Unfazed by a howling headwind and some pretty serious chop, all four Harvard crews finished up their seasons with victories in the 144th Harvard-Yale regatta, or "the oldest intercollegiate athletic event in the western hemisphere," as it is known without hyperbole.
The preparations of the two crews could not have been more different, as Yale opted to skip the IRA to spend the better part of four weeks preparing for Harvard, while Harvard returned from the west coast and what by any accounting has been a fairly heavy travel schedule over the whole spring just 5 days before the racing with Yale.
Beyond the divergent approaches taken by the crews in preparing for the racing, the biggest storyline had to be the conditions; with the racing running downstream, towards the sea, and a big wind running directly into the current, the water for the three races run on Saturday was somewhere between "bad" and "biblical" for large parts of the racing.
Yale started off hard in this one, holding a slight edge early in the two-mile contest. Harvard was unfazed, held their ground, and began to claw their way back into the race after settling down in the first half mile or so, before starting to move confidently through. Yale kept the pressure on, but as the water worsened in the middle mile, Harvard rowed just that much better and began to open water on Yale. A small crab (amazingly, the only crab in the combined nine miles of racing on the day) late in the race in the Yale boat certainly did not help their cause, as Harvard went on to win this race by just over 7 seconds.
Junior Varsity Eight
This race, the three-miler, was the real barn-burner of the day with both crews near victory at one point or another. The crews started near level, before Harvard started to edge ahead, opening as much as a half-length or so of open water near the midpoint of the race. Yale, not showing an ounce of quit, started to crank it back up going into the last mile of the race and slowed ate away at the Harvard lead, closing to bow-to-stern, then pushing their deck further and further up through the Harvard crew as the Crimson held firm; at the line, the verdict was 5 seats for Harvard and both crews were clearly spent.
Any comfort in a four-mile race in awful conditions can only come from the certainty that one has the race in hand, and the Harvard V8 did just that, moving out to a commanding lead early enough so that they could maintain equipoise through the worst of the water, midway through the piece; the Crimson, off the line at 37 strokes per minute, had shifted down to a long 32 by midway, holding off a Yale crew rowing at times two or three beats higher than them. Both crews moved at about the same speed for the last two or two and a half miles or so, but the damage had been done, as Harvard kept Yale at a consistent near-20 second distance for the balance of the race; that margin would stand across the line, as the Crimson varsity completed the sweep by 19.5 seconds.
The Harvard-Yale regatta also features a Friday race, the "combi boat" of 3V/2F athletes, also won by Harvard, whose members then duly busied themselves into the night by painting The Rock in Harvard colors.
Beyond being a boatrace, the Harvard-Yale regatta truly has a life of its own on the margins, partly because of its age, partly because of the institutions involved, and partly due to its own evolution over the years.
You could almost say that some folks are more likely to be seen at the H/Y regatta than at a class reunion of the respective colleges; the regatta luncheon was well-attended by a swath of both recent and older oarsmen and coxswains from both schools, and the river is usually thronged by fans and alumni, both in boats on the shore. One Harvard assistant coach did feel a higher calling on the weekend though, and chose to attend his 25th high school reunion instead of Saturday's racing.
Training, living and racing in close proximity to the US Navy Subase in New London, there are bound to be some overlaps between the rowers and submariners. One program's coach has a friend who is stationed at the Subase, and invited the crew in for a tour of a nuclear sub, finally offering the athletes the chance to do a simulated missile launch. "What do you want to hit?" was the question. "[opposing] University!" was the unanimous response.
The officer typed in a few more coordinates, then asked for some final smart-bomb precision: "Window, or Door?"
With 144 runnings of the race logged, the history of the Harvard-Yale regatta has been fairly well chronicled and the regatta program offers a full set of race results, along with the obligatory notation of any special events, ie. "Yale collided with Harvard, Harvard's time is a course record," etc. The best note has to be the one accompanying the 1890 race: "Yale stroke broke oar, dove overboard. Yale still won the race."