Saturday morning, beneath threatening, dark skies, two ancient foes met for battle in the icy chop of the Charles River Basin. The coxswains’ cries for pressure and precision were audible despite the howling tailwind. And cheers for respective crews echoed from the Mass. Ave Bridge to the battlefield below. But, midway through combat, a piercing crack of hull against hull rattled the air and left one brigade of oarsmen sinking to the icy depths while the other advanced victorious.
Even though the scene certainly resembled a clash between naval fleets, it was in actuality the 74th annual Compton Cup—a meeting of old rivals, the No. 4 Harvard men’s heavyweight crew, the No. 7 Princeton Tigers, and the MIT Engineers.
In the varsity race, Princeton held the Crimson to only a three- or four-seat advantage through the 1000-meter mark. Harvard moved another three or four seats on the Tigers as the crews passed beneath the Mass. Ave Bridge, pushing their bow ball out almost a full length.
Coming out of the bridge, Princeton’s steering cable unexpectedly snapped, jamming the rudder to starboard and causing the coxswain to lose his point. The Tigers veered sharply into Harvard’s lane, smashing the bow of their boat into the Crimson’s stern.
“There was a bit of shouting going, because we didn’t really realize what had happened,” said sophomore varsity stroke Pat Lapage.
The last few feet of Princeton’s bow deck broke off in the collision and the boat began to fill with water. The crew was forced to stop rowing altogether, and became an obstacle around which the trailing MIT crew had to swerve.
“MIT was really a good distance off, so we didn’t have to worry about them or Princeton coming back on us,” Lapage said. “So, we just focused on rowing well the rest of the race.”
Harvard continued on its course, the hull structurally unaffected by the blow. The varsity won the Compton Cup in a time of 5:53.01. The Engineers followed in 6:19.08, and the Tigers did not finish.
The Crimson followed with a sweep of Princeton and MIT across the board. In each race, the Tigers pushed Harvard in the first 1000 meters, but the Crimson oarsmen remained composed and made moves into the second 1000 meters that silenced their opponents.
“In general, Princeton went out fast in the first part,” Lapage said. “But then we really rowed them down in the rough water, having had a lot of experience practicing in that.”
The second varsity won in a time of 5:53.59 to Princeton’s 5:55.13. Harvard’s third varsity finished in 5:54.42, four seconds ahead of the Tigers’ time of 5:58.68 and just over 15 seconds ahead of the fourth varsity’s time of 6:10.00.
Finally, the Crimson freshman eight maintained its perfect record in dual racing, edging out Princeton by roughly a length, in a time of 5:49.31.
NO. 2 LIGHTWEIGHTS VS. NO. 10 DARTMOUTH/NO. 11 MIT
The No. 2 Harvard men’s lightweight team also faced harsh racing conditions this weekend on the road in Hanover, N.H. On Saturday morning, the Crimson swept its competition, the No. 10 Dartmouth Big Green and the No. 11 MIT Engineers, in sub-freezing temperatures on the Connecticut River.
Harvard’s varsity maintained its unblemished record and captured the team’s 47th Biglin Bowl in the competition’s 56-year history.