Don’t Miss These New England Fall 2023 Regattas and Rowing Events

Fall is jam-packed with rowing opportunities—find one near you and register today!

October is peak rowing season here in New England. The trees are ablaze with color, and the waterways offer up misty mornings and crisp, gleaming afternoons that make perfect backdrops for rowing. From classic local regattas full of personality and heritage to the international highlight that is the Head of the Charles, there is truly a race for everyone.   

As supporters of rowers local (RowingPad is a proud sponsor of Great Bay Rowing’s juniors program) and international, we follow each of these autumnal events with equal enthusiasm and even, when we can, take part in some respectable masters and alumni racing. 

Grab your calendars and start planning out your remaining weekends! Here are some excellent rowing events taking place across New England for the rest of fall 2023. We hope to see you at one or more!

Rowers launch from the Donahue Rowing Center on Lake Quinsigamond. Photo courtesy the Quinsigamond Rowing Club website.

Quinsigamond Snake Regatta, October 7, 2023

Lake Quinsigamond is a rowing haven, nestled between the city of Worcester and the town of Shrewsbury in Worcester County, Massachusetts. The 4-mile-long lake, formed by glaciers, at times resembles a river, with a deep, narrow northern section and a more shallow southern basin full of coves and islands. We can’t say for certain, but we’d guess its winding shape is how the Snake Regatta, hosted by the Quinsigamond Rowing Association, got its name.

A traditional head-style race, the course is approximately 2.5 miles. Rowers begin at Sugarloaf Island and finish at the Donahue Rowing Center, located at the lake’s north end. The regatta is for collegiate crews (and eligible alumni), attracting many of New England’s top racing programs (16 clubs have entered this year)—many of which call Lake Quinsigamond home (e.g., College of the Holy Cross, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Clark University, among others).

Head of the Housatonic regatta in Connecticut
The Head of the Housatonic is one of the largest single-day regattas in the U.S. Photo courtesy of New Haven Rowing Club.

Head of the Housatonic, October 7, 2023

This unique and tightly organized head race hosted by the New Haven Rowing Club takes place at Indian Well State Park along Connecticut’s Housatonic River. This year 98 clubs are registered to participate, which means the shores of the river will be lined with team tents and spectators, who arrive by shuttle from off-site parking lots.

We’ve seen plenty of regattas in our day, but the Head of the Housatonic Regatta, held in the southern reaches of Shelton, Connecticut, offers a different kind of race format. Competitors launch from the sandy beach by walking boats into the water (there is no dock). Boats follow a very specific traffic pattern involving colored buoys and must adhere to “right of way” guidelines (or suffer the consequences, which are assessed in the form of 10-, 20-, and 60-second penalties). This race demands your full focus in more ways than one! Watch this cool video on the NHRC site for a glimpse at all the action.

Photo courtesy Amoskeag Rowing Club’s NH Championship Regatta, via Facebook

New Hampshire Championships George Dirth Memorial Regatta, October 15, 2023

What better way to warm up for one of the world’s most famous head races (HOCR) than with another intense, widely renowned fall rowing competition? Up for the challenge? Then head to the George Dirth Memorial Regatta, which takes place the weekend before Head of the Charles and has the distinction of being the largest New England rowing event north of Boston. How large? More than 2,000 athletes rowing nearly 400 sculling and sweep boats. 

Hosted by the Amoskeag Rowing Club in Pembroke, New Hampshire, the 3-mile head race begins upriver on the Merrimack and finishes at Memorial Park. In addition to providing a wonderful day of racing in a beautiful fall setting, this event awards a New Hampshire Cup team trophy for the best overall team performance and is raced in memory of George Dirth, a former Amoskeag club member and rower at Derryfield and Oregon State University who died tragically at the young age of 27. Registration has reached capacity, but a waitlist is available.

Painting of Head of the Charles rowing event.

Head of the Charles, October 20-22, 2023

Since 1965, this beloved annual head race has been delighting spectators and competitors alike with its top-level racing and most scenic environs of the Charles River. With its prestigious roster of athletes and charming Boston backdrop, who could resist? This year 803 clubs have registered, with 2,598 entries, according to the Head of the Charles event page on Regatta Central. 

One special moment scheduled to take place amid the rowing action is a ceremony for the 2023 National Rowing Hall of Fame® inductees. The announcement will take place Saturday, October 21, at 4 p.m. at the National Rowing Foundation tent. This year’s roster includes some of rowing’s finest female rowers, including all of the gold medal U.S. women’s eights from 2009 to 2012. Find more details on Hear the Boat Sing.

Rowing Pad’s founder, Victor Pisinski, a Northeastern rowing alum, has quite a streak of participation in the event, in which he debuted during year three. This year he will once again return to the river basin in the Men’s Grand Master Eights, taking place Saturday morning, accompanied by a crew of rowing compatriots eager to give it their all for 2023. 

If you see him there, give him a big cheer (and ask to check out a Rowing Pad seat pad while you’re at it!).

Photo courtesy Quinsigamond Rowing Club website.

Wormtown Chase, October 28, 2023

A regular last fall season hurrah for collegiate programs in the region, the Wormtown Chase is the longer of the two head races held on Lake Quinsigamond each autumn. (The Snake Regatta, listed above, is the other.) The Chase is also a relatively new fixture on the New England regatta calendar; the inaugural race took place in 2019 and was conceived as a way to offer a head race opportunity for masters rowers as well as a second fall event for schools.

Both college crews and masters now flock to the four-mile lake between Worcester and Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, for the 3.25-mile head race. The course begins at Quinsigamond State Park beach, proceeds south around Coast Guard and Blake Islands, and finishes at the Donahue Rowing Center.  Why “Wormtown,” you might be wondering? Apparently this is a nickname for Worcester—one that can ignite debate, so be warned—coined by a local DJ in the 70s to refer to the city’s underground music scene.