HOCR Announces Plans for a Remote Event in 2020

July 15, 2020

Boston, MA. —  The Head Of The Charles Regatta Board of Directors today announced that the Head Of The Charles will not be held as an on-water two-day event on the Charles River this October as it has for 55 years, but instead will be run as a global remote event. Following a new, innovative format, in mid-October athletes will be able to compete by racing the length of the Head Of The Charles course (4702 meters) on their own body of water or on an ergometer, depending on their desired choice of format.

After evaluating a full range of options, abiding by Commonwealth of Massachusetts and USRowing guidelines, and in consultation with a team of infectious disease physicians at Massachusetts General Hospital, the board of directors and the executive team of the Regatta concluded that they would be unable to run the world class in-person regatta that the rowing community has come to expect, while keeping competitors, coaches, volunteers, spectators and vendors safe.

“Our top priority has always been to hold a regatta that is safe, fun and competitive. While we are deeply disappointed that health and safety conditions as a result of the continuation of the Covid-19 virus throughout the world prohibit us from doing that this year, our team has been hard at work to develop a global remote event to be held this October,” said Fred Schoch, long-time executive director of the Head Of The Charles Regatta.  “I believe we have an innovative approach that will give athletes from around the world an opportunity to take part in a competitive event, and I am excited that we will be able to also allow many first-time participants to compete as a result of this new format.  We all look forward to hosting the Regatta on the Charles in 2021.”

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker expressed his personal affection for the Regatta.

“As someone who has stood on the banks of the Charles off and on for 40 years, enjoying the race, I, like so many other fans of the Regatta, am saddened by this announcement, but can totally understand the decision,” Gov. Baker said. “Covid changes many things and it is better to be safe. My very best wishes to all of the competitors and we all look forward to having the Regatta back on the Charles River next year.”

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh acknowledged the iconic role that the regatta plays in Boston and around the world.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has changed many of Boston’s favorite and important traditions, but it also has proven that whenever Boston is challenged, we respond with resiliency,” he said. “I want to thank the board of the Head of the Charles Regatta which decided to reimagine this year’s race as a remote event. As a city, and across all sectors, we are taking collective action to keep our residents safe and healthy. I look forward to welcoming back all of the competitors next year.”

The only other time in its history that the Head Of The Charles Regatta was not held on the Charles River was in 1996, when an historic rain and wind storm forced the cancellation of the Regatta.

The Regatta is the world’s largest two-day rowing race, regularly fielding 11,000 athletes from around the world to compete in a full line-up of sculling and sweep rowing events in mid-October. The ages of competitors range from 17-year-old youth rowers to athletes in their 90s and is seen as a must-attend race for world-class and Olympian rowers. More than 1,800 volunteers ensure that the event runs smoothly.

Last year, an economic analysis of the Regatta determined that it generated more than $75 million in economic impact to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The executive team of the Regatta will announce a full line-up of events, formats and racing rules for its remote event by mid August, with registration opening on Sept. 1. The remote event will include opportunities for both on-water rowing on an athlete’s own body of water, using GPS devices, or ergometer rowing machines normally used indoors.


Frequently Asked Questions 

How did we reach our decision about the in-person event in 2020?

We spent the spring and early summer examining every possible scenario for running a modified in-person version of the regatta, including limiting the overall field, running a singles-only race, and reimagining the Finish Area Launch Site (FALS) as a socially distanced venue. We consulted with the team of  infectious disease physicians at Massachusetts General that is advising the State on reopening guidelines. That same team is also advising various pro sports teams and athletic events about conditions under which they can reopen. We evaluated each option against the guidelines of the State of Massachusetts and the US Rowing guidelines for registered regattas. Our conclusion was that we would be unable to run the world class in-person regatta that the rowing community has come to expect.

What will happen with my guaranteed entry for 2020?

All guaranteed entries from 2019 will be honored for the 2021 event. The draw will be run as if there were no gap year, meaning all starting times will be carried over. International competitors who purchased a FISA IRC this spring will be refunded in the next week.

When will the full list of events and formats be available?

We will announce a full line up of events, formats and racing rules by mid August.

Why will the global remote event be raced over 4,702 meters? 

As you know, the distance any crew travels at the Head Of The Charles will vary based on the line they take down the course. We evaluated the distance of several different lines ranging from conservative to aggressive, and 4,702 meters was the most representative distance.

How can I learn more about the list of events, formats and racing rules?

In late August we will host a series of webinars with more information for coaches and athletes.

When will registration open?

Registration will open on September 1st and run through September 30th.

What about Charity entries? 

Our regular Charity program will recommence in 2021. Those who have registered for the Charity Program this year will need to register next year when the program opens.