The Harvard varsity completed another undefeated season and nabbed its third IRA victory in as many years, while the Yale lightweights led wire-to-wire to grab the national championship and end one of the most unusual streaks in our sport.
But first, the stats, factoids, wisecracks, and utter effluvia of IRA finals day 2005:
Harvard and Princeton heavies met four times this year, and in the last three races, less than four seconds cumulative separated the two crews.
Undefeated at IRA: Washington 2V bowman Evan Galloway has won the IRA four years running: three times in various fours, and today in the second varsity 8.
A crew from Army won its first IRA gold in school history in the straight four, but it's not Army's first medal; they won a bronze two years ago in the same event.
The men's straight four medal winner were an all-New York State crowd: Army, Colgate, and Cornell.
The men's pair was won by a pair (natch) of lightweights from Cornell; bowman Andrew Diebold is a repeat winner in the event.
One bowman in the pair was wearing a rear view sculling mirror. Dunno if I could do that at the IRA, or if you'd need it on a buoyed course?
During the alumni race, Fred Schoch was announcing the race with all the vigor of any other final on the day. As the crews approached the finish grandstand, he said "Give a big cheer for these alumni crews." A woman in the stands was heard to say: "What? This guy's nuts. These crews started this race yesterday."
Speaking of the alum race, some of the winners of the race were still walking around in their race uniforms 2.5 hours after the race. Someone needed to invoke the over-40 lycra rule…
In the light men's eight, Harvard's unusual and impressive streak of winning the national championship in every odd year since 1991 finally came to an end today as Yale led wire-to-wire to take the gold. Silver medals went to Cornell and the stupendous surprise of the day Penn took the bronze.
Sprints redux: the IRA men's light eight final included the same six crews that raced the Eastern Sprints final.
Penn's bronze medal was huge for the program; Penn coach Mike Irwin was so gassed after biking alongside the race, sprinting around the bottom of the lake, and flying down the dock gangplank, that after he shoved the crew off he had to go take one of the water bottles on the dock reserved for the athletes.
In the light women's eight, Wisco and Princeton came into the day with Wisco holding a 2-1 advantage in their three meetings this year. The field tightened since Sprints, but Princeton was unable to even the score against Wisco, and Wisco won it by about ¾ length, followed by Princeton for silver, Radcliffe for bronze.
After the lightweight men's petite final, I noticed that Rutger's winning time wasn't that far off the heavy grand just 12 minutes earlier. Then the next morning, I received the following note, which confirms a couple things - the wind was coming around a bit tail, but not much, and that the lightweight league has upped the ante a bit the past couple years:
It looked to me as if conditions changed to more tail for the lwt races, and I know the pitfalls of comparing times of crews who are shooting for medals in the grand with those who are in the lower finals....still, there wasn't that much discrepancy betwen the winning times of both events relative to their respective course records...check out final times for varsities of teams that fielded both heavyweights and lightweights at the IRA:
Heavies who went faster than lighties:
Harvard: H 531.7 L 5:45.5
Navy: H 5:42.9 L 5:46.9
Yale L 541.9 H 5:50.8
Cor L 5:43.4 H 5:48.4
Penn L 544.7 H 554.2
GU L 545.8 H 557.3
RU L 548.7 H 551.3
Col L 553.1 H 554.2
Harvard took the Ten Eyck points trophy, and Northeastern took the Clayton Chapman trophy for the most improved crew since last year.Northeastern was said to falter a little bit out of the gates, but otherwise the crews went out even.
There is a future after the IRA: the boat club secretary from Cambridge University in the UK was on site all weekend checking out the prospects. "Are you scouting?" he was asked. "Oh no, we don't scout. We're here more to meet the men who are coming next year, and to see some of the other candidates." Got that?
Much like the recordings of Chip and Seth we did a few years back worked their way almost immediately into the style and vocabulary of many coxswains, Cip's leap into Volp's arms at the Olympics has become the coxswain celebratory move of choice this spring. I must have seen two dozen in the past few weekends.
MV8 race description:
By the 500, Cal had a half-length on the field, and the other five crews were within a deck.
At 750 gone, Harvard and Princeton were even, a half length behind Cal, and a half length up on the field.
At 900, Cal was said to have taken a flutter, and Washington rowed themselves into the hunt, right at the heels of Harvard and Princeton, who were still level.
But by 650, Harvard and Princeton had edged out from Washington, and were coming back on Cal.
At the 500, Cal had two seats on Harvard, Harvard had two seats on Princeton.
By 450 to go, Harvard was in the lead for the first time, Princeton had drawn up to Cal, and the crews took it in from there. In the final strokes, Harvard and Princeton mowed down the field, but Harvard seemed to find more resistance against their blades, and pulled away for the win.
This one was every bit as satisfying as the last two, maybe more so, because before the year started, I would have said this was a longshot. After graduating six people from last year's crew, it wasn't clear we would have the boat speed. We're lucky to have some talented oarsmen who are willing to work hard, and to race hard. It took a while for us to do it today, but luckily they did it.
Dave Phillips: These races against Princeton are not for the feint of heart.
(laughs) no, they sure aren't, they sure aren't. It's a very, very strong crew, Princeton.
It seems to me in a race like this, it has to be a tactical race.
You know, it really isn't. you just have to go as hard as you can. Both crews are so strong, so steady, there are no weaknesses, you just row as hard as you can and hope you get there.
DP: But you have to know how long you can go all out.
No, you just go. Go until you can't go anymore.
Row2k: What was your experience watching this race?
(laughs for some time) Obviously some anxiety listening to it, but when we were close after the 1000 meter mark I thought we had a good chance. I don't think anybody is going to be stronger than we are in the second 1000.
They thought they were ahead of Princeton going into the third 500, and they caught Cal just past the third 500. But who knows for sure.
So the guys were pretty confident here late in the race?
I don't know if confident is quite the right word but they were on pretty good terms. You know, I think they're confident in their ability to close hard. Does that mean that somebody couldn't go with them? No.
Who in the crew has been in there all three years?
There are two, the seven man and the five man, two seniors. (Malcolm Howard and Aaron Holzapfel)
Yale lightweight coach Andy Card:
How did the crew pick us speed since Sprints?
The main thing is that they were always on time for practice. They really just had three good weeks of practice. They did a great job getting through graduation, getting through Memorial Day. It was really fun coaching them.
What tactics did you use in this race?
When we raced Harvard earlier in the year, we got out on them, and they just rowed back on us at around the 1000. Then at Sprints, it happened a little later, but we were closer. We guessed they were going to try the same thing, so we decided to try to match their moves, and see who could do them better. They try to move on the field at base cadence, which can be a very tough thing to do.
In reference to the Harvard streak.
You know, I thought Chip Davis (of the Rowing News) would ask me about the streak, and I was going to answer "What streak?" The odd year streak is clear, and Harvard the edge at Nationals, but it is evening out; since lightweight national championships started, Harvard has seven, Princeton has six, and now Yale has five.