For prospective Harvard oarsmen, part of the appeal of rowing on the Charles River is that each day you’ll catch a glimpse of various other crews in training—some of which, like Northeastern, will be your competition later in the year. On the downside, this means that your competition will also be watching you.
From September through April this year, Crimson boats passed Husky crews on the Charles, and rowers likely stole a glance at their opposition doing drill work, taking power strokes, or practicing race pieces. This year, the programs waited until this past Saturday to finally meet in dual racing competition. The highly-anticipated race came just two weeks prior to the Eastern Sprints Regatta and was both squads’ last opportunity to see where they stand in the league before the championships.
This time around, No. 4 Harvard proved its superiority over No. 6 Northeastern, sweeping all events in the Charles Basin and claiming the Smith Cup.
“We’ve seen each other all season,” said sophomore and varsity three seat Michael DiSanto, “and this race is our chance to see who is the fastest crew on the Charles.”
In the varsity race, the Crimson (6-1) jumped out to an early advantage, taking three seats on the Huskies (3-2) in the crews’ starting sequence. The varsity methodically took inch after inch on Northeastern through the first 1,000 meters, building an open-water lead.
“We raced pretty strong through the first 500,” said sophomore and varsity stroke Pat Lapage. “Then we sort of carried on the rest of the way really and pushed it a bit at the end to make sure they weren’t coming back. It was a good race.”
Conditions in the Charles Basin were nearly perfect with placid water and a slight tailwind, allowing for some fast finishes. Harvard crossed the line in a time of 5:51.54, more than six seconds ahead of the Huskies’ time of 5:57.6.
The varsity’s victory was the Crimson’s 13th-consecutive win over Northeastern for the Smith Cup and was the program’s 19th win in the cup’s 22-year existence.
Harvard’s second, third and fourth varsities lined up with the Husky second varsity for one four-boat race. The Crimson’s second and third eights placed first and second in times of 6:00.9 and 6:05.25, respectively. Northeastern finished third in the race just over three seconds back from Harvard’s third varsity in a time of 6:08.3. The Crimson fourth varsity, a combination boat of varsity and freshmen, finished fourth in 6:24.5.
The Harvard first freshman eight continued its undefeated streak, soundly defeating the Husky rookies by a margin of 11.4 seconds in a final time of 6:01.3.
Overall, the Crimson had a successful morning, and because Northeastern recently raced Brown, these results could be an indicator of where Harvard stands not just in comparison to hometown rivals but also in the entire Ivy League.
“We just wanted to see how we matched up against [Northeastern] since they had lost to Brown by about as much as we had,” said Lapage. “We’ve been training hard and hopefully gaining speed, so we wanted to see how our training was going before Sprints.”
The Bears’ varsity was just one second ahead of the Crimson early in the season and was exactly a second faster than the Huskies only two weeks ago. By comparison, Harvard could be as much as five seconds faster than Brown after its six-second margin over Northeastern last Saturday. This remains speculation until Eastern Sprints on May 16 and 17, when all of these crews will go head-to-head once again.
“[Until Sprints] we need to keep making the technical changes and training real hard...to see if we can add speed in these last couple weeks.” Lapage said. “[We’ll] fine tune training and put the cap on the performance.”
—Staff writer Jessica L. Flakne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.