New Zealand rowers excelled today as Nathan Cohen beat Mahe Drysdale in the Head of the Charles regatta to claim the overall championship single scull title in America’s biggest rowing event in Boston.

Cohen beat the Olympic bronze medallist Drysdale for the first time en route to winning in a time of 17 minutes 33 seconds, more than 8sec ahead of Michael Sivigny, of Nashua.

He was more than 20sec ahead of Drysdale, the three-time world champion.

Drysdale finished in sixth, with New Zealand under-23 world champion Joseph Sullivan 11th.

Cohen had finished a half-second behind the winner and 0.1sec behind Drysdale in last year’s race.

There were eight course records set on the first day of competition, including a victory for New Zealand’s Emma Twigg and Juliette Haigh in the women’s doubles.

They set a record time 17min 46sec over the 4.8km upstream course.