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Recapping the Head of the Charles regatta

The rowing program at Upper Canada College led by head coach Grant Boyd has a history of producing world-class athletes, many of whom have successfully moved on to prestigious collegiate crews as well the world stage.

A number of UCC athletes, both past and present, recently raced at the Head of the Charles regatta in Boston. It’s a testament to the many years of training, hard work and dedication instilled at UCC.

The UCC Old Boys crew raced in the Men’s Seniors Masters Eight and UCC boys entered in the Men’s Youth Fours and Men’s Youth Coxed Quad. The rowing program fosters strong bonds among the boys, as can be seen in the alumni crew members — some of whom hadn’t seen each other in more than 30 years. The alumni members (pictured above) were Barney Williams, Jeff Collins, Peter MacGowan, Pat Turner, Jim Relle, Tim Turner, Ted Gibson, Bruce Ross, John Houlding and coach Boris Klavora.

The Boston Old Boys hosted the traditional reception during the regatta at the Harvard Club, with both Old Boys and current UCC boys and their guests.

A crew of five represented the UCC 4+. Along with the UCC entry and alumni entry, there were eight current UCC boys who entered the regatta separately (through the Hanlan Boat Club) but were introduced to rowing through the UCC program.

Thanks to head coach Boyd and assistant coaches Blair Baker and Jurgen Schubert, who made this unforgettable experience possible.

We asked three current rowers and coach Jurgen Schubert to share their thoughts about rowing and the regatta.

UCC principal Sam McKinney, Matthew Thompson, Raphael Berz, Simon Osak, Dane Halkiw, Max Hardisty and coach Grant Boyd.

UCC principal Sam McKinney, Matthew Thompson, Raphael Berz, Simon Osak, Dane Halkiw, Max Hardisty and coach Grant Boyd.

Simon Osak, UCC 4+ cox

In the varsity ergometer room, there’s a quote from former Green Bay Packers football coach Vince Lombardi that reads “the man on the top of the mountain didn’t fall there.” The UCC Charles 4+ crew of Simon Osak, Max Hardisty, Dane Halkiw, Raphael Berz and Matthew Thompson really took this quote to heart. We wanted to carry forward our success from last spring and grow even more as a crew. I feel that we accomplished this goal.

After a productive Welland training camp and strong results at the Head of the Welland and Head of the Genesee regattas, our eyes were set on the Charles. Our pre-Charles training camp was critical in improving our technique and bonding as a boat.

One of the highlights of Charles weekend was the UCC rowing reception at the august Harvard Club. Our crew really appreciated the honour of being hosted by UCC alumni. It reminded us of the tight alumni bonds we’re lucky to have at UCC, as well as the great rowers who came before us. We were even more motivated to have a good showing at our Sunday race and represent the crest with pride.

After an exciting race, we finished 14th out of 86 crews. While we wished to place higher, we were very happy with the result considering that we started the race in 40th place.

This result didn’t come easy. Yes, we had to work hard. However, a big contributor to our success was teamwork. We were a band of brothers who bled blue as one unit, the sum greater than each individual part.

Jurgen Schubert, UCC coach

Each fall some of our UCC coaching staff will run the Hanlan Fall Junior Men’s program to allow any eligible athletes to compete for a seat in a limited number of boats that are training and racing that fall.

This year Blair Baker and I trained three crews under the Hanlan banner, with 11 of the 15 selected athletes being from UCC. Those three crews competed in three regattas prior to the trip to Boston, which helped select and condition our Charles entries for their final races. Of the three crews, we took a 4+ and a coxed quad consisting of eight UCC athletes.

Both crews had good, meaningful races, which resulted in one secured entry for next year, lots of memorable experiences and motivation going into this new season. Blair and I look forward to the coming season.

Hanlan 4 smaller

UCC principal Sam McKinney, Ben Givertz-Steel, Surin Rao, Rupert Davies, Chris Willcocks, Alex Quinn and coach Jurgen Schubert.

Rupert Davies, Men’s Youth Fours co-captain

For me and two of the other guys in my boat this season, Ben Givertz-Steel and co-captain Chris Willcocks, this was our second time racing at the largest regatta in the world. It was the first time for cox Surin Rao and two seat Alex Quinn.

The Head of the Charles is almost like the Olympics for high school students, and we train hard from August until October to be a top competitor each year.

Even though the races are always held on the Charles River and the weather stays relatively the same, the races can be completely different each year, which can be a big deal for the person steering the boat. The main challenge is that more than 85 crews all row down the narrow river in five- to 10-second intervals and boats get passed constantly. It’s called a head race.

Last year we were in a tough and unfortunate situation when a boat crashed into us, causing us to stop rowing to get untangled from the other boat’s oars and realign with the course. This cost us more than 20 spots on the leader board. The other guys and I in my boat last year realized that this was just the nature of the race, and it’s what makes it equally stressful and exciting.

Like the Olympics, just being given the opportunity to participate at the Charles is unforgettable. The races at HOCR are supported by 300,000 spectators, which makes rowing the main event for the weekend and a big part of Boston’s sport culture.

Our boat this year had a great race, with Rao making sure we had a clear path. More importantly, we improved drastically throughout the season and were incredibly proud of these accomplishments. Our result was a mix of the hard work we put in and a little bit of luck.

Rowing comes down to three principles: patience, dedication and teamwork. For me, the rewards that it offers in return makes it all worth it. If I’m to only choose one lesson that rowing has taught me, it’s that you get what you put in. I’d recommend rowing to anyone who’s looking for a challenge that will build character, the ability to work hard with others, and the craving for being rewarded.

Hanlan Quad cropped

Carter MacLean, Thomas Rusaw and Adam Steiner.

Carter MacLean, Youth Men’s Coxed Quad

When our boat combination was decided for the Youth Men’s Coxed Quad, there were two UCC rowers, myself and Adam Steiner, and two Hanlan rowers, with a UCC coxie, Thomas Rusaw. This mix was an interesting experience for all of us, as we’d never previously met each other and we were bringing different techniques to the boat. After six vigorous weeks of training, two regattas and a weekend training camp, we flew to Boston.

While in Boston, we trained four times over the Thursday and Friday we were there. On Friday night we were invited to a UCC branch reception. The event was about our ties to the UCC community and our pride in that. I spoke to a few Old Boys who were present and were rowers in the 1970s and ‘80s. It was very cool to see their joy and connection to the school after all these years.

On Sunday we woke up and got ready to race. The nerves were raging in all of us. As we were rowing up to the start, the magnitude of the regatta got to me. There were about 10,000 rowers from all over the world.

We rowed down the course with all of our might. After the race we discovered that we had finished 17th, one spot away from requalifying the boat for next year. We were upset, but we knew that we gave it our best. I think that losing is the most important part about rowing. Losing drives you to improve, and that’s what we’ll do this winter to have an outstanding spring season.

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