Crimson Wins by 5.9 Seconds
NEW LONDON, Conn. – The 145th Regatta between Yale and Harvard was, as usual, a 20-minute test of strength and willpower over a grueling four-mile course. And while Harvard grabbed the lead after the first mile Saturday morning on the Thames, the Crimson could never quite shake the Bulldogs. Yale kept Harvard within reach at all times but in the end could not overtake the Crimson, crossing the finish line just 5.9 seconds too late. That was the narrowest victory margin for Harvard in The Regatta since 1997's 3.5-second Crimson win.
“I'm very proud of this crew, and very proud of the way they rowed,” said Yale head coach John Pescatore. “They were aggressive and very feisty.”
America's oldest intercollegiate athletics event, The Regatta was an upstream race this year with the two crews starting under the Gold Star Bridge and racing to Bartlett's cove. Looking to make a statement, the Bulldogs took the lead in the first mile.
“This is the type of race where you want to gain control and maybe try to 'psych out' the other crew,” said senior Lucas Spielfogel, Yale's captain and the No. 2 seat. “The problem with that is that both of these crews are so tough and experienced that it's really hard to make a crew quit.”
Harvard made its move and settled into a lead right by the mile-and-a-half mark, which was also when the chop on the Thames increased for both crews as the wind created more waves. Rowing in the lane nearest the sub base, it appeared as if Yale also had to contend with some rebound wake bouncing off the booms. The Bulldogs did not let that serve as an excuse, however, as they kept up a dogged pursuit of the Crimson.
“It was a negligible difference,” Spielfogel said of the conditions. “It tends to be choppy in the middle of the race. There wasn't anything that changed.”
By the end of the third mile a pattern had been established: Harvard kept threatening to take an open-water lead, but the Bulldogs also kept verging on coming all the way back.
“They got a little ahead, then we tried to counter, then they responded,” said junior Alex Mastroyannis, Yale's bowman.
So it went as the two crews headed past the fans cheering on the shore of Bartlett's Cove: Harvard just barely ahead, but the Bulldogs never allowing the Crimson to get comfortable. Harvard's final time was 19:40.3; Yale's was 19:46.2.
That margin was in line with the recent trend towards extremely close regattas between these two long-time rivals, who first met in 1852 on Lake Winnepesaukee. Four of the last five meetings have been decided by 7.8 seconds or less, including a half-second win by Yale in 2007. Saturday's final result was all the more remarkable given that Harvard was coming off a victory at Eastern Sprints -- a traditional 2,000-meter course, roughly one-third the length of The Regatta -- where the Crimson had a 2.5-second margin of victory over second-place Princeton.
“Six seconds over a 20-minute race is not very much,” said Pescatore. “Harvard is obviously an excellent crew, and Sprints Champions. To be within six seconds is a really good effort.”
Shortly after The Regatta the Bulldogs were ready to turn their attention to the next challenge: the Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championship, where Harvard and Yale will both be in contention for the title. The Regatta had been held after IRAs in recent years, but a change in Harvard's academic calendar this year enabled the two teams to move The Regatta up in the schedule. Yale can now use Saturday's race as a way to help prepare for IRAs, which run from Thursday through Saturday of next week on the Cooper River in Camden, N.J.
“They're disappointed with the results, but they're ready to believe completely,” Pescatore said of his rowers. “If they row their best over 2,000 meters, they have the confidence they can compete with anyone.”
Earlier in the day Saturday, Harvard claimed the junior varsity race (14:46.8 to 15:02.4) and the freshman race (9:32.7 to 9:47.6). The Crimson also won Friday's combination race.
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity