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Varsity crew, alumni/ae to compete in regatta

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MIT crew has six boats actually entered in the 35th Head of the Charles rowing regatta next weekend, but a seventh unofficial entry will quietly hit the water before official racing begins.

Early on Saturday morning, nine oarsmen from the lightweight crew team of 1969 will reunite to launch a boat once again from the MIT boathouse and race against the clock in a sort of virtual regatta of their own.

"We're not actually racing in the Head of the Charles, but we're all acting as if we are," said Bruce Anderson (SB 1969), director of the Industrial Liaison Program. "There's a complicated lottery system and we didn't get in." But that won't stop his former teammates and their two coaches from coming from as far as England and California to row together. After the actual racing ends on Sunday, Oct. 24, they'll check their time against the boats that would have been their competitors in the Senior Masters (age 50 and over) event.

Mr. Anderson and some of the alumni returning this year rowed together as freshmen in the first Head of the Charles back in 1965. "There was nobody on the bank watching that first year," he said. "It was definitely not an international event and definitely not coed. Now it's the single most popular race in the world."

Last year's Head of the Charles was attended by an estimated 150,000 people, with more than 5,600 athletes competing. It's the largest two-day rowing regatta in the world.

While most crew races are 2,000 meters and take about six or seven minutes, the three-mile (or nearly 5,000-meter) Head of the Charles course begins near the BU bridge and finishes upriver past the Eliot bridge at Herter Park. The record for fastest time was set by the US National Men's team in 1997: 13 minutes, 59 seconds.

Mr. Anderson's crew hopes to finish the course in less than 20 minutes. "The last 500 meters will be the longest I've rowed in my life," he said.

Professor Emeritus Malcolm Gefter of biology will be among other MIT affiliates competing. Dr. Gefter, who is now CEO of the biotech company Praecis Pharmaceutical but continues to teach a graduate course in biotechnology, started rowing seven years ago. The 57-year-old has won four national and four world championships since then. On Sunday he'll compete in the masters double event. For the past five years, his boat has been among the top five in the singles event.


MIT will have boats competing in the men's championship eight, the men's varsity championship lightweight eight, the women's championship lightweight eight and the freshman men's team in the youth eight events, all on Sunday. The women's varsity and second varsity boats will race in the club eight events on Saturday afternoon.

MIT's director of crew, Stuart Schmill (SB 1986), who as an undergraduate was coxswain for the varsity crew, will cox a boat for the Lake Washington Rowing Club of Seattle this year. Dozens of other alumni/ae will participate as competitors, coaches, referees or in other capacities. Those same alumni/ae will gather on Saturday evening for the annual Friends of MIT Crew dinner.

In addition, many out-of-town schools and clubs will use the MIT boathouse, and one school will camp out in DuPont Gymnasium during the competition. MIT will also loan motor launches for the regatta.

"Our boathouse, situated in the racing warm-up area, is a last minute bathroom stop for many a rower," said Mr. Schmill. "And our boatmen frequently make emergency repairs on boats that land here in a panic."

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 20, 1999.

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