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Head of the Charles

Head of the Charles Regatta Canceled Due to Coronavirus

The race will be conducted remotely, with the hope of returning to the Charles River in 2021

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The annual Head of the Charles Regatta scheduled for this fall has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, organizers announced Wednesday.

"We hope this message finds you safe and healthy. Today we are announcing that the Head Of The Charles will not be held in-person on the Charles River this fall, and instead we will hold a global remote event," organizers said in a Facebook post announcing the event's cancellation.

The Head of the Charles Regatta is the world's largest 2-day rowing race, drawing 11,000 athletes from around the world, ranging in age from 17 to 90-plus. It also draws thousands of spectators and volunteers, and a recent analysis showed it has more than a $75 million in economic impact on Massachusetts.

Fred Schoch, executive director of the Head of the Charles, said the organization's top priority is holding a regatta that is safe, competitive and fun.

"While we are deeply disappointed that health and safety conditions throughout the world prohibit us from doing that this year, our team is hard at work developing a global remote event to be held this October," he said.

Schoch added that "We all look forward to hosting the Regatta on the Charles in 2021."

Organizers said athletes will be able to compete remotely this year by racing the length of the Head of the Charles (4,702 meters) on their own body of water or a rowing machine. A full lineup of events, formats and rules are expected to be announced in mid-August, with registration opening Sept. 1.

All entries that were guaranteed will roll over to 2021.

The regatta is the latest in a series of local events that have been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, including the Boston Marathon, the South Boston Saint Patrick's Day Parade and the Boston Pride Parade.

Gov. Charlie Baker said he was "saddened" by the decision to cancel the race, but understands it.

"COVID changes many things and it is better to be safe," he said. "My very best wishes to all of the competitors and we all look forward to having the Regatta back on the Charles River next year.”

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh thanked the board of the Head of the Charles for reimagining the regatta as a remote event.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many of Boston’s favorite and important traditions, but it also has proven that whenever Boston is challenged, we respond with resiliency," he said. "As a city, and across all sectors, we are taking collective action to keep our residents safe and healthy. I look forward to welcoming back all of the competitors next year."

The only previous time in its history that the Head of the Charles Regatta was not held on the Charles River was in 1996, when a historic rain and wind storm forced its cancellation.

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