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A head race is a time-trial competition in the sport of rowing, also known as crew to a few USA organizations. Head races are typically held in the fall and spring seasons. These events draw many athletes as well as observers. In this form of racing, rowers race against the clock where the crew or rower completing the course in the shortest time in their age, ability and boat-class category is deemed the winner.
Common categories of age may be high school and college-aged rowers as well as adults. Those over the age of 27 are typically referred to as "masters".
Common categories of ability may be: junior-varsity boys and girls as well as varsity boys and girls among high school rowers novice women's and men's and women's and men's among college-aged rowers novice, club, intermediate, elite and championship among masters-aged rowers; also differentiated by women and men.
Common categories of boat class may be:
- 1x: one rower with two oars, known as a single sculler
- 2x: two rowers with two oars each, known as a double scull
- 4x: four rowers with two oars each, known as a quad scull
- Coxless pair: Two rowers with one oar each (see sweep rowing)
- 4+: Four rowers with one oar each and a coxswain
- 8+: Eight rowers with one oar each and a coxswain
To minimize collisions, boats are started at 10 to 15 second intervals and are usually seeded so that the fastest start earlier.
The length of most head races are usually between 4 km and 10 km. Among the most well-known are the 4.25-mile (6,840 m) Head of the River Race that takes place each March on the river Thames in London, United Kingdom, the 3.20-mile (5,150 m) Head of the Charles race held each October on the Charles River in Boston, Massachusetts, USA., and the 8.6 km Head of the Yarra race held each November on the Yarra River in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
The second largest head race in the United States, next to the Head of the Charles, is the 5,000 meter Head of the Hooch, which is currently held in Chattanooga, Tennessee on the Tennessee River. Other notable head races include the Head of the Trent in Peterborough, Ontario along the Trent-Severn Waterway; the Head of the Rideau in Ottawa, Ontario, in March; the 3¼ mile (5,000m) Head of the Lake through the Montlake Cut in Seattle, Washington; the Fremont 4-Miler also in Seattle, Washington (last held in 2007); the 3 mile Head of the Ohio in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania held annually since 1986 along the Forks of the Ohio River; the 3 mile Head of the Schuylkill in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; the Head of the Fish in Saratoga Springs, New York. One of the longest head races is the 100 km Ringvaart Regatta in the Netherlands.
- "Home Page: Head of the River Race". Retrieved 2010-03-16.
- "Head Of The Charles Regatta". Retrieved 2010-03-16.
- "Head of the Yarra". Retrieved 2010-11-24.
- "Head of the Hooch". Retrieved 2010-03-16.
- "Head of the Trent". Retrieved 2010-03-16.
- "Head of the Rideau Draw". Ottawa Rowing Club. Retrieved 2010-03-16.
- "Head of the Lake Regatta". Retrieved 2010-03-16.
- "Seattle Pacific University Crew". Retrieved 2010-03-16.
- "Head of the Ohio". Retrieved 2010-03-16.
- "Head of the Schuylkill Regatta". Retrieved 2010-03-16.
- "Head of the Fish - Saratoga Rowing Association, Saratoga Springs, NY". Retrieved 2010-03-16.
- "OC&C Ringvaart Regatta". Retrieved 2010-03-16.