Head of the Charles 2022
The Head of the Charles Regatta (HOCR) is one of the most prestigious and historic rowing races in the world. Athletes and spectators flock from around the world every year to the waters of the Charles River. With 11,000 rowers and hundreds of thousands of spectators descending on a 3-mile stretch of the Charles over just 3 days, the logistics of the event becomes a tall task.
Among the hundreds of volunteers helping to ensure the smooth running of the regatta, amateur radio operators are placed with safety launch drivers, referees, race control volunteers, and other key volunteers. These radio operators maintain a line of communication between safety personnel, river controllers, and others, ensuring the safety of all rowers and spectators along the course. The reason why this vital communication is handled over amateur radio rather than cell phones is that cell tower communication can often become overloaded or go down if there is a power outage. Since amateur radio operates at much lower frequencies and because we use powerful transmitters, we can facilitate communications even when all other infrastructure has failed.
In 2022, Olin sent 6 amateur radio operators to the HOCR: Ethan Chen '25, Carter Harris '26, Brooke Moss '25, Phillip Post '25, Zachary Sherman '23, Gia-Uyen Tran '25 volunteered both on land and on the water to relay information for event coordinators. This entailed waking up at 4 am in order to meet at the Massachusetts institute of technology boathouse at 6 am. We need to be there so early in order to leave plenty of time to prepare for the first rowers. After an initial debrief for the day, each radio operator moves to their assigned vessel or land patrol group. These teams usually include a boat operator, two lifeguards, and as well as one of us.
If everything goes well, then our role will just include routine communications on our status as well as the condition of the raceway. Thankfully, in 2022, there were no major medical or other race emergencies. The most eventful occurrence was when a rower locked their oar into a gap of the Boston University bridge. One of our boats raced over at full speed once there were no other rowers in the course to render aid. Fortunately, the rowers were able to grab a new oar and continue the race. All in all, this experience summarizes our role as the Head of the Charles: ensure everyone has the best race they can. If we do our job well, it means they won’t even know that we are there. This contribution to the wider community is what makes us come back each year to volunteer.
On April 18, seven undergraduate students from the Olin Collegiate Amateur Radio Club volunteered to work at the 2022 Boston Marathon. Using their skills and interest in ham radio, the group assisted operations staff with key communications at the famous road race.
See all five student accounts below:
Zachary - Medical station:
"As a radio volunteer at a medical station, I reported how many patients our station treated each hour and relayed van requests for runners who could not finish the race."
Sparsh - Finish line:
"I was responsible for doing radio communications for directing medical teams at the finish line to maintain an appropriate availability of medical help to finishing runners. This involved positioning medical volunteers, triaging emergencies, and removing bottlenecks in the flow of runners from the finish line to their families."
Phillip - Finish line:
"My assignment was with the medical director, east of the finish line portion of the Boston Marathon. This meant ensuring that all of the medical teams in half of the finish line section were properly supplied, and never overwhelmed with runners. The hardest part was negotiating with wave after wave of thousands of runners coming in at a time. My skills as a HAM radio operator were put to the test throughout the day when I had to organize multiple medical teams into areas where they were needed and properly hear supply requests through radio interference. Overall, my favorite part was the Boston community coming together for such an amazing event. It was an honor to be a part of it."
Brooke - Hydration station:
"My position as a radio volunteer at a hydration station involved reporting information about our supplies, keeping tabs on and reporting course conditions, and requesting medical assistance for runners."
Gia-Uyen - Babson:
"As a transportation volunteer, I was stationed in a medical bus that picked up runners that did not finish the marathon. I was responsible for providing updates on the location of our bus, keeping track of runners we helped, and requesting medical supplies."
Boston Marathon 2022
Boston Marathon 2021
For the 125th Boston marathon, four students from the Olin College Amateur Radio Club and Professor Whitney Lohmeyer worked behind-the-scenes to keep vital lines of communication open for Marathon operations.
On race day, Zach Sherman (Junior) was stationed with a medic and driver of the SAG/sweep bus, which picks up runners who "finish early" and brings them to the finish area. He routinely told net control where the bus was, where it was going, and who we were transporting. Sparsh Bansal (Senior) was the communications assistant to the finish line medic branch director, Tony Hawgood. They were responsible for organizing and supervising > 150 medics across the finish line to ensure adequate medical help was available at all times during the race. They also helped manage the EMS workload by triaging in case of emergency calls on the net. Regan Mah (Junior) was part of the Sweep 1 team, acting as their HAM and giving them updates from other radio calls, relaying any requests from the Sweep leader, as well as being on standby for calling EMS if necessary. Phillip Post (First year) was with the finish line medical commander, Jeff Crosby, operating as his HAM radio communicator. Phillip managed relaying all of Jeff's instructions to the rest of the sweep teams, assuring everyone was in the right position and doing the right job. He had to be everywhere Jeff was to assure that real-time updates could be delivered. Lastly, Whitney Lohmeyer (Faculty) was stationed with the Medical Logistics Director and was in charge of ensuring everyone in the finish area had sufficient equipment - external automatic defibrillators (EAD), emesis bags, gloves, masks and more!
Equipment used on the day of the race