The Heavyweight Season

The Heavyweight Season

“The Rock” at Bartlett’s Cove is painted annually in colors of the winning varsity in the Harvard-Yale Regatta. It has maintained a crimson hue in recent years, with Harvard winning 10 of the last 11 meetings.

Harvard offers its students the finest collegiate rowing experience available in the country. And, unlike many crew programs, Harvard’s has not been limited to success within the imaginary boundaries of the East Coast. Harvard crews have travelled throughout the world and have gained victories at regattas in England, Japan, China, Yugoslavia, France, Egypt, Mexico, Switzerland and Canada. Its rowers often go on to race even after their undergraduate years are complete. Former Crimson oarsmen are commonly seen racing in the Oxford-Cambridge race and the World Championships, and Harvard crew has been represented at every Olympics since 1936.

Head of the Charles Regatta
The Head of the Charles Regatta is the world’s largest two-day rowing event. The most well-known head race in the country and first contested Oct. 16, 1965, Harvard has been an annual entrant into the world-renowned event. Overall, more than 7,000 athletes from around the world compete in 24 different race events over the two-day schedule, which attracts up to 300,000 spectators during the October weekend.

In addition to its undergraduate boats, which numbered 16 in 2004, several alumni groups field entries, racing in front of thousands of fans who line the bank of the Charles River, Harvard’s home course.

Training Trip
In preparation for the spring racing season, the crews of both Harvard and Radcliffe spend a week in January in Florida for a training retreat. The trip, generously funded by the Friends of Harvard and Radcliffe Crew, has become an important annual event for both the women’s and men’s teams.

Crash-B Sprints
CRASH-B Sprints World Indoor Rowing Championships are held each February in Boston. The event originated in Newell Boathouse, as a group of 1976-80 U.S. Olympic and World Team athletes — left to jokingly refer to themselves as the Charles River All Star Has-Beens in the wake of the 1980 U.S. boycott of the Olympics — formed an indoor regatta for approximately 20 rowers at Newell, to break up the monotony of winter training. Several of these athletes were former Crimson oarsmen, including Tiff Wood ’75 and Dick Cashin ’75.

CRASH-B’s have called several places home since their origins in Newell, including Harvard’s Malkin Athletic Center, the QRAC (Radcliffe Quadrangle Athletic Center) and the Gordon Indoor Track. In 2006, the event moved to Agganis Arena on the campus of Boston University, where more 2,000 rowers compete each winter.

Sculling and small boat work in pairs are important elements of Harvard’s program. There is a full fleet of singles, doubles, and pairs at Newell Boathouse. Athletes often walk to the boathouse and scull and row on their own before class in the mornings and/or on the weekends. They can take boats out at almost any time and do not need a coach with them.

In the fall some selection is done in pairs. Informal sculling races happen frequently throughout the year and are intensely competitive and fun within the squad. Whether or not they possess any sculling experience when they arrive, all athletes can expect to do some sculling at Harvard.

West Coast Racing
Harvard is a frequent participant in the season-opening San Diego Crew Classic and has won the most championships of any Eastern school. Its seven titles, including three in the 1990s, stand second only to the University of Washington. Harvard’s second varsity eight won the Sharp Cabrillo Cup in 2008. The Crimson will compete in the varsity and second varsity events at the 2010 San Diego Crew Classic. Harvard has also won the Redwood Shores Invitational over Washington and California in 1988 and ’89, giving it nine titles over its West Coast rivals.

The Dual Racing Season
Much of the spring is dedicated to dual and triangular cup races. Harvard’s schedule includes Brown (Stein Cup), MIT and Princeton (Compton Cup), Navy and Penn (Adams Cup) and Northeastern (Smith Cup) prior to the EARC Sprints championships each May. The weekend following the IRA Regatta is reserved for the Harvard-Yale Regatta. The event is a four-mile endurance contest that is one of the most anticipated races of the season. Harvard has arguably the most competitive racing schedule of any school in the country, and the Crimson enjoys a clear edge over all of its dual opponents, both historically and over the past 10 years.

From 2003-06, Harvard posted four consecutive undefeated dual racing campaigns. The Crimson varsity posted 24 straight victories in dual races covering 32 opponents.

Eastern Sprints
The Eastern Sprints Championships, rowed on Worcester’s Lake Quinsigamond, has been dominated by Harvard crews over the years. The varsity heavyweights have won the championship 26 times — far and away the most of any school — and Harvard has swept all three heavyweight events on five occasions. In the three major heavyweight divisions (varsity, junior varsity and freshman), the Crimson has won 67 combined titles since the event’s inception in 1946.

Additionally, Harvard has claimed the Rowe Cup — the points trophy emblematic of heavyweight supremacy at Sprints — six times in the last seven seasons and on 29 occasions overall.

Harvard swept the three races in 2004, just the eighth time in regatta history that one school won each of the three divisions. Harvard has accomplished the feat five times.

The Crimson’s varsity has won five of the last eight Sprints titles. From 2003-05, the Crimson won three straight Sprints gold. After taking the silver in 2006, Harvard returned to the winner’s circle in 2007.

National Championships
Harvard crews participate in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championships.

Harvard returned to the IRA fold in 2003 and immediately made its presence known. The Crimson won three straight national championships for the varsity (2003-05), a gold in the second varsity eight (2006) and silver medals for the Crimson freshmen (2004 and ’05). Harvard’s varsity won silver in 2007, while the JV won silver in 2004. In addition, Harvard took home the Ten Eyck trophy — awarded to the school which scores the most points in the major divisions — in 2003, ’04 and ’05.

Crimson crews have won nine official national titles (1983, ’85, ’87, ’88, ’89, ’92, 2003, ’04 and ’05), more than any other school in the country. In the preceding two decades, Harvard captured eight unofficial national titles.

The Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race
After graduating from Harvard, Crimson oarsmen frequently continue their studies while rowing at Cambridge or Oxford. In 2010, Oxford students Simon Gawlik ’09, Cameron Winklevoss ’04 and Tyler Winklevoss ’04 became the latest Harvard alumni to study in England and row in the Boat Race, a rowing tradition that dates back nearly two centuries.

Wayne Pommen ’02, Hugo Mallinson ’02 and Jim Omartian ’02 were all part of Cambridge’s Blue Boat for the historic race in April 2003 that saw the closest finish since 1877. Others include Steffen Buschbacher ’00, who rowed for Cambridge, and Mike Blomquist ’03, who suited up for Oxford in 2004. In 2007, the Cambridge boat with Kip McDaniel ’04 defeated the Oxford crew that included Brodie Buckland ’06 and Adam Kosmicki ’06.

Others who have competed in this race during the Harry Parker era include David Sawyier ’72, Al Shealy ’75, Philipp Schuller ’89, Donald Fawcett ’89, Jon Bernstein ’90, Dan Justicz ’91, Ethan Ayer ’93, Jay Hammond ’94, Todd Kristol ’95, John O’Loghlen ’97, David Ellis ’98 and Sam Brooks ’01.

Sawyier, Bernstein, Ayer and Pommen have each achieved the rare distinction of being named president of the Cambridge University Boat Club.

Both Cambridge and Oxford send coaches yearly to Harvard looking for talented, ambitious athletes with experience winning four mile races. After rowing at Harvard the athletes are often very well prepared to earn a seat in one of the Blue Boats.

The Rewards
The sport of crew and its athletes rank among the most respected and appreciated at Harvard. The program’s ongoing success and great history place it in a position of eminence among the University’s 41 varsity sports, and its athletes are known for their strength and discipline. The rewards of Harvard crew are being part of that history, becoming one of the “best” athletes at Harvard and, in the process, making the most of your four years at the nation’s finest university.