The Lightweight Season

The Lightweight Season

Members of the Harvard lightweight crew celebrate after the 2010 varsity and freshman eights beat rivals Princeton and Yale to finish undefeated dual seasons.

At Harvard, crew is a successful endeavor, whether you carry 200 pounds or about 150 pounds less. Lightweight rowing at Harvard is given the same support as the heavyweight program and attains an equally high level of success; regionally, nationally and abroad. Over the years, the Crimson has dominated the EARC Sprints championships by winning more titles than any other college, captured numerous national crowns and made history at the Henley Royal Regatta. Former lightweight oarsmen have rowed in the Oxford-Cambridge race, World Championships and the Olympic Games.

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 held 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 to race 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 to 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 when 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 in order 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. From 1997 to 2005, the event was held at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center. In 2006, the event moved to Agganis Arena on the campus of Boston University. Competitors row 2,000 meters on the latest Concept2 Model C ergometers, which are used by athletes, universities, clubs, schools and national teams around the globe.

Moritz Hafner ’09 took second at the CRASH-B’s in the college division in both 2006 and ’07. Overall, he was ninth in 2006 and seventh the following year. In 2005, Dave Stephens ’05 returned from his sabbatical year (during which he trained with the Canadian National team) to reclaim the collegiate lightweight title at the CRASH-B’s. His time of 6:17.3 for the 2,000-meter race placed him fifth in the world and garnered him his second CRASH-B Hammer in the collegiate division.

There were two other Crimson rowers on the podium with him that day, as Stephens was joined by Hafner in second place (6:19.6) and Marc Luff ’07 in third (6:21.5).

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 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
After a fall season that includes racing at the Head of the Charles Regatta, Harvard lightweight crews have often started the spring by rowing in the season-opening San Diego Crew Classic. Harvard has been a frequent participant in the regatta, winning the most championships of any Eastern school. The Crimson varsity has won six San Diego titles, including three in a row from 1994 to ’96.

Cup Racing Season
Harvard faces an outstanding cup series schedule, highlighted by the Goldthwait Cup race against Princeton and Yale. In fact, Harvard’s first formal race was in 1922 against those two colleges, and the Goldthwait Cup — named in honor of Vincent B. Goldthwait ’24 — remains the most anticipated dual race in collegiate lightweight rowing each year. Harvard captured seven consecutive cups, a series record, starting in 1938 and leads the all-time series by a wide margin. Harvard’s 2010 Goldthwait win capped a perfect 10-0 dual season for the Crimson lightweights.

The Crimson’s cup schedule also includes the Biglin Bowl against Dartmouth and MIT, the Haines Cup against Navy and a tri-race with Cornell and Penn. Races in recent years have also taken place against Rutgers, Columbia and Georgetown.

Eastern Sprints
No college has dominated the Eastern Sprints like Harvard’s lightweights have. The Crimson’s lightweight entries have won 70 Sprints titles, including 25 by the varsity crew. Harvard won five consecutive Eastern titles in the varsity division from 1968 to ’72.

However, the most remarkable record of all Harvard crews belongs to the JV lightweights, as Crimson junior varsity crews won 14 consecutive Eastern Sprints titles from 1967 to 1980.

National Championships
Since the 1991 season, Harvard has won eight national championships: 1991, ’93, ’95, ’97, ’99, 2001, ’03 and ’12. The most recent title was the culmination of a perfect 9-0 dual season along with a victory at Eastern Sprints.