For the first time since 1996, the Yale Heavyweights cruised to a three-race sweep of their rivals from Cambridge-—and Friday's 4V/Combination boat win for the Elis made it an even four. The results marked the 5th consecutive win for Yale in the Varsity eight, a streak now stretching to 2015.
In the 1V race, Yale had a bow to stern advantage after 25 strokes and while Harvard kept it close until the halfway mark, from that point on Yale steadily moved away, cruising to a 25-second victory in a new upstream record of 18:17. Harvard, who finished in 18:42, were themselves only 7 seconds outside of the old course record of 18:35.
The Harvard 1V kept it close early
Yale coach Steve Gladstone bestowed high (but unfortunately unprintable) praise on his stroke, NZ M8+ Olympic champion Dan Williamson, for setting the aggressive tone for the race. Williamson, in turn, gave credit to his boat:
"There's only one way to go into a race like that, and that's hot off the line and then just listen to Vlad [Saigau, Yale coxswain] and hold on. The boys executed our race to the tee perfectly today."
"It's pretty easy in a race like that to look across and start and do calculations in your head, try to figure out how much you got left, how much could you pull off, that kind of thing, but not for one second did a single man hold back today, and you could feel it the whole way down the course. I for one, I'm incredibly proud of the boys for not the result, but the way we we rowed that piece."
Yale stroke Dan Williamson (left)
"Harvard was throwing everything at us in the second quarter," added coxswain Vlad Saigau. "When we got to the third quarter, we realized we had a bit more, so we decided to just put the hammer down and we started edging away. That third quarter is where you separate men from boys. And as soon as we started moving away, I think we got a lot of confidence, and whenever you have confidence, you loosen up and start rowing better."
"In the last mile, we let all the emotions out and just emptied the tanks. I realized looking at the times that we had a chance of breaking the record, and so in the boat, we were all saying, 'Let's break the record!'"
The Harvard 2V led early
In the 2V event, the Harvard crew charged boldly off the line and led Yale for the first mile or so before Yale ramped up, pulled ahead and pulled away for a comfortable win, celebrating as they crossed the finish line with a pause at the gunwales, whew.
"That was a great race," Yale stroke Liam Galloway said to the Harvard crew. "Not many crews would have courage like that."
Gunwale pause at the finish line? Cheeky.
Similarly, in the 3V race, Harvard led early, only to be reeled in and passed by Yale, who nonetheless were never able to completely shake Harvard off. Yale won by a little open water, in the closest margin of the day.
"The rivalry is so strong, not in a negative way. Not in an angry way," said Gladstone. "But the rivalry is deep, powerful. And you have to win this if you're going to have a good season at Yale."
The 3V race saw the closest finish of the day
Gladstone reflected on his squad's sweep as a full team effort.
"There was no tactic that won that race. It was very simply the crew laying out their best effort. I think it was the best effort in each boat," said Gladstone.
The Yale 2V
"Their effort was consistent. That consistency comes not from emotion; that comes from devotion to the training. And in the devotion of the training, the oarsmen build bonds, very, very strong bonds, simply because they're all pushing each other, and they're all supporting each other.
"It's an inner directed thing, it's not top down. It's their energy, and their will to be the best, that makes things work. But be very clear, this might be antithetical to what you think, but races are not won on race day. It's preparation, preparation, preparation. And to have that kind of preparation requires a strong, supportive squad. People that support each other, go through the struggle. So that's it."
Harvard gave credit where credit was due.
"All the boats rowed hard," said Harvard coach Charley Butt. "We had to, to stay in the race. Yale was able to move away in the second half, at about two and a quarter miles, we got a little tired, and I think Williamson was able to push it on, as they did at the Olympic final. I'm particularly proud of the way everybody showed up. Yale dominated the IRA, with the exception of the Cal 1V. They are exceptionally deep, they're rowing a good stroke, and they're coached well."
"If you get a real commitment from the administration, Yale's a great example of that. They're clearly committed. They have national titles in lacrosse, men's ice hockey, rowing, and league titles in basketball and football. That's been part of the President's mission. They're giving people chances to compete. Who can complain about that?"
Shaking Off the Rust
Even the oldest intercollegiate athletic contest is not rust-proof, especially give a layoff since 2019 due to to COVID-19. The regatta's "Race Committee," which consists of alumni of both the Harvard and Yale programs charged with setting the course and making sure the event can be run, had an uphill battle this year to get the site ready.
"It was pleasurable to come back, but there was there was some rust," said longtime committee member Gregg Stone, a Harvard alum. "We had a little longer than usual setup time, both last weekend and today. I think the most notable is our neighbor who owns the finish line across the way inserted a granite obelisk where he thought the finish was, but it's off by a little bit, so that made setting up the finish line and getting the sight lines a little challenging."
The rock stayed blue
"We have ranges at the two- and three-mile mark for the starts of the JV and 3V races and because of two years of growth, those ranges were completely overgrown and the stakes were rusted, so we had to do some digging around."
"We're on the Coast Guard base with permission, but that took a while to work through the security. It's just tough when you go onto a US military base by boat with implements of destruction, without getting stopped and asked a lot of questions. "
As far as the bigger picture goes, Stone acknowledged that the event, despite its' storied history, is not immune to the march of time. "The attempt is to always keep it 'business as usual,'" said Stone. "The sub base continues to expand and over the winter, we got news, I think Steve Gladstone became aware of it, there was a 'Notice to Mariners' that the Navy is going to further expand the sub base to the west."
"This used to be a straight course, and since the growth of the sub base, we have a dogleg in the course, and Steve [Gladstone] is quite concerned that the dogleg will get larger. So far, we're on the same course we were last time, which of course, does have a slight turn at the two mile mark and then turn back in the same direction at the two and a half mile mark."
"The race committee is really interested in safety first, fairness second, but the coaches have a little bit different outlook on it."
Notes from the Course
- Speedy track: the conditions were ideal for fast racing in New London, as all three races rowed with an incoming tide, a light tail wind and mainly flat water.
- Local rules apply: all race committee folks and officials working on the finish line boat were barefoot, a requirement by the yacht owner who loaned the craft to the regatta.
- Last one, Fast one: today's race was the final athletic event for longtime Yale sports information director Steve Conn before heading into retirement. Any final advice before heading into the sunset? "Always think before you hit 'send!'" said Conn.
Joyful mayhem in the Yale camp