Harvard is a wrecking crew
Rowers continue to dominate Yale
LEDYARD, Conn. — Upstream or downstream. Morning or afternoon. In May or in June. With sophomores or seniors. Before nationals or after.
For Harvard crew, the particulars don’t really matter. The Crimson just continue to dominate America’s oldest intercollegiate athletic event, yesterday defeating Yale by open water on the Thames River.
The victory was Harvard’s third straight in the series and 10th in the last 11 years, and gives it a commanding 91-54 lead in a rivalry that dates to 1852.
Racing in conditions that deteriorated as the regatta wore on — a nasty crosswind replaced a pleasant early-morning breeze — Harvard completed the 4-mile test in 19:40.3. Yale followed in 19:46.2, about 1.5 lengths back.
“Both crews gave strong efforts,’’ said Harvard coach Harry Parker. “The conditions were not what we expected and I was a bit concerned early on, but our crew was rowing well.
“I felt better with a mile to go, when I saw that we had more than a length on them. That’s the kind of margin you need to avoid a real battle at the end. Even then, you have to race all the way to the finish line. Yale never gave us any room to breathe.’’
Yale threw down the challenge as soon as the crews pulled away from the starting line beneath the Gold Star Bridge. The Elis overstroked Harvard and were rewarded for their efforts, seizing a three-seat lead in the first half-mile.
The Crimson, though, was unfazed, catching Yale just past the mile buoy and moving in front several strokes later. That advantage gradually grew, helped along by smartly navigating the chop that dominated the third mile.
“We made certain they worked very hard to get that early margin,’’ said Harvard coxswain Kelly Evans, who kept her crew’s cadence at 33 strokes through most of the race. “And we knew that when we wanted to move, we could. Even through the worst of the conditions, we stayed clean and calm.’’
Yale, though, refused to go quietly, pushing back into the Crimson at every opportunity right up to the final strokes.
“I’m really proud of our crew and the way we raced,’’ said Yale coach John Pescatore. “We were aggressive and feisty. Our plan was to be the aggressor and, as soon as the boats settled in, to fight for the lead.’’
Even in defeat, Yale’s effort marked a rebound from the Eastern Sprints, where the third-seeded Elis stumbled in the morning trials and placed 11th.
“It took us more than a week to recover from that race,’’ said Pescatore. “And until this race was completed, we had reason to question how good we are.’’
Although Harvard came into the regatta with a 6-1 dual mark and had won the Sprints, it had questions of its own, mainly how its five sophomores would manage the longer distance.
“It was tough,’’ said 3-man Michael DiSanto. “For the first mile or so, you’re asking yourself if you should be pulling harder. But for the last three-quarters of the race, you’re happy you paced yourself.’’
Harvard now sets its sights on the IRA championships next weekend on Camden’s Cooper River, an event that determines the sport’s national champion. Yale (5-2) also will compete there.
The day began with Harvard’s freshmen taking a comfortable win to complete an undefeated dual season. Moving ahead in the opening strokes, the Crimson blew the race wide open at the mile marker and finished more than 4 lengths ahead of Yale, 9:32.7 to 9:47.6.
“The game plan was to make sure we were the stronger crew in the second half of the race,’’ said Harvard freshman coach Bill Manning. “We were just fortunate that we were also the stronger crew in the first mile.’’
The junior varsity race followed a similar path. An experienced Crimson boat (five seniors) took control in the first mile and pushed its lead to open water just beyond the mile marker.
Although Harvard never quite broke Yale’s spirit, it was never threatened either, winning the 3-mile race by nearly 5 lengths, 14:46.8 to 15:02.4.
The Harvard and Yale crews first met on Aug. 3, 1852, in a 2-mile race on New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee. The race moved to the Thames River 26 years later and has been held regularly there ever since.