The 56th Annual Head of the Charles Is Finally Here!

Kicking Off with Rowing Legend Jim Dietz

Every year we look forward to the Head of the Charles with the most wonderful blend of enthusiasm, nostalgia, and pride. The rowing community that turns out for this annual race is truly incredible. We count ourselves lucky to be a part of it. Some years our excitement is tenfold, because one of us will be racing in one of the regatta’s many events.

For 2021, which will be officially counted as year 56, we at RowingPad are proud for both those reasons, plus another especially great one: Our friend Jim Dietz will be rowing in his 55th installment of HOCR. That’s right…he has rowed in the historic fall head race every single year save one. What’s more, he will be bow marker #2, second out of the starting gate on Friday, October 22, kicking off an event that many rowers have been looking forward for longer than usual this time around.

A Remarkable Rowing Career

If you are new to the world of competitive rowing or more keyed in to the indoor rowing scene, you might not be familiar with the name Jim Dietz. But for the many athletes who rowed crew in college or compete in the masters circuit, it is certainly one that carries with it major renown and respect.

Since his debut as a teenager in the Head of the Charles in 1965, the first year the event was held, Dietz has blazed quite a path through the rowing universe. At HOCR alone, he has won the championship single a record seven times. He has also claimed victories in the masters single, the senior masters, and the veterans categories, plus numerous championship doubles wins.

Beyond the banks of the Charles, he was part of three Olympic teams (1972, 1976, 1980) and seven World Championship teams. He has won more than 45 national titles, and captured medals at the Pan American Games in 1967, 1975, 1979 and 1983. He was inducted into the National Rowing Hall of Fame in 2010 and the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2015. There are many more accolades to list, to be sure!

Jim started his coaching career at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and moved on to coach the U.S. Coast Guard Academy for 12 years. He then took up the head coach position at UMass-Amherst, where he developed a first-rate women’s crew program over the course of 24 years. Under his direction, the Minutewomen dominated regular-season racing and captured an outstanding 16 Atlantic 10 Championships. He currently operates a traveling rowing camp and clinic company, which he co-founded, called the All-American Rowing Camp, bringing top-rate rowing training to locations across the U.S. and Europe.

Read more about Jim’s path to rowing greatness and many accomplishments along the way—with more to come!—on the CRCA website and in this article from 2012, with a title that speaks volumes: “Jim Dietz’s trip to the first Head of the Charles in 1965 led him to Olympics and Hall of Fame.”

A Key Figure in RowingPad’s History

When we say our pads are designed for rowers by rowers, we mean it. The minds that have contributed to RowingPad’s unique design and high-performance materials include some of the sport’s most insightful people: rowing coaches. It was during Jim Dietz’s time on the men’s crew at Northeastern University, where he was also named to the Hall of Fame, that he met RowingPad LLC’s founder and fellow Huskies crew member, Victor Pisinski. The two remain close friends to this day.

In fact, it was Jim who sparked the idea to make a version of RowingPad’s original erg pad for the boat. He had seen and tested RowingPad’s original erg pad, and at the time he thought it would be of enormous aid to the female athletes training with him at the University of Massachusetts. He wondered if a version could be made for the boat. Our founder got to work, designing what would become one of our top-selling products, the 20MM Boat Pad.

Look for RowingPad at HOCR 2021

Though it’s nowhere close to the track record held by Mr. Dietz, Victor Pisinski has his own not-too-shabby history of appearances at HOCR. This year he returns to the Charles, rowing with a crew of fellow Northeastern University alums in the Men’s Grand Master Eights event, on Saturday, October 23.

As you can see in the photo below from Victor’s 2016 HOCR race, his team usually wears their traditional NU racing colors. However this year the crew will be rowing in special commemorative shirts created to honor the memory of their dear friend, fellow Husky Larry Gluckman. (Read more about the late rowing coach and accomplished oarsman here and learn how to donate to the scholarship founded in his name.)

It should be a joyful return to the Charles River for these veterans. As Jim said in the article mentioned above, “I can’t tell you how many of my roommates and teammates are getting back into it. That’s the great thing about this regatta and about our sport. It’s a lifetime sport.’’

If you see Victor out and about over the course of the weekend, be sure to say hello and ask to test out a RowingPad while you’re at it!

RowingPad founder Victor Pisinski at the head of the boat, with his fellow Northeastern University alums during HORC 2016.