It's that big. I thought about it last month. I thought about it last winter. I was still thinking about it three days after it already happened. The 2001 Head of the Charles.

Annually, for one October weekend, over 250,000 people crowd the shores and perch atop all seven bridges on the racecourse along the Charles River in Boston, making "it" the largest international regatta in the world. This year the US, German, Dutch, French, and Croatian national teams had entries in the event.

Even though more people attend "it" than the Super Bowl, game seven of the World Series, NBA Finals, and the Stanley Cup Finals combined, it remains an event that most people have never heard of. And trust me, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Our bus pulled into Boston around 4 p.m. Saturday, October 20th to a glorious spectacle of reds, whites, blues, and everything in between. Getting off the bus brings back a flush of memories from the previous year's rendition. I recognized the familiar smell of roasted sausages, heard the delirious clamor of spectators, tasted the brisk warm autumn wind, and touched the sacred ground with my bare feet.

"It" is an event only a small subset of the population appreciates. There was once a time where rowing was the sport of choice, a sport fit for the king to gaze upon, a sport worthy of large betting wagers. This weekend, Boston provides a snapshot of the way all major regattas used to be, albeit with a twist of the modern flare. Seeing all of the boat trailers, spectators, and majesty of the event makes me long for the recognition rowing used to have.

I wondered whether I would get desensitized to this awesome spectacle if all major regattas were like "it"? Would the Charles River lose it's unequivocal allure? Perhaps, but special or not, this river remained as my main focal point, as it must.

There have been countless stories of bridges, shorelines, and water taking bites out of people and boats indiscriminately. Her charm has put the best under her spell and broken many hearts.

Normally, the coxswain, my position, does not have a large impact on an outcome, but in this race, my role is magnified. If I can take the right lines through all of the bridges and turns, then I can shave precious seconds off the boat's time. An average crew with a great coxswain can beat a good crew with an average coxswain. And this is just that kind of race.

I am not saying that being a coxswain is physically taxing, but mentally it can be. Keep in mind I am driving the school's $35,000 boat that is 60 feet long, with a rudder the size of a credit card. On top of that I am responsible for the safety of eight fathers' sons through hairpin turns, bridge abutments, other impeding slower crews, wind, current, and noise.

This little bit of extra pressure is only comforting because it is the same pressure that all of the other coxswains must deal with. Fortunately, I am very confident in my abilities and I know that I can drive better than most of them on the water. Bottom line: Donald Lee is the man.

I am happy to report that we finished no. 10 overall and no. 5 among college crews. More importantly, we were within 4.6 percent of the winning time which guarantees us an entry for next year's regatta. What is most promising is that we had a bad piece and rowed at a lower cadence than most of the other schools (rowing at lower cadences usually means less speed with elite crews) and shortchanged ourselves. Despite all that, we managed to put out a decent effort.

The women's entry in the championship eight was also successful in that it finished almost twenty spots better than its bow number (bow number equals relative seedings based on the previous year's result). The women's four finished 6th overall and were within 3.2 percent of the winning time.

It was a good weekend for Cornell crew and we all look forward in racing in Princeton this next Sunday for the Princeton 3-mile Chase as we were riding off back to Ithaca Sunday evening.

Archived article by Donald Lee

December 16, 2015

Ithaca College Faculty Vote ‘No Confidence’ in President

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Approximately 78 percent of Ithaca College’s faculty members — or 316 of the 406 that participated — voted no confidence in I.C. president Tom Rochon on Monday after a similar vote in which 72 percent of participating students voted no confidence in their president following a string of issues over race and freedom of speech on campus.

“Since Rochon arrived on campus in summer 2008, faculty have issued many public statements, petitions, letters to the campus newspaper and op-eds articulating their opposition to his autocratic leadership style and other grievances,” said a press-release from three I.C. faculty members with the results. “This semester’s vote of no confidence is the product of several years of profound faculty dissatisfaction.”


Ithaca College students stage a walk out in protest of I.C. President Tom Rochon on Nov. 11. (Joon Lee / Sun Assistant Sports Editor)

“Both the faculty and the students have been clear,” said I.C. Prof. Mary Bentley, health promotion and physical education. “I can’t imagine how [Rochon] would lead in a place where faculty and students have not authorized him to.”

Out of 469 faculty members, 406 cast a ballot in the ‘no confidence vote’ — roughly 86.6 percent of all full-time, continuing faculty members eligible to vote.

“These results are also remarkable because so many people voted, despite fears of retribution in this toxic environment,” said I.C. Prof Nick Kowalczyk, writing, in the press release. “We have the most dismal morale in recent history,”

Some faculty members said they are hopeful that the vote will compel Rochon to step down.

“This vote is an absolute indictment of failed leadership,” said I.C. Prof. Peyi Soyinka-Airewele, history, in the release. “It is a signal of our unity and a clear statement from our newly empowered voice. President Rochon can now aspire to his finest hour by honoring the will of the campus and standing down with resolve and some dignity.”

Other faculty members expressed hope that the student and faculty votes will lead to meaningful action from the Ithaca College Board of Trustees.

“I think this vote will be a huge amount of data for them to chew on as well as the student vote,” said Bentley. “I think faculty are pretty clear that they’ve made their voice heard.”

Faculty are dedicated to improving I.C.’s campus, Bentley said.

“This is a very dedicated and intelligent faculty and I think often people don’t understand how faculty members spend their lives here. This is not an in and out kind of place,” she said. “I think they’re pretty dedicated to making this campus the best possible campus it can be and the most progressive campus we can be given the context of our time.”