Rowing on Boston's Charles River: HOCR and its Winter Erg Challenge

Ami Kucharek

Written by , Head of Communication on

HOCR rowing event on EXR

Every rower dreams about rowing on the Charles River or even participating in the Head Of The Charles Regatta (HOCR). There are many reasons why the world’s largest rowing event is held at Boston’s main waterway. Read the article to find out what makes the Charles River such an exciting regatta location and how you get to participate in the HOCR’s Winter Erg Challenge with EXR.

The Charles River: from polluted past to urban oasis

Centuries ago, well before colonists set foot on its shores, Native Americans already considered the 129-kilometer-long Charles River a vital part of their lives. Originally named the Massachusetts River, it was later renamed by King Charles I after himself. In its more recent history, the Charles River was notorious for being highly polluted with sewage water streaming into Boston’s waterway. Fortunately, great efforts in environmental conservation and water quality management have led to significant improvements, transforming it into the clean river we know today.

Boston Charles River

Nowadays, the Charles River plays a pivotal role in Boston's infrastructure with its shores hosting a variety of recreational and educational facilities. The riverbanks feature relaxing state parks and event locations such as the Hatch Shell where the annual Fourth of July concert is held. From vantage points on the riverbanks, you can also spot two of the world’s most famous universities: Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Due to the Charles River’s gentle current, it’s an ideal spot for both amateur and pro water sports such as kayaking and rowing. The proximity to the university led to a line-up of boathouses including the Boston University’s DeWolfe Boathouse and the Northeastern University’s Henderson Boathouse.

What makes the Head Of The Charles Regatta so unique

The Head Of The Charles Regatta is the world’s largest international rowing competition spanning 3 days. It’s famous for its spectacular setting and challenging course. Held every October, this prestigious event draws thousands of athletes, vendors, and spectators.

Since the regatta’s conception in 1965, the 3-mile race has evolved into one of the most esteemed rowing events attracting participants and teams of all nationalities, ages, and capabilities to compete for one of the iconic Head Of The Charles Medals. Over the years, the regatta has become a highlight for locals, (indoor) rowing brands, and rowing enthusiasts alike to connect over their passion for the sport. In 2023, EXR and Fluidesign attended the HOCR together to represent innovative rowing on and off the water.

DeWolfe boathouse in EXR

While Boston forms a beautiful backdrop for the competition, the Charles River itself is considered rather difficult to navigate due to its many bridge pillars and winding turns. Before the race, competitors are instructed which bridge arches they’re allowed to use in what specific situations. Taking certain shorter routes may lead to time penalties. As a result, ever so often boats crash into each other, shattering not only the dream of crossing the finish line first.

Participate in the 2024 HOCR 4702 Winter Erg Challenge

To bridge the long gap between the annual HOCR events, the Head Of The Charles Regatta organizes the 2024 HOCR 4702 Winter Erg Challenge. This online challenge invites indoor rowers from all over the world to compete over 4702 meters from the comfort of their homes.

Online HOCR 4702 event on EXR

During the official HOCR Winter Erg Challenge period, EXR and the Head Of The Charles Regatta join forces and will host two exclusive group rowing sessions to promote the challenge. Naturally, the events will take place in EXR’s virtual recreation of the Charles River. This gives rowers the opportunity to virtually row at the iconic HOCR course, transforming the on-the-water event into an immersive 3D experience.


Sign up for EXR’s Winter Erg Challenge event 1 or join its second edition!

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