New England Fall Regatta Season Is in Full Swing!

Time for fall head race season
Our annual round-up of key fall rowing races gets an update for 2021

We always look forward to September and October as the glory days of fall rowing in our region. From classic local regattas full of personality and heritage to the global highlight that is the Head of the Charles, there is truly a race for everyone and pretty much one for every weekend, if you just can’t get enough.  

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. 

After a somber season in 2020, a calendar packed with fall rowing events is more than welcome. Here are some excellent regattas taking place across New England for the remainder of fall 2021. We hope to see you at one or more! 

The new Poughkeepsie Regatta picks up where the historic Intercollegiate Rowing Association Regatta (1895 – 1949) left off, along the majestic Hudson River. Photo courtesy of Hudson River Rowing Association.

Poughkeepsie Regatta Head Race, October 2, 2021

So…New York is not technically part of New England, BUT those of us who love a great fall head race along a historic body of water can make an exception, and allow for some extra travel time when the occasion arises. The Poughkeepsie Regatta Head Race is such an event, a new offering for the fall lineup this year consisting of a 5,000-meter head-style race along the beautiful Hudson River.

Race organizers describe the route like so: “Shadowing the route of the old Junior Varsity (3-Mile) course, crews will race downstream from the Culinary Institute of America’s main campus in Hyde Park to the Mid-Hudson Bridge in Poughkeepsie, passing under Walkway Over the Hudson State Park and rowing by several other Poughkeepsie Waterfront landmarks.” (Fans of the best-seller rowing book The Boys in the Boat will recognize the historic 1895-1949 Intercollegiate Rowing Association course featured in its pages.) Co-hosted by the Hudson River Rowing Association and the Mid-Hudson Rowing Association, both based out of Poughkeepsie, the regatta is open to juniors, collegiate, and masters rowers.

The Textile River Regatta, October 3, 2021

Though the October 3 Green Mountain Head Regatta in Putney, Vermont, was recently cancelled, rowers can still plan for action that weekend at the Textile River Regatta, in Lowell, Massachusetts. The website for this beloved annual event, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2019, proclaims, “Textile 2021 is ON. Same as 2019—only different!” The Covid-related changes for 2021 include a more limited offering of events, fewer spectating and launch areas, and caps on participants for some of the more popular races. But plenty of fun is still sure to be had at this vibrant head race on the Merrimack River in Lowell. Schools and clubs from throughout New England, New York, and Pennsylvania compete in numerous events across all levels—meaning the energy level is traditionally high. And as of this posting, spaces were still available for more entries, but registration closes on September 26, so make haste!

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 9, 2021

Registration is now live on Regatta Central for this unique head race hosted by the New Haven Rowing Club at Indian Well State Park along Connecticut’s Housatonic River. Though spectators and the traditional tailgating are not permitted this year in an effort to keep all the athletes safe from Covid-19 as they compete, this is a fantastic event to participate in as a competitor or coach—with 70-plus clubs already signed up, it’s guaranteed to be some great fall racing.

We’ve seen plenty of New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts 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. At this popular annual event, 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!

New Hampshire Championships George Dirth Memorial Regatta, October 17, 2021

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 is open now.

RowingPad founder Victor Pisinski will be on site for HOCR 2021!

Head of the Charles, October 22-24, 2021

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? Especially as HOCR makes its return after a dark 2020 due to the pandemic.

In fact, RowingPad’s founder, Victor Pisinski, a Northeastern rowing alum, has quite a streak of participation in the event, in which he debuted during year three. He will make his return to the river basin in the Men’s Grand Masters Eights taking place Saturday morning, accompanied by a crew of rowing compatriots eager to give it their all for 2021.

If you see him there, send him a “hurrah!” and ask to check out a RowingPad seat pad while you’re at it!

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