The Harvard heavyweight crew, no longer, as Richard Nixon might have said, "a helpless, pitiful, giant," cruised back into its accustomed position as the nation's crew-to-beat with its victory in the San Diego Classic two weeks ago. Today, Brown takes the first shot at the best in the Crimson's home-opener in the Charles Basin at 11:15 a.m.
The varsity eight took the San Diego race, which featured the nation's top collegiate crews, by 4.4 seconds over California and by 11.9 seconds over the fifth-place Bruins.
The Brown oarsmen won the Head of the Charles in October and seemed poised to make an assault on the rowing aristocracy. But the San Diego race and a disastrous three-tenths-of-a-second loss to Boston University, a squad Brown, destroyed by seven seconds last year, indicates the Bruins might be a year away.
The winner of the annual Harvard-Brown encounter receives the Stein Cup--a vessel some believe is a Wursthaus beer stein. That delusion comes from the Crimson's complete domination of the series. Harvard has taken all 14 Stein Cups.
Senior captain Gordie Gardiner expects that the poor start will provide the Bruins with an extra incentive to nail the Crimson. "They are in a make it or break it situation. They have the potential and are going to be coming at us early, so we have to shut them down early," Gardiner says.
Another three-year veteran, senior Paul Templeton, echoes Gardiner's warnings. "It's all on the line for them here. If they lose, the season's just about over for them."
Junior Charlie Altekruse, who anchors The Engine Room, the middle section of the varsity boat that guns the oarsmen, adds, "I expect they'll be hanging in there. They always row well against us." But never well enough.
Brown brings a significant size advantage to today's race, as the Crimson average only 6-ft.-2-in. and 185-lbs., small by coach Harry Parker's usual standards. The Bruin's pre-season roster showed four of the varsity boat averaging 6-ft.-4-in. or more. Additionally, Brown has the advantage of experience, with seven of the 1978 eight returning.
The size disadvantage could hurt the Crimson early in the race. In San Diego, Harvard took a while to gather momentum, but the Crimson still rate as heavy favorites in its first regular season pairing.
The Harvard lights, winners of the Acorn Cup against Pennsylvania last weekend on Philadelphia's Schuylkill River, journey to the Biligin Bowl contest with Dartmouth and MIT in Hanover, N.H.
Carrie Graves' Radcliffe heavies destroyed a traditionally strong Princeton and a weaker Cornell crew last weekend on Lake Carnegie, and the oarswomen also travel to Dartmouth this weekend for a confrontation with the Big Green.