Bulldogs Prepare for Saturday's 144th Yale-Harvard Regatta

Bulldogs Prepare for Saturday's 144th Yale-Harvard Regatta

Races Will Be Held on New London's Thames River

Related Links
Complete Notes in PDF Format
Thames River Boat Launch
Weekend Weather Forecast for New London, Conn.

Saturday's race marks the 144th edition of the Yale-Harvard Regatta. The crews first met in 1852, and have competed for the Sexton Cup annually since 1859. On all but five occasions since 1878 the Regatta has been held on the Thames River in New London. Three events are scheduled for Saturday, beginning with the two-mile freshman race for the New London Cup. The three-mile junior varsity race with the F. Valentine Chappell Trophy at stake follows, and the event culminates with the four-mile Sexton Cup race between the varsity eights, the longest rowing race in the Western hemisphere. The overall regatta champion also receives the Hoyt C. Pease and Robert Chappell, Jr. Trophy. A special combination race with boats made up of rowers from the third varsity and second freshman crews kicks off the Regatta weekend on Friday afternoon. The winner of the combination race gets the James P. Snider Cup and earns the right to paint its school colors on the rock near the finish line. Saturday's races will all be held downstream, breaking a nine-year string of upstream races, while the Friday combination race will be held upstream.

Sports Illustrated named this event the most venerable rivalry in college sports, and its history predates the great football rivalry between the schools by 23 years. Crews from Yale and Harvard first met on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire on Aug. 3, 1852, the first intercollegiate athletic competition of any kind in the United States. Harvard won that first meeting and has built an 89-54 lead in the series. Harvard's junior varsity holds a 69-37 edge, while its freshmen are 65-39-1 against Yale.

Harvard swept the Bulldogs to regain possession of the Pease and Chappell Trophy as the overall Regatta champions. The Crimson won the varsity race with a time of 18:54.1, crossing the finish line 7.5 seconds ahead of Yale's varsity eight. Harvard registered a 14:03.2 in the JV race and beat the Blue by more than 20 seconds. The freshman race went to the Crimson's 8:53.8 time over Yale's 9:01.3.

HEAD COACH John Pescatore
Pescatore is in his seventh season as head coach of the Yale heavyweights. A two-time Olympian, he earned a bronze at the 1988 Seoul Games as the stroke for the American eight. In Barcelona in 1992, he was the stroke for the U.S. pair without coxswain that placed sixth. In addition, Pescatore was the stroke for the American eight that won the gold medal at the 1987 World Championships in Copenhagen. Pescatore also has international coaching experience. He served as an assistant for the 2000 U.S. Olympic Rowing Team, and coached the men's coxless pair to a silver medal in Sydney. He was named the 2000 U.S. Rowing Coach of the Year for his efforts. In 2002, Pescatore moved on to Penn, where he was an assistant coach. While at Penn he was also the head coach of Philadelphia's Vesper Boat Club, historically one of the most successful programs in the United States for placing athletes on national and Olympic teams. He began his coaching career at St. Ignatius College Preparatory School in San Francisco, where he was the director of both boys and girls rowing. St. Ignatius medaled in both the varsity and junior varsity eights in all seven of Pescatore's seasons. In 1997, he guided his team to the national championship. Pescatore was also an assistant at Stanford for three years before joining the national coaching staff. He is a 1986 Penn graduate, where he was the captain of the crew that won Eastern Sprints his senior year.

Davis is in his third season as the head coach of Yale's freshmen crew. The 14-year coaching veteran was most recently the head coach at UC-San Diego for three seasons. His crews won five medals at the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships, with UCSD winning the WIRA overall championship for the first time in school history in 2006. Prior to UCSD, Davis was an assistant with the University of Texas women's program. He spent three years in Austin, elevating the Longhorns to a national power. Texas qualified for the NCAA Championships for the first time in 2003 and finished that season ranked 12th in the nation, its highest ranking ever. He was the head coach of both the men's and women's teams at Colby College from 1996-2000, where he turned Colby into one of the nation's elite Division III programs. His crews won medals at the New England Championships, Dad Vails, Champion Regatta, IRAs, and the Head of the Charles. Davis began his coaching career at his alma mater, Hobart College, where he was the captain of Hobart's crew team as a senior in 1993.

This year's regatta will once again be broadcast on WKNL Kool 101 (100.9) and www.kool101fm.com. Charlie Hamlin (Harvard `70) and Andy Card will provide commentary. This past weekend, Card coached the Yale lightweight varsity eight to a silver medal at the IRA Nationals in Sacramento, Calif.

The Thames River will be closed to traffic on race day from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m., or approximately 15 minutes after the conclusion of the varsity race. Spectator boats may anchor along, but clear of, the race course. Spectators on shore can watch the action from various points along the river, including near the finish line at the railroad bridge.

Residents have put up Yale oars and signs, and a power plant on the river hangs a large "Go Yale" banner. The town, which is impartial, has installed signs at both ends of Route 12. One reads, "Welcome to Gales Ferry, Home of the Yale-Harvard Regatta" in blue, while the other reads, "Home of the Harvard-Yale Regatta" in red. Neighbors to the Yale camp have been known to re-paint the rock at Bartlett's Cove Yale blue after the race each year.

This year's race will be the 61st heading downstream on the Thames. Harvard holds a 34-26 advantage going in that direction. Harvard also holds a 38-23 edge in upstream races. Yale's 2007 win was the Bulldogs' first upstream victory since 1984. The Bulldogs have won two consecutive downstream races, in 1996 and 1999. Friday's combination race will be rowed upstream over the upper two miles of the course and finish at Bartlett's Cove.

Robert Cook Boathouse in Derby, Conn. was replaced by the Gilder Boat House for Yale's 2001 season. Gilder is an expansive facility that stretches south to the finish line of Yale's 2,000-meter race course, and incorporates design features specific to the needs of the program and the requirements of the site on the Housatonic River. Selected in a design competition in February 1998, the New Haven firm of Turner Brooks Architects created a building that is unlike any other boathouse in the world. The main building entrance brings athletes, coaches and visitors through the heraldic sliding oar "door" (a clustered frieze of aluminum oars) onto a porch that opens up dramatically to a framed view of the river. Here a generously expanding stair spills down to connect with the docks and the water below. The staircase and deck function as a multipurpose space for team meetings and other group activities. The athletes proceed out along the porch overlooking the river to enter the locker rooms. The coaches have their own office and lobby area. A lounge is located south of the river for viewing the approach of racing boats. This space, anchored by a large fireplace, is also designed to house trophies and other memorabilia.

For more than 100 years Yale has maintained its New London camp at Gales Ferry in preparation for the Regatta. The facility is owned and operated by the Yale heavyweight crew. Traditionally, after final exams, the rowers began a training camp at Gales Ferry in preparation for the four-mile marathon. The varsity house was originally constructed in the late 18th century as a private home, and the boathouse was designed by James Gamble Rogers, the architect who designed much of Yale's New Haven campus.

Mystic Seaport, located just 10 minutes from New London in Mystic, Conn., offers three rooms packed with rowing memorabilia and recognition. Plaques reflecting the members of the National Rowing Hall of Fame, governed by the National Rowing Foundation, cover the walls of one room, which also holds three of the Intercollegiate Rowing Association trophies, all massive pieces in sterling silver. Another room is a rowing art gallery stuffed with prints and posters dating from the 1830's. And the main display room contains hundreds of artifacts offering an overview of 200 years of rowing history. Prime among these is a large 1837 coin silver pitcher awarded to the Erie Boat Club for a five mile race which is probably the oldest team sport trophy in the United States. Rowing at Harvard and Yale is covered in a floor to ceiling cabinet which includes a New York Times front page article devoting five of six columns to the 1865 Regatta. There is also a special exhibit on the 1956 Yale gold medal Olympic eight, including an oar used by John Cooke `59. The majority of the items in the exhibition come from the collection of Thomas E Weil, Yale `70 and a member of that year's Yale lightweight Henley eight.

report filed by Drew M. Kingsley, Yale Sports Publicity