Washington may be the defending national champions, but the Charles is Harvard’s river.
And on Sunday in the Championship Eight event of the Head of the Charles, the Crimson commanded it.
Harvard’s varsity eight finished nearly six seconds ahead of USRowing and 8.5 second ahead of the Huskies, the second fastest collegiate crew of the day.
“It was a good day at the office,” said junior bow seat James O’Connor.
Washington, last year’s Head of the Charles champions, started just ahead of the Crimson, but Harvard was able to resist the temptation of focusing on its competition too early.
“The first mile, we just kind of did our own thing,” O’Connor said. “We just settled into a really good rhythm.”
About a mile in, the crew took its move.
“By the one-third mark, [junior] David [Fuller], our coxswain, was telling us that we were catching Washington, and we got really excited” said senior seven seat Matt Edstein.
“We really revved it up from there,” O’Connor added. “Sitting in the bow seat, I could see [sophomore] Andy Holmes and [junior Josh] ‘Hicksy’ [Hicks] just jump on it. They got the fire in their bellies; it was really good.”
The chase continued until the Crimson was finally able to gain overlap with the Huskies around the Eliot bridge.
“We were sitting in their dirty water for a while, sitting in their puddles,” O’Connor said. “We got a bit of overlap. We managed to push right in front of them.”
But because Harvard had fought so hard for the inside of the Eliot turn, it yielded the final turn of the day to Washington, which allowed the Huskies to finish with open water.
“It was good to catch them for at least a little bit,” Edstein said.
And the ground the Crimson had gained over the course of the race was enough to give it a substantial lead.
“This told us that what we’ve been doing has been pretty strong,” Edstein said. “At the end of the day, our big race is in eight months. It’s a good encouragement that if we slack off, the other crews aren’t that far behind.”