Harvard Crews Cap 2011 at Henley Royal Regatta

Harvard races in last year's Temple Challenge Cup (photo courtesy Andrew Holman).
Harvard races in last year's Temple Challenge Cup (photo courtesy Andrew Holman).

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HENLEY-ON-THAMES, England—The Harvard heavyweight and lightweight crews conclude their championship seasons with a trip across the Atlantic to the prestigious Henley Royal Regatta.

Each of Harvard's five boats that won major championships at EARC Sprints will be represented, as the Crimson sends four entries to Henley for just the second time and first since 2002. Racing will take place Wednesday through Sunday on the Thames River.

The Crimson heavyweight varsity eight seeks to repeat as Ladies' Challenge Plate champion and collect its third Ladies' Plate in as many visits to Henley. The freshman eight, meanwhile, will again compete in the Temple Challenge Cup, while Harvard's two Prince Albert Challenge Cup fours are made up of athletes from the heavyweight second varsity and lightweight varsity eights.

Racing at Henley occurs in head-to-head, bracket-style competition. A crew must win its first-round matchup to advance to the next round and so on. The regatta begins Wednesday. The Harvard freshmen will be the first to compete, facing the University of West England at 10:35 a.m. local time (5:35 a.m. Eastern). The Crimson heavyweight and lightweight fours are pitted against each other in the first round of the Prince Albert Cup at 3:20.

The schedules for subsequent days' racing will be released later. The heavyweight varsity eight starts its bid for the Ladies' Plate Friday by facing another United States-based crew, the Penn Athletic Club Rowing Association.

Follow From Home
Up-to-the minute results for Henley racing will be available via the event's official results page. Fans can also follow along via the Henley Twitter feed and at the Henley Facebook page. Updated schedules and other information are available from the Henley Royal Regatta official site.

Scouting the Crimson
Seldom has even Harvard seen as much success the Crimson oarsmen have achieved so far in 2011. The Harvard heavyweights and lightweights combined to win five of the six major races at Eastern Sprints, and those five Eastern-champion boats posted a combined 38-0 dual record. The Crimson went on to medal in five events at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championships, where the heavyweight and lightweight varsities each earned second-place national finishes.

Last Season
The Crimson edged a combined crew from Oxford Brookes University and Oxford University by one-third of a length in the final of last year's Ladies' Challenge Plate competition. Harvard led through much of the race and held on in a winning time of 6:50. It was the third win in as many days for the Crimson varsity, which defeated Leander Boat Club B by 3.25 lengths in the semifinals after opening with a 2.5-length win against National University of Ireland, Galway.

Harvard's freshmen also won on three straight days before losing to Washington by 1.5 lengths in the Temple Cup semifinals. The Crimson previously defeated Southern California, Exeter University and Durham University, in that order. The Harvard four beat Isis Boat Club from Oxford University and Georgetown, but lost in the semifinals by the slim margin of two-thirds of a length to University College, Dublin.

Harvard's Henley History
Harvard crews have traveled to the Henley Royal Regatta many times and returned home with impressive victories, starting with the legendary 1914 junior varsity, which became the first American crew to win the coveted Grand Challenge Cup.

In 1972, Harvard achieved another first, entering the first college freshman crew to win the Thames Cup. One year later, the Crimson's junior varsity crew was its first to win the Ladies' Challenge Plate. In 1985, the Crimson won Henley's Grand Challenge Cup, its fifth and most recent title in Henley's most prestigious race. (Harvard also won Grand titles in 1939, '51 and '55.) In 1990, Harvard returned and captured the Ladies' Challenge Plate. The varsity four with coxswain set a course record while winning the 1993 Britannia Cup. Harvard then won the Ladies' Plate for an unprecedented fourth time in 1998.

Harvard's success at Henley has continued into the 21st century. In 2001, its freshmen won the Temple Cup, while in 2002 Harvard won an amazing three titles with championships in the Ladies' Challenge Plate (varsity), Britannia Cup (four) and Temple Cup (freshmen). The Crimson has increased its total of Ladies' Plates to seven with wins in its last two Henley visits, in 2007 and '10.

Ladies' Challenge Plate
Harvard is among seven entries in the Ladies' Challenge Plate, which is the top competition for university and club eights below the open Grand Challenge Cup. The winning crew in the Crimson's first race will take on one of two crews from the Leander Club. Also competing will be The English Rowing Club (from Russia) and two combined crews, one from Germany and another from England.

Ladies' Challenge Plate History
Harvard is competing for the Ladies' Plate for the sixth time in 10 years. The Crimson has entered the event 10 times previously, capturing the plate in 1973, '83, '90, '98, 2002, '07 and last season. Harvard placed second in the event in 1989 and 2004.

In 1845, a new challenge prize was offered for eight-oared crews, which, in the following year, was named the Ladies' Challenge Plate. Up to the 1966 regatta, entries for this event were restricted to boat clubs from colleges, schools and certain other academic institutions within the United Kingdom together with Trinity College, Dublin. The rules were then widened to permit entries from any college, school or academic institution throughout the world.

In 1985, rules changes removed the 'student' requirement for the Ladies' Plate, which became an event open to crews from any club and is now the second-most senior event for men's eights at the regatta.

Temple Challenge Cup
The Crimson is one of 32 crews competing in the Temple Cup, along with other U.S. collegiate entries from Yale, Virginia and IRA freshman-champion California and teams from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Ireland. A win against West England would mean a matchup with the winner between Reading University and Durham University B. Five straight wins will be required to hoist the Temple Cup.

Harvard has raced in this event seven times since 1999, winning consecutive trophies in 2001 and '02. The Crimson has reached the semifinals in each of its last two tries for the Temple Cup.

Prince Albert Challenge Cup
Harvard has two of 16 coxed fours entered in this event, which features competitors from the United Kingdom and Ireland in addition to U.S. colleges Harvard and Virginia. Four wins are necessary to capture the trophy, and a Crimson win would advance Harvard to face the winner of Manchester University and Bath University B.

About Henley
The Henley Royal Regatta was established in Henley-on-Thames, England, on March 26, 1839 and has been held annually ever since except during the two World Wars. The Grand Challenge Cup has always been open, except in the Olympic Games year of 1908, to all established amateur clubs.

The regatta has its own rules and is not subject to the jurisdiction of the governing body of rowing in England (the Amateur Rowing Association) or the International Rowing Federation (FISA), but is officially recognized by both.

There are 19 events in total: six classes of race for eights, five for fours (three coxless and two coxed), four for quadruple sculls, and races for coxless pairs and double sculls. In addition, there are single sculling races for both men and women. There are 486 entered crews competing in 2011, including 119 overseas crews with 48 American boats among them.

The length of the course is slightly longer than the standard international distance of 2,000 meters and takes approximately seven minutes to cover. The number of races is reduced on each successive day, leaving only the finals to be rowed on the last day.