The Yale-Harvard rivalry was played out in full force on the water this summer, with both schools’ crews vying against each other for national and international acclaim.
While the Bulldogs beat out Harvard’s varsity boat in a photo finish to claim the June 2-4 Intercollegiate National Rowing Championships, the Crimson enacted revenge on July 1 through their heavyweight freshman boat, which eliminated the Yale boat from the Henley Royal Regatta at the quarterfinal stage.
“[The summer’s results are] just confirmation that if you keep on with the lightweight ethic — work hard, be light and love the team — good things will happen,” said head coach Andy Card, who has led the team to five national titles since taking the reins in 1990.
This year’s IRA regatta victory was not easily won. As crews from Harvard and Yale pulled over the finish line, neither squad knew which would be the victor. Five minutes later, it was announced that Yale had clinched the lightweight crew national championship by just 0.02 seconds.
“We all just went crazy,” said captain Andrew Hakanson ’11, describing the team’s reaction to the announcement. “From my perspective, this year was amazing, but it’s actually been a four-year effort … and it’s great finally to win the national championships.”
While the varsity boat had a third-place finish at the May 15 Eastern Sprints, Will Zeng ’11, who sat in the four seat at the IRA Regatta, said the crew was not content to sit on that result.
“The last thing that Card told us before we launched was: ‘Finish it,’” he said. “In the last race of our last season, we wanted to finish the whole thing.”
And finish it they did. The Elis pulled ahead with the Crimson in the last 500 meters of the 2,000-meter race, edging out the Harvard boat by a 0.02-second margin.
In claiming the national title, the first varsity boat also won the opportunity to represent the lightweight crew class in the Temple Challenge Cup at the Henley, which took place between June 29 and July 3 on the River Thames in Henley-on-Thames, England.
At Henley, however, the Bulldogs saw a reversal of fortune and finished three-quarters of a length behind Harvard’s heavyweight freshman eight in the quarterfinal stage.
Although the Yale boat was in the lead at the Barrier — the first of two progress markers along the approximately 2,112-meter course — by the Fawley, the Crimson had struck ahead, holding on to finish the race in a time of 6:12, a new record for the competition.
“[Harvard] never broke us, although they did do something in the middle with heavyweight power that we just couldn’t match,” Card said.
Still, the Elis’ top-eight finish came as the result of two wins: a one-and-a-quarter-length victory over a crew from St. Hild and St. Bede College, Durham, on June 29 and a half-length verdict against Florida Tech on June 30.
The loss ended the Bulldogs’ run on the River Thames, a course on which they have seen success in the past. Yale was the first non-British school to win the Temple Challenge Cup, claiming victory in 1996 and, most recently, in 2000.
Max de La Bruyère contributed reporting.