CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) – U.S. Rowing re-established itself as the team to beat at the Head of the Charles.

The American national teams swept the championship eights for the first time since 2002 on Sunday at the 42nd annual regatta, which drew 324,000 spectators over two days.

The men’s team finished the 3-mile course in 14 minutes, 9.673 seconds to beat the University of Washington by 11 seconds.

The U.S. had won the men’s eights nine consecutive years before 2004, when it finished sixth after striking a bridge during the final turn. The national team didn’t field a boat last year.

“Two years ago I crashed into the bridge, so now it’s nice to be back, not crashing into bridges and winning,” men’s coxswain Marcus McElhenney said.

Starting from the 29th bow, the men’s team passed five boats to build a sizable lead.

The women’s team finished in 15:36.733 to win for the second consecutive year and fourth time in six years. The Canadian national team finished second, 18 seconds behind the U.S..

Starting from the first bow, the U.S. got off to a quick start and led the entire race.

“In the beginning we did feel a lot of pressure from Canada and Princeton because they wanted to stick with us as much as possible,” women’s coxswain Mary Whipple said. “So we just closed our eyes and put the hammer down.”

Thunderbird Rowing Center of Canada easily defended its title in the championship men’s fours, beating Stanford by 14 seconds. Thunderbird’s winning time of 15:38.135 was four seconds off the regatta record.

In the women’s championship fours, the University of British Columbia used a late surge to beat the Canadian national team by less than a second.

Canada led with less than 600 meters to go, but British Columbia made up nearly two seconds in the final turn to finish in 17:58.204.

Canada’s Western Rowing Club shattered the course record in the collegiate men’s eights, winning in 15:08, a full ten seconds better than the previous record.

Peking University, the first crew from China to compete in the Head of the Charles, failed to finish the race when its boat sank in the final stretch.

The team of hopefuls for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, collided with a crew from the Beaver Boat Club midway through the 3-mile race. Although water slowly seeped into Peking’s boat, it was able to chug along for more than a mile before the crack started letting in too much water.

At the final turn, the crew started to sink and had to bail with about 600 meters to go.

“It was just extremely unfortunate because they were like 50 strokes to the end and they had a fantastic time,” Peking coxswain Amy Sun said


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