GALES FERRY, Conn. -- The 145th edition of the Yale-Harvard Regatta, America's oldest intercollegiate athletic contest, is this Saturday morning on the Thames River. The racing begins at 9 with the freshman and junior varsity events followed by the 10:45 varsity race.
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 upstream, the ninth time in the last 10 years the event has gone in that direction.
THE TRADITION CONTINUES
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 a 90-54 lead in the series. Harvard's junior varsity holds a 70-37 edge, while its freshmen are 66-39-1 against Yale.
THE 144TH REGATTA
Harvard won all four races in 2009 including the varsity eight event by 20 seconds. The Crimson went 21:25.6 over the four miles. The JV race was the closest (under 3 seconds) with the Cantabs going 16:16.9.
HEAD COACH JOHN PESCATORE
An Olympic medalist and former U.S. Rowing Coach of the Year, John Pescatore has set Yale on a new course since being named head coach on August 28, 2002. The heavyweights have moved back into the upper echelon of Ivy League rowing and regained prominence on the national stage. The overall performance of the program has improved every year in Pescatore's tenure, culminating in 2006-07, as the heavyweights completed an undefeated dual racing season, combined with a silver medal at the Eastern Sprints Championship, a bronze medal at the Head of the Charles in the Championship Eight (the US National team finished first) and a gold medal at the Princeton Chase Regatta. And to cap off the year, the Yale heavyweights defeated Harvard in their annual 4-mile contest in what newspapers have called “the greatest comeback in the history of the regatta.” Four oarsmen from the 2007 Yale crews, all recruited by Pescatore, were invited to compete for seats on the US National Team for the Under-23 World Championships. In the year prior to coming to Yale, Pescatore was an assistant coach at the University of Pennsylvania and Head Coach of the Elite Program at Vesper Boat Club in Philadelphia, preparing athletes for International and Olympic rowing teams. In 2000, Pescatore served as assistant coach for the United States Olympic Team and coached the men's coxless pair to a Silver medal at Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. The men's pair was the top performing American crew in Sydney, and for his efforts, Pescatore was named the 2000 U.S. Rowing Coach of the Year. In the seven years before coaching at the Olympics, Pescatore was Head Coach at St. Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco. Pescatore's crews earned medals in the varsity eight for seven consecutive years at the Southwest Regional Championships, winning three times, and also winning the National Championship in 1997. Prior to coming to St. Ignatius he was the men's freshmen coach at Stanford University from 1988 to 1991. As an oarsman, Pescatore won a Bronze Medal in the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea, as stroke for the American heavyweight eight. He was also the stroke for the heavyweight pair without coxswain which placed sixth in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. In addition, Pescatore stroked the heavyweight eight which captured the Gold Medal at the 1987 World Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark, setting a new world record in the process. In 1986, as Captain at the University of Pennsylvania, Pescatore stroked the Varsity Eight to the Eastern Sprints Championship, snapping a 31-year drought at the Sprints and putting Penn back on the map of Ivy League and national rowing. That same year, Pescatore's crew earned gold at the San Diego Crew Classic and set a new course record which still stands today, 21 years later. Pescatore began his rowing career at Holy Spirit High School in southern New Jersey, rowing 6-seat in the undefeated varsity eight his senior year, winning both the prestigious Stotesbury Cup and National Championship regattas.
FRESHMAN COACH WILLIAM BOYCE
William Boyce was named Assistant Coach for the Yale Men's Heavyweight Crew program in November 2009. Boyce, a 2008 graduate of Cornell University, was most recently the second assistant coach with the heavyweights at Cornell, and acted as the lightweight intern at Cornell in 2009. Boyce is a two-time Eastern Sprints Champion and National Champion, having competed with the Cornell Lightweights from 2005 through 2008. At Cornell, Boyce rowed the 6-seat of the Lightweight Varsity Eight as a senior and won both the Eastern Sprints (by near open water) and the IRA National Championship, with a stunning come from behind victory in the last 500 meters. Boyce went on to row in the Temple Cup of the prestigious Royal Henley Regatta in England and progressed to the quarterfinals. Boyce was named to the First-Team All-Ivy in 2008 and won the highly coveted Captains Award at Cornell for “outstanding performance by an oarsman as selected by the captain.” Boyce was a three-year varsity letter winner. As a sophomore in the Lightweight JV, he captured Gold at Eastern Sprints, and his junior year won Silver in a race so close it was uncertain for several minutes who had won. Boyce walked on to Cornell's lightweight team as a freshman after rowing for only a season and a half in high school. Before arriving at Cornell, Boyce rowed for the Mercer Junior Rowing Club in New Jersey. He began rowing in the spring of his junior year and was elected captain as a senior. Boyce was also captain of his high school swim team. He stroked the Heavyweight Varsity Eight to Mercer's first appearance at the USRowing Youth National Championships where they were grand finalists. Boyce has also worked as a coach at West Side Rowing Club's High Performance Junior Camp as well as Cascadilla Boat Club as an instructor for their adult learn-to-row program. Boyce enjoys hiking, swimming and filmmaking. He has worked as a film editor and cameraman.
ROWING ON THE RADIO
This year's regatta will once again be broadcast on WKNL Kool 101 (100.9) and www.kool101fm.com. Charlie Hamlin (Harvard '70) and Yale lightweight coach Andy Card will provide commentary.
WHERE TO WATCH
The Thames River will be closed to traffic on race day in the morning. 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 Bartlett's Cove.
TOWN AND GOWN
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.
A DIRECTIONAL MATTER
This is the 62nd upstream race between the rivals. Harvard 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 of the last three downstream races. They have raced 61 times downstream on the Thames. Harvard holds a 35-26 advantage going in that direction. Friday's combination race will be rowed over the upper two miles.
GILDER BOAT HOUSE
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.
LUCAS SPIELFOGEL, CAPTAIN
Lucas Spielfogel, currently in the 2-seat, has rowed with the first varsity the last three years. Lucas was a member of his crew team for two years at Pine Crest School and served as captain his senior year. He led Pine Crest to a third-place finish at the state championship, the best finish in the team's 15-year history. He was selected to the USA Jr National Team after just one full year of rowing. Spielfogel's coxed four (he was in the 3-seat) earned a fourth-place finish at the 2005 Junior World Championships in Brandenburg, Germany. His USA boat finished half a second behind third-place Poland. Spielfogel also rowed in the 2-seat for the 2006 USA Junior Eight boat that was fifth at the Junior World's in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Spielfogel played basketball at Pine Crest before joining the rowing team and he quickly became addicted to the intensity and camaraderie of rowing, which eventually led him to Yale. The Yale captain is responsible for the team's successful community service initiative this year. Lucas organized, procured funding for, and oversaw the production of Yale Heavyweight Crew calendars that were sold to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. A resident of Jonathan Edwards College, Lucas is a history major focusing on South African history, and wrote his senior essay on the changing roles of women in the late 19th and early 20th century in South Africa. He has recently committed to a two-year contract with Teach For America and will teach middle school science in Baton Rouge, Louisiana after graduating.