Former Olympic Oarsman Kurt Somerville to Compete in Head of the Charles

October 15, 2018
KFS rowing

(The 1980 U.S. Olympic Eight. Kurt Somerville is third from left.)

This year marks the 54th Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston, MA, the largest two-day rowing race in the world. More than 11,000 athletes from 23 countries around the world will come together to participate in the highly anticipated competition on October 20-21, 2018.

Wellesley native and former Olympic and national team oarsman Kurt Somerville is among those participating in the event. Somerville began his rowing career in 9th grade at Noble and Greenough School and continued at Dartmouth College, where he was named captain of his team.

In 1980, Somerville, coached by the legendary Harry Parker, was one of the athletes set to compete for the U.S. in the eight-man boat race at the Summer Olympics in Moscow. However, on March 21, President Jimmy Carter announced that the U.S. would boycott the Summer Olympics in Moscow, a decision that was made after the Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan a few months prior.

Although the decision ultimately was final, Somerville and his teammates were still able to compete in a handful of pre-Olympic races. Over the course of the summer they raced the entire Olympic field, except the Soviets. The U.S. eight lost only to the East Germans—who went on to win the gold medal—and twice beat the English who went on to win the silver medal. Somerville and his crew ended their summer by setting the course record in Amsterdam and winning the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley.

Kurt explains that, “as bad as the boycott was, it's probably the reason that boat is so close as it is today." They have raced together in the Head of the Charles Regatta almost every year since 1980. Somerville will be racing with his Olympic teammates on Saturday, October 20, in the Senior Master Eights event. He will be racing Sunday with his Dartmouth teammates in the Directors Challenge Quad.

Somerville remains active in the rowing community. He is a founder and trustee of Community Rowing Inc., the country’s largest public access rowing program; a founder and director of the CRASH-B Sprints World Indoor Rowing Championships, where he also served as president for 15 years; a director of Cambridge Boat Club and chair of the Investment Committee; and a Steward of the Friends of Dartmouth Rowing.

For more information about the 2018 Head of the Charles Regatta: