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Australians prepare to take on Head of the Charles

This weekend sees one of the United States’ most famous regatta’s take place in Boston, Massachusetts – The Head of the Charles. The two-day regatta has been going for 51 years, as of this year, and attracts over 11,000 athletes and 400,000 to The Charles River.

There are 55 events set to be raced with 779 clubs involved and amongst those entries are a number of Australians ranging from Masters rowers through to young Australians who are currently studying in the US collegiate system.

One of the most noticeable crews this weekend may well be Australian Olympian Marguerite King (nee Houston) who will be competing on Sunday (18 October) in the Director’s Challenge Women’s Quadruple Scull Race. King, who at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games competed with Amber Halliday, will be racing with fellow Olympians from the 2008 Lightweight category in the form of Jen Goldsack and Renee Hykel Cuddy of the USA and Melanie Kok of Canada.

At least 11 Australians will be racing for their colleges this weekend, with Australians set to appear for the universities of Brown, Yale, Princeton, Cal Berkeley, University of Washington, George Washington, Columbia, Harvard, Syracuse and Radcliffe.

Ahead of the regatta beginning this weekend, we caught up with Melbourne-born Louis Copolov who is currently studying at Northeastern. Copolov was the coxswain in the 2015 U23 Australian Rowing Team for the Men’s Coxed Four that competed at the U23 World Rowing Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

“I am currently majoring in International Affairs with a minor in Entrepreneurship and in my time here have been in and out of the varsity crew as well as coxing the second varsity crew. This season I’ve been coxing Northeastern’s first crew and at the Head of the Charles we’ll be racing the Championship Four Event (coxed four) as we decided to prioritise the four this year,” said Copolov.

With a number of Australians set to row this weekend, Copolov expects it to make for a good atmosphere with some of his U23 Australian Rowing Team mates also in action.

The former Melbourne Grammar School student said: “There are three other Aussies at Northeastern, Andrew Maglio, Texas Lawton (both rowing in the Championship 8 this weekend) and Will Smith (rowing in the Club 8). While I know a couple of the guys from Harvard – James Croxford and Sam Hardy (Championship 8) and Jack Kelly (racing in the Lightweight Men’s Eight competition).”

In addition to those named, other Australians racing include Rob Hurn (Yale) in the Men’s Championship 8, James Riley (Cal Berkeley) in the Championship Men’s Four, Josie Thiele (Radcliffe) in the Lightweight Women’s Eight Championship while Australians Emily Carey (Syracuse) and Georgie Howe (Princeton) will go up against each other in the Championship Women’s Eight competition.

Copolov explained why the Head of the Charles is such a tradition for the US and global rowing communities: “People come from all over the world to compete here and there is a lot of rowing history surrounding Boston.

“Consequently, a lot of people get around and support the event as it is a huge spectacle. As such, even people who have never seen (or know anything about) the sport get down to the Charles to watch. There is also a nice atmosphere around the river, everyone is relaxed as it is usually their first hit out for the year. In saying that, it is still an extremely competitive event!”

On a personal note for Copolov the regatta means more perhaps to Northeastern students than most as they train on the Charles every day: “To me, the Head of the Charles is important because we train on the Charles River every day.

“As a cox, I feel like I have a good understanding of the river which should aid us in Sunday’s race. It must be difficult to come to the Charles with a limited knowledge of the river because it is a pretty tough river to navigate. It also gives my crew and I the chance to test ourselves against some of the best colleges in the country. It does this in a fun and, somewhat, relaxed way.

“Although it is seen as a ‘fun’ regatta, we all race with the intention to win. In that way, it is extremely competitive. In addition, it gives a crew the opportunity to truly test their speed against the rest of the pack. As such, it provides a good yard stick and indicator of where you are at and, more importantly, where you need to go.”

While Copolov is focussed on his college studies and rowing career, he does have his eye on being selected for another Australian Rowing Team: “This year I’d really like us to medal at both the Eastern Sprints and IRA Regatta in the Varsity 8 Division here in the US, and then I wish to make the 2016 U23 Australian Rowing Team and improve on the fifth place finish that my crew had in 2015.”

Keep up to date on how the Australians fair this weekend in Boston by tracking results here.

Head-of-the-Charles