Gunn Rowing Returns to Head of the Charles for 50th year

2022 Head of the Charles Regatta

On October 21-23, Gunn Rowing returned to Cambridge for the 2022 Head of the Charles Regatta. The event marked The Frederick Gunn School’s 50th year of racing in the world's largest, three-day rowing competition. The boys boat — Hugo Vilbois ’23 (stroke seat), Taji Duncan ’23 (third seat), Jack Nettleton ’24 (second seat), Sam Williams ’24 (first seat), and Aria Trotta ’23 (coxswain) — was one of 90 competing in the Men’s Youth Four, which included a team from the Ukraine. 

Founded in 1965, the Head of the Charles regularly fields more than 11,000 athletes from around the world to compete in a full line-up of sculling and sweep rowing events. The ages of competitors range from 17-year-old youth rowers to athletes in their 90s, and the event is seen as a must-attend race for world class and Olympian rowers, organizers said. 

“The Head of the Charles is only 57 years old and we’ve been rowing it since the early days,” said Lincoln Turner, Head Coach for Boys Rowing at Gunn. “The earliest result that I’ve found with our name on it was from 1972.”

This year, the boys boat was out on the water on Friday and team members were able to watch some events on Saturday, work out, and meet with college coaches before their race on Sunday. Conditions were good with overcast skies and calm water for the morning heats.

“They rowed a great race but the race is filled with crashes and clashing of oars,” Turner said. “There’s a strategy to it and it’s a coxswain’s race. We were fortunate to have Aria Trotta as the coxswain. She did a great job. Sometimes there are traffic jams, and if you can’t get out of the traffic jam, you can only be as fast as the slowest boat in that group. That’s where we ended up, but the kids had a lot of fun. There was a boat from the Ukraine in our race, and one from England. Boats come from all over. It’s the largest regatta in the world.”

According to an article by Megan Canizares Castillo and Lila Hempel-Edgers published on the HOTC website, members of the Ukrainian National Team participated in the men’s and women’s Championship Eights on Sunday, finishing ninth and 12th respectively. Those athletes, along with the Ukrainian team that raced in the Men’s Youth Four, were brought to the regatta from Europe by the Head of the Charles, the City of Cambridge, Delta Airlines, and other sponsors.

Gunn placed 58th out of 90 boats and will be entered into a lottery for a chance to compete in the Head of the Charles in October 2023. “It’s a time trial. Everyone is racing the clock,” Turner said. 

Gunn competed at the Head of the Charles in 2019, when both the boys and girls varsity teams were represented, and in 2021, when the boys boat, placed 61st out of 84 boats in the Men's Youth Four event. "Last year was the first Charles regatta since COVID put it on hold," said Assistant Coach Chris Visentin. "Four of our 2022 competitors, Jack, Sam, Taji, and Aria, were in the boat last year. Hugo joined them in the stroke this year, which I think makes this year his first trip to The Charles, and as the stroke seat, who's in charge of setting the pace for the boat, that's a noteworthy accomplishment. This is Aria's second time steering the course, so she's gaining a lot of great experience on a notoriously tough (and chaotic) racecourse."

The team co-captains from the boys boat in the 2019 regatta are among the young alumni now rowing at the collegiate level. Juliette Gaggini ’20, a coxswain for the Bucknell women’s team, is spending this semester with the Cambridge University Boat Club in England, and Sean Christiansen ’21 rows for the men’s team at Bates College. Hannah Richards ‘20, who rowed at the HOTC in the Women's Youth Four for Gunn in 2019, now competes with the Skidmore College Women’s Rowing Team, while Ava Lee ’21 and Michael Burns ’22 are rowing for the men’s and women’s teams at Hobart William Smith Colleges, respectively. Sophia Trotta '19, Aria Trotta's sister, is a coxswain at Smith College, and Julie Petrillo '18, who joined the Gunn faculty this year, rowed all four years for the women's team at Trinity College.

This year’s boys and girls crew teams have combined rosters of 47 student-athletes and will compete in their final race of the fall season this weekend, the Head of the Fish Regatta in Saratoga Springs, New York, October 28-29.

Photo credit: Eriko Trotta P’19 ’23

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