An armada of fifteen crews from Boston University, Harvard, and M.I.T. take to the Charles River Basin this afternoon beginning at 3 P.M. for the mythical Championship of the River. Approximately 2,000 spectators, quietly lubricating themselves for the All-College Weekend, are expected to watch the Crimson varsity, J.V. and freshman heavy crews in their one and only home appearance this spring. Following this afternoon's command performance, the three heavy boats head south and west for the rest of the rowing season.
Long-range weather forecasters predict partly cloudy skies, moderate northeast winds, and temperatures around 55 degrees. The afternoon's tour de force covers a mile and three-quarters upstream from the Longfellow bridge to the M.I.T. boathouse. The first race between the Crimson and M.I.T. 150-pound freshman crews begins at 3 P.M. and the next five are scheduled to follow at half-hour intervals.
Nobody, not even coaches Harvey Love of the Crimson, Jim Newsworthy of the Terriers, or Jim MacMillan of the Technicians, ventures a prognostication on the outcome of today's feature race. They have their suspicions, of course, but are keeping them under their hats. It is to be noted, however, that the varsity has finished ahead of B.U. and M.I.T. for about as long as any one can remember.
Boston University is the only eight with racing experience this spring. Touring the southern circuit in March the Terrier crew handily defeated Rollins College of Florida and set a new course record at Winter Park. The crew averages 180 pounds and has six returning lettermen.
M.I.T. suffers from want of experience and will be in the hands of a varsity stroke who is stroking the first race of his life. Technician coach Jim MacMillan, in a pessimistic tone, comments: "They have some potential, but it'll take longer than Saturday to bring it out of them."
As for Crimson mentor, Harvey Love, the stop-watch and rough water are his biggest worries, plus a weaker J.V. than hoped for. Love was "encouraged" by Wednesday's varsity time trial under simulated racing conditions: the varsity finished four lengths ahead of the freshmen, who in turn were two lengths ahead of the third varsity boat and three lengths ahead of the J.V.'s.
The first boat-which Love calls his "beef trust"-averages out at 187 pounds and is made up of two lettermen, stroke Larry Brownell and three oar Dick Darrell; two sophomores, from last year's freshman crew, Roger Hearne at four and Howie Lewis at one; and four graduates from last year's J.V. and third boat: Dick Higgins at seven, Bob Monks at six, Pete Simonds at five, and Randy Harrison at two. As cox Bill Crowther will mind the rudder and call the strokes.
The freshman heavy crew which gave the varsity a run for its money on Wednesday is tall, of average weight, with six experienced oarsmen from prep school. Fritz Schwarz and Stafford Morss are the neophytes. Captain Ed McCagg is the brother of Lou McCagg, varsity captain in 1952. Bob McLaughlin will cox.
With a new and lighter shell and four new faces Coach Lee Rouner's varsity 150-pound crew gets the nod over M.I.T. in this afternoon's race at 4 P.M. A new rule upping the maximum weight limit to 160 pounds and raising the crew average from 150 to 155 pounds has brought Rouner several ex-heavy oarsmen.
Rouner, a former varsity oar, is particularly encouraged by his new, lighter, aluminum-rigged shell which came as a gift from the Friends of Harvard Rowing two weeks ago. This is its first race and is named the Bert Haines, in honor of the former 150-pound coach.
Rouner's crew averages six feet, one inch and is made up from three seniors, two juniors and three sophomores who rowed on last spring's Yardling eight. Foremost among the former heavy men is senior Charlie Higgenson, who rowed for two years with varsity or J.V. heavy crews. He will be at five this afternoon. Keith Garland, Rouner's stroke, slipped into the 150 shell on the basis of the new ruling.
Freshmen Held Even
The seniors fill the middle of the boat, with Captain Steve Leland at seven, Randy Seed at six, Higgenson at five, and Bill Wetmore at four, Junior Bill Coughlin rows at two. The three sophomore oarsmen are Garland at stroke, stubby Bill Warren, the smallest man on the crew at bow, and Bob Volpe at three. George Notter is cox.
In middle-of-the-week time trials the freshman shell paced the varsity until the half-way point and was more than a length ahead of the J.V.s. Though the varsity finally won, the narrow margin makes Rouner feel he has a tight Yardling combination for this afternoon's opener.