The 138th rowing of the storied Harvard-Yale Regatta was one that the men’s heavyweight crew team would rather forget.
On June 7 in New London, the nationally-ranked No. 1 Crimson (7-0) dominated the waters, sweeping the varsity, junior varsity and freshman races for the third consecutive year and securing the rowing version of the triple crown. Harvard entered the competition having already won the national championship at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association Regatta and the Eastern Sprints title.
In the varsity race, Harvard clocked in at 18:54.4, the fourth-fastest upstream time ever recorded in series history. Nationally ranked at No. 17, Yale (2-7) finished with a time of 19:44.2, making the 49.8 margin of victory the largest between the teams since 1911 and the biggest in any upstream contest.
But for current captain Andrew Brennan ’04, a gold medal winner at this year’s Pan-American Games, the finishing times do not tell the whole story.
“The margin of defeat is not indicative of how hard we were trying or how much we wanted to win,” he said. “We were all going as hard as we could, but unfortunately we weren’t quite doing it together and never found the strong, sustainable rhythm that really makes a boat go fast. It didn’t help that Harvard was the fastest they’ve been in years.”
Yale’s 2-7 mark this year also fails to do justice to the Bulldog efforts. The Bulldog wins came against the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University, helping Yale reclaim the Blackwell Cup. Among the defeats was a hair-length, 1.1 second margin to a Dartmouth crew that went on to place third at the Eastern Sprints. Yale also suffered losses to Eastern Sprints’ grand finalists Rutgers University and Brown University.
With this year’s victory at the Y-H Regatta, Harvard increased its record against Yale to 85-53, having won four straight and 17 of the last 19 contests. The Regatta — also known as The Boat Race — is the oldest American intercollegiate sporting competition and was recently dubbed the most venerable rivalry in college sports by Sports Illustrated. The varsity race, which stretches for a grueling four miles, is the longest of its kind in America and three times the length of a normal rowing contest.
Prior to the Regatta, much was written about the youth and inexperience of the Eli team. The Bulldogs’ first varsity boat was comprised of five sophomore oarsmen and three junior oarsmen. Coxswain Molly Wojcik ’03 was the only senior. In addition, this was the first four-miler for all Bulldogs except for Brennan, who handled the seven-seat for the second straight year, and two-seat Thomas Kalvik ’04, who stroked for varsity two years ago.
Yale also had a new head coach at the helm: John Pescatore. Pescatore was U.S. Rowing Association Coach of the Year in 2000 and two time U.S. Olympic oarsman. He rowed for his Harvard counterpart, Harry Parker, while training for the U.S. National Team. Both Pescatore and Parker are University of Pennsylvania graduates.
Parker has coached the Cantabs for 41 years, compiling a 35-6 mark against Yale in that span.
At this year’s Regatta, Parker and Pescatore’s rowers set off on the Thames on an early Saturday morning that featured a drizzle and calm waters. The Eli varsity eight, who were in the east lane, soon fell behind by one-boat.
“We were with them for the first quarter mile, but then they moved ahead, and we couldn’t keep up,” Brennan said. At the one-mile mark, Harvard gained a 13-second advantage and kept adding to it as the race progressed upstream.
The results were similar in the three-mile junior varsity race, where Harvard inched out to open water at the half-mile mark and extended its lead to three boat lengths after a mile, winning 13:57 to 14:31.2. The Crimson’s race day sweep was completed with a victory in the freshman race: 9:49.4 to 10:06.8.
The Bulldogs now are looking ahead to next year’s Regatta.
“Our practices start on Wednesday [today], and we train through June to prepare for this race,” Brennan said. “Our entire varsity is returning from last season, and a solid class of sophomores will join the rest of the varsity in competing for spots in the top eight.”