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Another Coronavirus Casualty: The Head Of The Charles Regatta

A crowd gathered on a bridge to watch the 2016 Head of the Charles Regatta. (Michael Dwyer/AP)
A crowd gathered on a bridge to watch the 2016 Head of the Charles Regatta. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

The Head of the Charles Regatta, which draws more than 11,000 rowers to Boston every fall, has canceled this year's races and will hold a remote event instead.

In a letter to participants Wednesday, the regatta's executive director, Fred Schoch, said organizers are "deeply disappointed" by the first cancellation since 1996, when heavy rain made rowing unsafe.

With three months remaining before this year's scheduled regatta, organizers "concluded that they would be unable to run the world class in-person regatta that the rowing community has come to expect while keeping competitors, coaches, volunteers, spectators and vendors safe," the letter said.

The Head of the Charles joins the Boston Marathon and scores of Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins games on a list of local sporting events claimed by the coronavirus pandemic.

With the Olympics postponed and World Rowing Championships canceled, the Head of the Charles — which featured athletes from two dozen countries last year — had been the premier event remaining on the sport's 2020 calendar before Wednesday's announcement.

"That's kind of why we held on as long as we did," Schoch said in an interview.

In place of the usual 4.7-kilometer race around the bends and under the bridges of the Charles River, the remote version of the regatta will pit crews against each other on rowing machines.

"We're working with several technology brands to bring that to life," Schoch said. "That could be very cool, if they could superimpose the Head of the Charles race course in their software so that you appear to be racing down the Charles."

Rowers also can submit times recorded on other bodies of water, but Schoch said "that will be more participatory than competitive" because differences in water conditions will make comparisons difficult.

Schoch said organizers will unveil details in mid-August and open registration Sept. 1. Entrants can hold their spots for the 2021 event.

On the business side, Schoch said the regatta's lead sponsor, BNY Mellon, has "graciously allowed us to roll over the sponsorship fee for next year."

"Obviously, other sponsors are not in a position to do that," he added, citing Brooks Brothers and Delta Air Lines as examples. Brooks Brothers filed for bankruptcy last week, and Delta reported a quarterly loss of almost $6 billion Tuesday. Both companies have withdrawn their Head of the Charles sponsorships.

"I will have an interesting challenge ahead, when we reset for 2021," Schoch said.

This article was originally published on July 15, 2020.

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