The World's Biggest, Baddest Women’s Rowing Race

Today is the Women’s Eights Head of the River Race across the pond in Jolly Ol’ England. My Twitter feed is exploding with news of it. I’m mortified and ashamed to say I’d never heard of this race, but I’m finding many reasons to adore it:

·      Women only. And this is the 77th running of this race since 1930. ‘Nuff said.

·      Eights only. I love racing, but I also love getting races rowed and done expeditiously with as many of my teammates in the boat as possible. Box checked.

·      With 3,000 women from 320 crews, it’s the world’s largest women’s rowing race. Olympic champions, universities, masters, novices, and everyone in between participate on the same course.

·      It's a head race (a boat starts every 5-10 seconds, and they race for time). So there’s passing, strategic steering, current, and maybe some crashing. Major adrenaline rush.

·      A draw determines starting position—one event, one big race. This means a novice boat could conceivably start between two Olympic boats. Rowing equality, English style.

·      It’s on the River Thames, which boosts the race’s coolness factor exponentially.

·      The course is 6.8K (4 miles + 374 yards). Dear Novice Rower, this is one LONG race. Head of the Charles in Boston? 3 measly miles. You’d get your entry fee’s worth.

·      It runs right past Harrod’s. (Not that I’d stop to shop, but it’s iconic. I might have to look out of the boat for just a sec as I row by.)

·      It takes place…wait for it…in MARCH. Cold, windy, damp, barely back on the water, rain in your face, frost on the oars, don’t-let-your-backsplash-hit-me-in-the face March. Winter training would take on a whole new sense of urgency.

·      The race finishes after dark, and you’ll be stopped if you don’t have a light on your boat. (Honestly, can this race get any more badass?)

·      And, of course, they have killer t-shirts.

Intrigued? Check out the details in spades at And women, if you are feeling particularly tough, add it to next year's regatta plans.

photo credit: Australian National Maritime Museum on The Commons YWCA women's rowing team carry their boat from Gardner's Boat Shed via photopin (license)