion Village will be a particularly attractive vantage point for spectators seeking food and beverages, as well as a big-screen display of the action and live commentary, for $3 a person. The village is located on the Boston shore at the midway point along the 3-mile course and is open from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. The new Eliot Bridge Enclosure near the finish line, which is fully subscribed at $60 a day and $100 for the weekend, offers morning coffee and breakfast items and a gourmet buffet lunch.

John Powers can be reached at jpowers@globe.com.