HENLEY-ON-THAMES, England -- Ending a superb rowing season with a loss -- even against an Olympic crew picking up racing experience in the run-up to Athens -- could sting a crew accustomed to winning.
But after falling to the Dutch Olympic eight in the Grand Challenge Cup men's open eights event yesterday at the Henley Royal Regatta, the Harvard men's varsity showed few signs of disappointment.
"They have no regrets," Harvard coach Harry Parker said. "They raced very hard against a very good crew, and are very happy with the effort. They knew the risk, and they're glad they took it."
After launching in a downpour, Harvard raced a tenacious, courageous race in the final of the Grand Challenge, closing on the Dutch in the final quarter-mile to finish two-thirds of a length behind.
The Dutch crew took a quarter-length lead in the first quarter-mile, and increased their rating to 37 strokes per minutes approximately 900 meters into the course. The tactic gave the Dutch a full-length advantage near the mile mark when the Dutch crew edged into Harvard's water briefly, and were steered by the umpire.
Harvard capitalized on the Dutch error to draw within three-quarters of a length, and then within two-thirds of a length, but could get no closer.
Racing later in the day in the Ladies Plate (one category below the Grand Challenge, and most often the domain of collegiate varsity eights), the second varsity's chance to put a Harvard crew on the medal stand evaporated when the top Leander crew blasted out of the gates to take a lead of three-quarters of a boat length in the first quarter-mile. The Leander crew kept the pressure on early, and had clear water by the halfway point, and two full lengths by the mile mark. The Harvard crew mustered an admirable charge at the finish, recovering all of the open water, but could not take back enough, and lost by an official margin of three-quarters of a length.
Two US crews won their Henley events: in the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup, St. Paul's School of Concord, N.H., beat Abingdon; and single sculler Cindy Bishop of Riverside Boat Club won the Princess Royal Challenge Cup over R.A.H. Geyser of South Africa.