LEDYARD, Conn.—The nation’s oldest rivals take to the Thames River Saturday morning for the 145th rowing of the Harvard-Yale Regatta, America’s oldest intercollegiate sporting event. The Eastern-champion Crimson heavyweight crew is seeking its 10th win against the Bulldogs in the last 11 years.
Following Friday’s 5 p.m. combination race, Saturday’s competition gets going with the freshman race at 9 a.m. The second varsity race follows at 9:45, with the varsity race at 10:45.
Whether on the shore, docked along the race course or traveling around town, fans can catch the call of the racing on WKNL, Kool 101 FM (100.9). Harvard graduate Charlie Hamlin ’70 and Yale alum Mike Curi will have the call from the course. The broadcast will also be available online at www.kool101fm.com.
The Varsity Matchup
The Harvard and Yale varsities have not faced off this season, and both crews enter their final dual race looking to finish the season with just one dual defeat. A narrow loss to Brown is the only blemish on each varsity’s resume thus far.
The Crimson (6-1) and Bulldogs (5-1) entered the EARC Sprints seeded second and third, respectively, trailing only the defending-champion Bears. Harvard avenged its dual loss to Brown and last season’s Sprints runner-up finish by outlasting the Bears and Princeton for the Sprints varsity title. Yale finished third in its heat and placed fifth in the petite final
Harry Parker, The Thomas Bolles Head Coach for Harvard Men’s Crew, addressed reporters on Tuesday at Red Top regarding the Crimson’s preparation for the Regatta. The media in attendance also spoke to Harvard captain Blake Pucsek and sophomore Michael DiSanto. Click here for The Boston Herald’s profile on DiSanto and here for a photo gallery from Media Day and Red Top. See the video below for Parker's comments to the media in attendance Tuesday.
Going the Distance
While most races are 2,000 meters in length, the Crimson and Eli varsities depart from that “sprint” distance to battle along a four-mile course. The varsity race is the longest of its kind in America and three times the distance of a normal race. (Each crew will take approximately 700 strokes to complete the course.) The combination and freshman races are two miles long, and the second varsity contest is three.
An Early Encounter
The last time the Regatta took place in May was a Yale win in 1981. The last Regatta this early in May was a May 22, 1977 Crimson win.
Harvard is on a new, earlier academic calendar this year and has been training at its Red Top headquarters in New London since May 19. The Crimson seniors graduate Thursday, two days before the Regatta.
For the first time since 1994, Harvard and Yale are racing each other before competing in the national regatta. While the H-Y Regatta has most often served as the finale of the collegiate rowing season, this season will wrap up with the IRA National Championships June 3-5 on the Cooper River in Camden, N.J.
College sports’ longest-running rivalry dates back more than a century and a half to a two-mile race, won by Harvard, August 3, 1852 on Lake Winnepesaukee in New Hampshire.
Saturday’s race is the 123rd on the Thames. Harvard leads the rivalry, 90-54, including a 73-49 edge in New London. The last non-New London race occurred on May 18, 1974, on Boston’s Charles River. This is the 65th straight year Harvard and Yale are rowing each other. The last time they didn’t meet was 1945 during World War II.
Following a one-year departure from the trend, racing will be held upstream for the 10th time in 11 years, ending at Bartlett’s Cove.
Ups and Downs
Harvard’s run of 17 straight upstream wins was broken in 2007, but the Crimson still leads the upstream series, 38-23. Harvard holds the upstream record with its time of 18:41.9 in 1995. Yale had won the last two downstream races, in 1996 and 1999, before Harvard’s win last year. The Crimson set the downstream (and course) mark of 18:22.4 in 1980.
Harvard has swept the last two Regattas, taking the 2009 varsity race by 19.5 seconds and the 2008 matchup by 7.5. The Crimson previously swept the Regatta for four straight seasons from 2001-04. It was a feat not accomplished since Harvard recorded five straight sweeps from 1971-75. Yale won two of three races in 2007 and last swept the Regatta in 1996.
The 2009 Varsity Race
Harvard’s 19.5-second win last year that completed the Crimson’s 20th undefeated dual season under Harry Parker. Harvard rowed out to a 2.5-length lead in the opening mile and kept its foot on the accelerator until the finish at the Gold Star Bridge. The crews battled tough rowing conditions that featured a strong headwind. The Crimson crossed the finish line with a time of 21:25.6, while the Bulldogs finished in 21:45.1.
The Second Varsity Race
The second varsity event has been the most competitive in recent years. Yale and Harvard had split the previous four meetings before the Crimson hung on for a dramatic two-second victory last season to extend its series lead to 70-37.
After one mile of competition in 2009, the Crimson led by 1.5 lengths. Harvard extended its advantage to more than two boat lengths at the two-mile mark. Yale fought its way back into contention with one mile remaining in the race. A strong sprint allowed the Bulldogs to walk into the Crimson boat, but Harvard held on for the victory, reaching the finish line in 16:16.9. The Bulldogs pulled in with a time of 16:19.2.
The Harvard second varsity is 5-1 this season, while Yale is 3-3. The Bulldogs are coming off a win in the Sprints petite final, while the Crimson placed fourth in the grand final.
The Freshman Race
Harvard leads the freshman rivalry, 66-39-1. The Crimson’s 2009 freshman win was its third straight and eighth in nine years. The Harvard Yardlings rowed to an eight-second margin over their counterparts from Yale’s Old Campus. After the Crimson got out to a lead, any chance for a Yale comeback was laid to rest when a Yale oarsman caught a crab 2,000 meters into the race. This allowed Harvard to pull ahead by two lengths and keep the lead the rest of the way. Harvard finished with a time of 10:43.2, and Yale clocked in at 10:50.1.
The Crimson has won each of its races this season, going 6-0 in dual racing and winning its heat and the grand final at Sprints with a stunning sprint past Princeton and Cornell. The Eli freshmen are 2-4, with wins against Brown and Dartmouth. They missed the Sprints grand final by less than one-fifth of a second and placed sixth in the petite final.
The Combination Race
Friday’s combination race is a chance to combine oarsmen from the varsity and heavyweight squads, but as is often the case, this year’s Crimson “combi” crew has a veteran feel. It features just one rookie, two-seat Matt Vincent (Mercer Island, Wash.), reflecting Harvard’s depth of veteran talent.
Similarly, Yale is racing all varsity athletes. Its third varsity eight is 5-0 this dual season and placed fifth at Sprints.
Crimson Coaching Staff
Harry Parker, the Thomas Bolles Head Coach for Harvard Men’s Crew, is in his 48th season. He has guided the Crimson to 22 varsity Sprints titles and 17 second varsity crowns. Parker’s dual coaching record is 297???44-1, and last season’s perfect dual record was his 20th. He is 40-7 against Yale. The third and fourth varsities are led by assistant coach Wayne Berger.
Harvard’s freshman coach, in his 12th season, is Bill Manning. He has directed the Crimson rookies to six Sprints titles. A Harvard freshman win against Yale would give Manning his fourth straight perfect dual season.
Sprinting to Success
The Harvard heavyweight varsity and freshman eights were among four Crimson boats to claim gold medals as the team captured its 30th Rowe Cup at the Eastern Association of Rowing Colleges Sprints Championships on a sunny Sunday of fast rowing May 16 on Lake Quinsigamond.
The Crimson varsity, which entered seeded second and ranked fourth nationally, left with its 26th Eastern title and 26th Ivy League crown. It was the fifth title in eight years for Harvard’s top boat. The freshmen, meanwhile, won their second crown in three years and 21st overall. The fourth varsity eight and the freshman four also earned gold medals, and the Crimson raced in all six grand finals after winning each of its four morning heats. Every competing freshman won a gold medal.
In the varsity eight race, Harvard avenged its only previous loss by beating third-place Brown and defeated runner-up Princeton in a full race after the Tigers did not finish their April 17 dual race against Harvard due to a collision. The Crimson led throughout, but the contest was close among the top three crews. The key was a surge by Harvard in the third 500 meters, giving the Crimson some breathing room en route to a 2.5-second win in 5:33.007.
The freshman eight final was tight throughout among Harvard, Princeton and Cornell. The Crimson and Tigers pulled away from the Big Red in the final 500 meters, and Princeton edged ahead by several seats before Harvard employed a tremendous sprint. The Crimson passed the Tigers in the final strokes and won by about a half-second in 5:37.298.
Simply the Best
Harvard’s 30 Rowe Cup victories and its 26 varsity, 21 second varsity and 21 freshman Sprints titles are all the highest totals among the competing programs. Its 68 total major event wins are more than double the second-highest total.
Dual Season Recap
The Crimson varsity eight enters its final dual race one second shy of a chance at a second straight perfect dual season. Harvard opened the season with its first dual regatta against Cornell since 1961, winning all five races, including a 4.4-second win in the varsity eight.
The annual early-season clash with fellow Eastern power Brown followed. The Bears won the varsity eight race by one second and won the second and third varsities, while Harvard claimed victory in both freshman events. The Crimson rebounded by taking all four races from Princeton, sweeping the Tigers and MIT for the Compton Cup. The Princeton varsity, trying to come from behind, did not finish the race, as its rudder cable broke and its bow crashed into Harvard’s stern and broke off.
Harvard then took five of six races from Navy and Penn and all three from Northeastern. In the highly anticipated varsity matchup with the Huskies, both teams entered having suffered only narrow losses to Brown. The Crimson, however, went up by three seats almost immediately and went on to win by more than six seconds.
The Harvard heavyweight varsity eight has defeated its last five and 19 of its last 20 dual opponents. The Crimson has defeated its last 15 dual opponents when racing at home on the Charles River and has beaten 37 of its last 38 home dual opponents. Harvard’s last home loss was April 15, 2006 against Princeton.
Streaking, Freshman Edition
The Harvard freshman eight has defeated 26 straight dual opponents since falling to Yale to close the 2006 season.
A Winning Boat
The Harvard varsity eight races in the same shell that Malcolm Howard ’05 and the Canada men’s eight rowed to a gold medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. The boat was dedicated in Howard’s honor following the Crimson’s April 17 sweep of Princeton and MIT.
The Harvard heavyweights are captained by senior Blake Pucsek (Victoria, B.C.), who has rowed in the varsity eight since returning from a year away from Harvard in 2007-08. Pucsek trained with Rowing Canada during the Olympic year, helping his home nation take the silver medal at the World Under 23 Championships and win the Grand Challenge Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta.
The Varsity Eight
Harvard’s success this season has come despite just one-third of the athletes in its top boat having raced in the varsity eight last season. The three varsity veterans are bowman Blake Pucsek, junior Anthony Locke (Isle of Wight, England) and junior David Wakulich (St. Catharines, Ont.). Senior coxswain Kelly Evans (East Greenwich, R.I.) was a part of the second varsity eight last season, while sophomores Michael DiSanto (Boston, Mass.), Matt Edstein (Sydney, Australia), Nick Jordan (Princeton, N.J.), Patrick Lapage (Shrewsbury, England) and Sam O’Connor (Christchurch, New Zealand) came from Harvard’s 2009 freshman eight.
Ivy League Champion
Harvard’s Sprints win secured the Ivy League championship for the Crimson and first-team All-Ivy League honors for the members of the varsity eight. Returning varsity oarsmen, Anthony Locke, Blake Pucsek and David Wakulich were second-team All-Ivy honorees in 2009.
Harvard and Yale won four 2009-10 Ivy titles each, the Crimson in men’s heavyweight crew, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s squash and the Elis in women’s heavyweight crew and men’s hockey, lacrosse and squash.
Both head coaches are Penn graduates. Harry Parker graduated in 1957 and Yale’s John Pescatore in 1986. Parker was part of the Quakers’ 1955 Sprints???champion varsity that went on to claim the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley; Pescatore rowed for Penn’s 1986 Sprints-winning crew. Both are also U.S. Olympians, Parker in 1960 and Pescatore in 1988 and ’92.
Twins Christopher Fuller (Chestnut Hill, Mass.) and Mark Fuller (Chestnut Hill, Mass.) of the Harvard second varsity are the older brothers of Crimson freshman coxswain David Fuller (Chestnut Hill, Mass.) ... Katie Evans, the twin sister of Crimson varsity coxswain Kelly Evans, is a member of the Brown heavyweight crew and coxed the Bears’ second varsity eight to Sprints gold ... Harvard freshman Parker Washburn (Andover, Mass.) got the best of his brother, Spencer, coach of the Princeton freshmen, when the Crimson passed the Tigers in the final strokes at the EARC Sprints.
The Regatta’s longest win streak is 18, accomplished by Harvard from 1963-80, Harry Parker’s first 18 years. The Crimson won 11 in a row from 1985-95, 10 straight from 1936-48 (the race wasn’t held in 1943, 1944 and 1945) and seven consecutively from 2000-06. Yale’s longest series winning streak is six, which it has accomplished three times (1893-98, 1900-05 and 1921-26).
Harvard-Yale in the Spotlight
The Harvard-Yale crew rivalry was featured in the cover story of the June 2000 issue of Yankee Magazine. ABC then followed 2002’s 150th anniversary race for an extended piece that ran on World News Tonight. Sports Illustrated, in its college sports issue in April 1997, called the Harvard???Yale crew race “college sports’ most venerable rivalry.”
Harvard and Yale are also famous as football rivals, competing annually in the clash known simply as “The Game.” The Crimson scored a pair of late touchdowns to rally to a 14-10 win last November in Yale Bowl, but the Bulldogs lead the all-time series, 65-52-8.