The men’s heavyweight crew ended the 2003-04 campaign on a promising though unsuccessful note, with all boats losing in a season-ending regatta against Harvard.
While most Yalies were well into their summer plans, the heavyweights were competing against their arch-rivals in the oldest intercollegiate event in the United States — the 139th rendition of the Yale-Harvard Regatta.
Despite an improvement on last year’s results, the Elis were beaten by nearly 25 seconds.
“The smaller margin … is definitely a sign of continuing improvement,” team captain Andrew Brennan ’04 said. “We cut the margin [in] half against a crew that was arguably better than Harvard’s 2003 crew. It’s definitely encouraging.”
The race was held on the Thames River in New London, Conn., on June 12. The race differs from other rowing competitions not just in history, but in format. Collegiate crew races are normally 2000-meter struggles.
The Yale-Harvard race, however, is a four-mile upstream marathon. The Elis managed to hang with the Cantab eight in the primary stage. Only Princeton was closer to Harvard at the two-kilometer mark at any time this season. But, as the distance mounted, the Elis dropped back and Harvard extended its lead.
“We dealt with the rough conditions about as well as we could,” Brennan said.
Harvard entered the race coming off an undefeated season and capturing the national title at the IRA Regatta the previous week. The Bulldogs placed first in the petite finals at the IRA and snagged a No. 7 ranking.
The Crimson overpowered the Elis on the water, finishing in 18:42.1 — just two tenths of a second slower than the course record set by Harvard in 1995. While the Cantabs soundly defeated the Bulldogs, the Eli eight cut the margin of victory by half compared to the 2003 race.
“Closing the gap by one-half indicates that something is changing,” Yale head coach John Pescatore said. “I do not think Harvard was slower this year, so hopefully Yale is getting faster.”
Yale’s second varsity boat was also soundly defeated, losing by 30 seconds in its three-mile test with a 14:16.4.
The Bulldog freshmen had the closest finish of the regatta. The Elis’ late surge failed to catch their crimson-clad adversaries but pulled their boat within four seconds of Harvard’s at the finish of the two-mile course.
“Looking back, that race was among the best we had this past season, if not the best,” Brennan said. “We did all that we could against a phenomenal Harvard crew, and I’m proud of our efforts.”
The freshmen’s strong performance along with the fact that the first varsity boat only lost three members to graduation is promising for upcoming Eli rowing seasons.
“The culture of the Yale team is changing,” Pescatore said. “The oarsmen probably worked twice as hard as last year. I expect many will work even harder this year. They really want to win.”