The Head of the Charles kicked off today with the first eight events of the mammoth 75-event weekend, and once again the oldest rowers in the field did the honors, with the 50+ to 80+ competitors carving the turns of the Charles, keeping the spirit of rowing alive–Boys and Girls in the Boats, indeed.

Even as age (and experience, most would say) advance, the level of preparation has not declined; row2k spotted at least one ancient (or more accurately, older) mariner quietly at work on some warmup strokes on the erg, in the pitch black at 6:30am. Activation is no joke.

HOCR Friday: The Girls (and the Boys) in the Boats!

Always remember to warm up

The older athletes may have even lucked into the best weather of the weekend, at least according to the current forecast, with a slight tailwind even contributing to new course records in five of the eight events raced today.

Fingers crossed for the next two days of racing, whew.

The Grand Masters, Senior Masters and Veterans Singles

Starting from bow #17, Riverside’s Catherine Widgery celebrated moving up to the 70+ age group by crushing the field, and setting a new course record. Widgery won the event by almost 45 seconds, almost 20 seconds ahead of the old record.

“I think there was a small tailwind, but CW has been posting that range of time, if not slightly better!” said her coach, longtime local sculling mentor (and rowing mystery author) Dan Boyne.

“She’s made another jump in her technique this year around the front end, as did Tricia Carney [60+ Women’s Single Winner, eds], and that gave her more speed. As always, she learns quick and can apply changes well. Super talented and I’m proud of her!”

HOCR Friday: The Girls (and the Boys) in the Boats!

Riverside’s Catherine Widgery

As predicted/threatened in our preview feature, Cambridge fixture Greg Benning not only started first, but won his 23rd Head of the Charles, and bettered the record in the Men’s 60+ single by another 9 seconds. The Charles certainly isn’t getting any shorter, but Benning isn’t getting any younger either–to set records with this consistency is a remarkable accomplishment.

HOCR Friday: The Girls (and the Boys) in the Boats!

Make it 23 HOCR wins for CBC’s Greg Benning

Proving that you don’t have to start first to finish first was Australia’s Ian Luxford, who won the Men’s 70+ singles.

“I was to be the number one boat off, but I was late to the start,” said Luxford. “So I was told to go to the back of the queue, and I had to wait for about 50 odd scullers to go before me. There were about nine other late comers as well. At least I went off at the start of the late comers and had many scullers to pass. I had a fairly good course the alignment I found was pretty good going through the bridges, and I just managed to win by two seconds!”

HOCR Friday: The Girls (and the Boys) in the Boats!

Ian Luxford, Men’s 70+ Singles winner

Grand Masters, Senior Masters and Veterans Doubles

New course records were set in three out of the four Senior Masters and Grand Masters Doubles, showing maybe that good partnerships don’t just age well, but that they also get faster.

Seattle College Club’s Megan Gradek and Melissa Pearlstein, who started fourth, unrolled the field and finished in 19:02, almost 15 seconds ahead of the previous mark.

HOCR Friday: The Girls (and the Boys) in the Boats!

Seattle’s Pearlstein & Gradek, winners of the Women’s 50+ Doubles

“We were really just focused on on the course and on executing our plan,” said Gradek “It’s extremely gratifying. You never know until you get out there and in the race how we’re gonna go, because we had really amazing competitors, former Olympians, national teamers, pretty significantly strong masters competition. We don’t row this course every weekend, and anything can happen.”

HOCR Friday: The Girls (and the Boys) in the Boats!

Toronto’s Wilkie & Black

Toronto Sculling’s Norma Wilkie and Tracey Black won the women’s 60+ Double in 19:49 shaving, pulverizing the previous record by nearly 40 seconds, while Roy Colven and Matthew Biery, also from the College Club in Seattle, won the Men’s 60+ double in 18:12, 6 seconds faster than the record which they had set last year.

HOCR Friday: The Girls (and the Boys) in the Boats!

Seattle’s Colven and Biery, 60+ Doubles Winners

So, what else happened at Head of the Charles on Friday? Only about a million and one other things; read about a few of them in our Friday “Notes from the Course” feature.