I HAVE just received a Spirit of the Times containing an account of the fall races at Harvard, and also the Treasurer's Report on the finances of the University Club. Harvard seems at last to have awakened to the fact that if she wishes to retain the high place among American colleges which is hers traditionally, she must exert herself to secure the best possible training for the men who row her boat.
Another and perhaps the most important step towards the selection of the 'Varsity crew at Cambridge is the "Trial Eights." Substitute the word "Sixes," and it becomes applicable to Harvard as well as to Oxford and Cambridge. They - "the Trials" - are just getting under way here, and a short account of them may not be uninteresting or uninstructive to the captains of the Harvard clubs. They are rowed during the first week of December, although the 'Varsity race is not till April. The reason is, that men get "rowed out" and utterly "stale" if they are kept at it without intermission, and a three or four months' absolute rest from work at the oar is found most beneficial in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred. Any man, however poor an oar, has the right to ask his (college) captain to send in his name to the Secretary of the 'Varsity; they are then tubbed once or twice by members of the 'Varsity, the hopelessly bad ones weeded out, and about three Eights taken down the river every day for a week or so. These three Eights, by another "weeding" process, are reduced to two, and go into training (under two of their members as captains) for from two to three weeks. Then they row a three-mile race, and those that acquit themselves the best, without reference to their being in the winning boat or not, are selected to fill the vacancies on the 'Varsity.
The selection of those who are to row in the "Trials" rests with the President of the 'Varsity, and even old 'Varsity oars are not excused if he is not satisfied with their form. In the last two years, for example, five men have rowed in the Trials who were on the preceding 'Varsity crews. Of course, the selection is not definitely made so long before, quite a number of men - say sixteen - are put into half training and tubbed for some weeks before the 'Varsity go to Putney, and the next best four are kept in training at Cambridge for a week after their departure to supply the place of any man who may "crack."
In furtherance of the plan of not overworking a 'Varsity oar, the 1st Division (answering to the "Champion Sixes") of the Cambridge boats do not take part in the Lent term races that precede the 'Varsity by a few weeks, but only in the May races that follow it, since, some of their members being wanted for the 'Varsity, it would be impolitic to make them row, and unjust to force the clubs to which they belong to race without their best oars.
If the same rule in regard to subscriptions were followed at Harvard as here, the clubs would soon be in a flourishing condition in regard to money matters. The charge is $20 the first year, and $15 each succeeding year, which is divided into three tri-monthly payments; the 'Varsity also levies a poll-tax from the clubs sufficient to meet expenses for cups, medals, boats, training expenses, etc. while the esprit de corps is so strong that, practically, everybody belongs to his college boat-club.
EX '75.CAMBRIDGE, [Eng.,] November 11. 1874.