Taking the Charles by the Head 


Heavyweight Women’s Team wins first place.  



The Head of the Charles is oftentimes an opportunity for Harvard students to simply get away and enjoy a break from the swath of midterms, seemingly pouring in one after the other. Watching the team in Black and White sail by becomes a past time, cheering as roommates and teammates appear around a bend, laughing amongst friends. For freshman, this is often their first introduction to the riverside as a whole, finding their path down the River Houses for the first time and discovering the peace and calm of the Autumn leaves.  

Of course, for Captain Hailey Novis ’18, and the Women’s Heavyweight Crew Team, the Charles has become a familiar home during her three years here at Harvard thus far. Gaining Novis’s perspective offered a change of pace from the usual excitement of the spectators, and helped provide context from a co-captain of the group. Watching the team, it’s easy to imagine the short five-minute and tighter one minute runs on the river during preparation the week before hand. The intensity of their focus paid off during the race itself, with the team finishing first with a time of just 16:27.044, overcoming challenges from Yale, Brown, and Syracuse, among other competitive teams.  

Watching the Head of the Charles allows spectators to see their favorite teams passing by in isolation, which provides a unique experience for the team members themselves. Hailey explained the impact of the Head’s unique format best, saying that: “Head of the Charles is a little different because it is a head race so you do not have competitors by your side. I think for us, it allowed us to really focus on our boat. We had a great coxswain who was dealing with the chaos around the start line with other boats and officials, and this allowed us to just get ready to race our race.” And race their race is exactly what they did, even with fluctuating wind and weather factors impacting practice and predictions for the race. The sheer determination and effort that went into the team’s victory was clear from Novis’s responses.  

Courtesy of Sofia Donnecke ’18

Harder to understand, however, is maintaining momentum, with weeks oftentimes going by before going head to head with the teams from around the country. For Novis, the idea is simple: “Every day and every race is a chance to improve.” As a result, each start and sprint, in practice or in an actual competition, takes a special significance for the team. Of course, support from the hometown fans can make all the difference. With the halfway mark of the race typically being the most exhaustive part, having Harvard’s Boathouse, with our own students’ constant excitement and encouragement, provided the perfect boost the team needed to be able finish strong. 

And finish strong indeed they did. Coming into the sprint, with passing Syracuse in their sights and winning the race a strong possibility, the team pulled together as one, taking their first victory in the event since 2013. With the team looking forward to the Foot of the Charles, again at home in Cambridge, on November 11th, the focus is clear: “This weekend for us showed some great improvements but I think you can always strive for more. I think our goal is to see how much of a margin we can build between us and the other Boston schools (who are usually the main competitors in the Foot).” When asked if she would change anything about the Head, her only response was a friendly desire to win by even more. The team’s momentum going into the Foot could not be stronger, and the leadership from Novis, the other captains, and the upperclassmen only pulls the team closer together.   


Tushar Dwivedi (tushar_dwivedi@college.harvard.edu) may be vegetarian, but the Head and Feet are too good to pass up during the Fall.