October 29 – 30, 2016
The 46th Head of the Schuylkill Regatta took place on October 29-30, 2016, and it had 8,500 competitors from 270 teams in 1,948 boats. “Head” races are a class of regattas generally three miles in length. Boats compete against one another and the clock, which starts sequentially, approximately fifteen seconds apart. The Schuylkill’s 2.5-mile course starts above Strawberry Mansion Bridge and ends just above Boathouse Row. The regatta brings together scholastic, collegiate, open and masters competitors.
I rowed in high school and college, so I spend this weekend as a volunteer to help the rowing community hold a safe regatta. The weather cooperated this year, so it turned out to be a beautiful weekend.
Philadelphia is a somewhat unique rowing community, so each year, this regatta brings together old friends from throughout the country. On Saturday evening, I attended a seventieth birthday party held at Fairmount Boathouse. The dinner was held for Phil Jonik, a friend I had rowed with in high school. Phil’s family has been active on Boathouse row for generations. Phil’s mother had been one of the founders of the Philadelphia Girls’ Rowing Club which was founded on May 4, 1938, and is the oldest active women’s club of its kind in the United States. Phil’s father had spent his time on the river managing regattas for Fairmount Boat Club. I had not seen Phil since we had graduated in 1964. Phil spent three years in Vietnam, before completing his degree and returning to teaching and counseling elementary and middle school children for the past 35-40 years. Phil has remained active in the sport along with several other of his guests.
Jerry Dudley and Greg Stefan are also former classmates who rowed at Msgr. Bonner High School in the mid-sixties and remain active rowers at Fairmount. Joining the festivities was another classmate, Clem Kopf who returned to the Head of the Schuylkill from his home in Boulder Colorado. Other guests included several Olympic champions and collectively, the guests had won several dozens of national championships.
I learned that my classmates, Phil, Jerry, Clem and Greg had won the first quod race at the “Head” Of the Charles® Regatta which is the world’s largest two-day rowing event. The first “Head” Of the Charles® Regatta was held on October 16, 1965, when my classmates were 17 and 18-years old. Jack Galloway, Esq. who coached us in high school joined us in celebrating Phil’s birthday. Jack remains active in Schuylkill Navy all these years. It was nice seeing some many old friends after so many years.