Racing on the Schuykill River in Philadelphia, the Crimson finished the course in a speedy 5:33.7, beating out the Quakers, who finished in 5:42.06, and leaving the Midshipmen languishing in last place by over 15 seconds.
The Crimson started strong, taking an early half-boatlength lead. Aided by a strong tail wind and tail current, they pulled away steadily in the first half of the race, stretching their lead to a full length.
“We made our move at 1000 [meters],” said Hugo Mallinson, the seven seat. “We sped away and finished the race about three lengths ahead.”
Although this was an expected victory for Harvard—currently ranked second in the nation behind Cal-Berkeley—the Crimson had not won at Penn since 1996.
“We expected Penn to be pretty competitive,” said Mallinson. “It’s usually a really tight race.”
The top boat had shown good form in the preseason, winning the Belly of the Carnegie in November and coming third in the Head of the Charles, behind only the German and United States National Teams.
Several key members of the team graduated last year, including stroke Sam Brooks, but captain Wayne Pommen says that he thinks the boat is going faster now than it was at the same time last season.
“This was the first 2000-meter race of the season, [so] we didn’t know how fast we were,” Pommen said. “Last year’s freshman have really raised the level of everything in the whole program. We’re hoping to win Eastern Sprints.”
The second and third varsity boats also recorded convincing victories over this past weekend, winning by twelve and three seconds, respectively.
The second boat headed out level with Navy, only to pull away at 500 meters and finish the race with a lead of over three lengths.
“We thought they had a good chance,” Pommen said. “But I don’t think any of us were expecting a margin that large.”
The top freshman/novice boat lost its race to the Midshipmen by half a length.
Speeding off the start, Navy walked out to a one-length lead. Harvard started to claw back with 700 meters to go, but there was not enough time to mount a challenge.
“We expected to win, we expected to go faster,” stroke Patrick Haas said. “We have a lot of potential and I guess in that race we didn’t put it together.”
“We did pieces with [the freshmen] last week, and they were quite fast,” he said. “My impression with talking with the coach was that they had the speed, but they just didn’t produce.”
Harvard is next in action at Brown on Saturday.
“I think we have the speed to beat Brown next weekend, but we’ll just have to see,” Haas said.