VRA sees success at 2017 Head of the Charles

October 25, 2017

Dear VRA Family – 

It is with great pleasure I write regarding the team’s trip to the Head of the Charles this past weekend. In case you haven’t heard the good news—the varsity eight took home gold and set a new course record! Below are all the details from another successful trip up to Boston.

The 53rd annual Head of the Charles set the new gold standard in many ways for Virginia Rowing. I thought I’ve seen it all, but sunshine and temperatures in the 70’s, a plus mild sunburn was a new one.


Collegiate 8+ on the medals podium



Alumni Races

We were lucky to have a great group of alumni in town with us for the weekend. They raced on Saturday, and I’m happy to report all survived both the race and post-race festivities and dancing!

Alumni racing in the Club 4+

Rowing in orange and blue, most unisuits still fitting as well as when they were undergrads, we had an Alumni Eight composed of (bow to stern) Ed Crocker ‘13, Charlie Hanley ‘15, Brian Wood ‘08, Rob Janiczek ’03, Fred Fray ‘88, Ty Saitta ‘14, Sean Fagan ’11, Nathan Heinzman ’17 and coxswain Jake Power ’16. You can see them on the Saturday Stream on the HOCR Cambridge Broadcast around 3:37:00. They took 14th out of field of 50 boats with a time of 15:31.76—the alumni racing field has gained popularity and been getting faster, this time was ten seconds faster than last year’s 12th place finish.

Racing as the Charlottesville Postal Workers (bow to stern) Bert Udler ‘13, Steve Bauer ‘07, Nicholas Jablonski ’02, Andrew Heinzman ’16 and coxswain Valerie Roth ’12 competed in the Club 4+. They overcame their fears of rigging a modern shell and placed 28th with a time of 18:09.34 in a field of 52 boats. They have a brief appearance in the Saturday Streaming around 4:20:15.

Alumni racing in the Alumni 8+

The women’s alumni raced two eights this year, up from their usual one; entering both a fun “friends” boat and a legitimately fast line up that took home gold in the event. Everyone enjoyed the weekend enough to begin training for next year sooner rather than later so next year’s boats promise to be even faster. Alumni can expect Jablonski’s emails about training here shortly….

After a lovely team dinner on Saturday night, the team arrived at the course on Sunday ready to go. I am proud to report that all three boats were models of professionalism and stewards of VRA culture from the moment they arrived – very much focused on the job at hand as well as supporting their teammates. Their preparations and diligence paid off even before the results were posted. All three boats returned to the dock with genuine satisfaction that they rowed to the best of their abilities, leaving everything they had on the water.


Lightweight Four (14th of 17)

For the third year in a row, thanks to a guaranteed entry from last year’s boat, we entered a small but mighty lightweight four. They had two 4th years who have raced the Charles before and three underclassmen up for their first time in Boston. On the Sunday HOCR Stream, they can be seen around 2:07:00. Line-up bow-stern: Jamie Massey ’20, Calvin Heimberg ’18, Connor Burke ’20, Timothy Rodriguez ’18 and coxswain Connor Joslin ’19 placed 14th with a time of 17:03.7, being bested by the country’s top varsity lightweight programs.

Lightweight 4+ looking sharp

Collegiate Eight (1st of 37)

The Collegiate 8+ was next to come down the course, starting with bow #2 right behind Michigan. With the exception of a 2nd year in stroke seat, the line-up was composed entirely of 4th years, 6 of whom raced at Henley Royal this summer. Line-up bow-stern: Grant Janart ’18, Zach Heese ’18, team captain Chris Hastings ’18, Connor O’Brien ’18, Stephen Hayes ’18, Garret Overholser ’18, Frank Vasquez ’18, Alek Blumberg ’20 and coxswain Austin Hall ’18. You can see them around 2:46:07 in the Sunday Stream on the HOCR Cambridge Broadcast.

The boat rowed a spectacular race, pushing the rest of the field behind them. They did a great job of chasing down the wolverines in front of them, so much so that bow seat Grant Janart’s oar scrapped Michigan’s stern deck for a couple of strokes coming into Eliot Bridge. After the scuttle into the bridge, the eight built it back up for the last stretch, beating Michigan to the line. Paddling out of the piece, stroke seat Alek recalls “I felt we had rowed such a good race, and I was so proud of the boys that I didn’t even care about the result.” Read Alek’s impressions on the race, as well as more quotes from rowers at the end (if you can handle goosebumps).

The eight made us all proud setting a new course record of 14:24.21, almost 20 seconds faster than the previous record set by FIT in 2010. Second place St. Joe’s was less than a second behind finishing at 14:25.08.


Collegiate 4+ on their way down the course

Collegiate Four (3rd of 40)

The Collegiate Four raced (bow-stern) Charlie Thompson ’18, Team Captain James Kyne ’20, Webster Thompson ’20, Dan Weihs ’18 and coxswain Pearl Risberg ’18. Stroke-seat Dan and coxswain Pearl have raced the Charles before, but James and the Thompson Brothers were racing the Charles for the first time. They can be spotted around 3:38.04 of the Sunday HOCR Stream.

They were warming up as the eight came down the course, and stopped in a narrow spot, against officials’ directions, to cheer for their teammates. Their good deed didn’t go unnoticed by the eight’s stroke seat “right when we were entering the depths of the pain cave, we passed the heavy four and when they started shouting and rattling their oars in their oarlocks we dropped three splits. Considering the margin of our victory and the positive response to that encouragement, that could have been it.”

The four went on to come down the course in 16:29.37 taking home bronze behind UNC and Vermont who both put their programs’ top athletes into their fours. Three seat Webster Thompson shares “making a boat for the Charles as a second-year, with my older brother and brotherly teammates, and then leaving Boston with a medal has made this past weekend completely unforgettable.”


Other UVA crews

The “lone woman rower” on the men’s team, Ashley Gale ’18 placed a very respectable 13th in the women’s club singles, against mostly older and more experienced athletes, definitely a good preparation as she attacks her fourth consecutive ACRA gold medal this coming spring.

The women’s team raced two eights on Sunday in the Championship Women’s 8+ taking home 9th and 20th (4th and 15th amongst collegiate crews). Women’s Team Boatman Roger Payne in the Men’s Veteran single placed 40th, and PhD student Andrew Neils in the Men’s Master single took home a bronze.

Alumni happy to be back on solid ground after racing!


Videos & Live Streams

HOCR Saturday Stream from Cambridge


Alumni 8 at 3:31:76

Alumni 4 at 4:20:15


HOCR Sunday Stream from Cambridge 


Lightweight 4 at 2:07:00

Collegiate 8 at 2:46:07

Collegiate 4 at 3:38:04


The Final stretch of the Collegiate 8+ race to the finish line:



The Medals Ceremony and Good Old Song: 




We’re already back to training here in C’Ville for the Head of the Schuylkill, The Princeton Chase, and the Bald Eagle Collegiate Invitational; all happening in the next two weekends!

Hope to see you all at Class Day Races & Alumni BBQ here in Charlottesville on November 11th!