Head of the Charles Regatta Appoints New Chairperson

The Head of The Charles Regatta (HOCR) recently announced that their board of directors has elected Kathy Kirk as the new chairman of the Regatta. Kirk previously served as the managing director of the HOCR since 2008 and succeeds Edward Smith, who has served as chairman of the board since 1987 and has established himself as an integral figure in the success of the Regatta.

Kirk takes the helm of the Head of The Charles as it prepares for its 52nd annual race, which is set to take place later this year on Oct. 22 and 23. According to the Regatta administration, it attracts close to 11,000 competitors and more than 400,000 spectators annually and expects to expand upon those numbers in this year’s event.

In its 51 years of operation, the Head of The Charles has become the largest two-day rowing competition in the world and a cornerstone of the greater Boston community. The appointment of Kirk as chairman marks what Fred Schoch, the executive director of the Regatta, called a “timely and exciting move” for the HOCR in a press release.

“I’m glad that the people behind the Regatta are passionate about it and that their is good leadership there,” Sean McOwen, CSOM ‘17. “I never really think of the people behind the scenes that make the Head of The Charles possible, but the success of the event really shows the level of their commitment and I think it’s fair to say that it has become one of the greatest treasures of Boston.”  

Along with her experience with the HOCR, Kirk also brings a passion for rowing cultivated during her career as a rower, including her time as a member of Radcliffe lightweight crew team. A long-time participant in the HOCR, Kirk graduated from Harvard College in 1980 with an A.B. magna cum laude and then from Harvard Business School in 1984.

After 25 years of leadership, including 19 years as chairman of the board, Smith, Kirk’s predecessor, was honored for his hard work and dedication with a trophy in his name at the HOCR’s 50th anniversary last year. The statement released by the Regatta earlier this month said that Smith “will continue to serve in an ex-officio role with the Head of The Charles.”

This year, however, Kirk will be responsible for overseeing the implementation of two new events and the expansion of the para-rowing events, which the HOCR announced in a statement released last week. The two new events to be featured in this year’s regatta are the youth quad with coxswain and the Directors’ Challenge Mixed Eight.

“The youth events are among the fastest growing and most competitive events at the Regatta,” Schoch said in the press release. “These rowers and scullers represent the future of the sport and the Head Of The Charles Regatta provides a wonderful opportunity for them to compete on the same stage as the top collegiate athletes, national team members, and current Olympians.”

Praising the recent expansion of the para-rowing events, Ellen Minzner, director of outreach for Community Rowing, Inc., and a U.S. paralympic coach, said in the same HOCR announcement that she is excited to see the Inclusion events move to medal status. She said this inclusion would increase opportunities for high school and collegiate teams that will have significant long-term impact on rowing and paralympic teams.

The Directors’ Challenge Mixed Eight, while not new to the Regatta, will return after being discontinued 35 years ago. It will replace the Mixed Quad event. These additions bring the total number of events in HOCR up to 62.

Featured Image by Evan Gatti/ Senior Staff