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Saturday morning's squall brought more than rain to Harvard. It brought the men's lightweight crew its first defeat of the season.
Crimson Coach Charlie Butt's eight crossed the finish line a disappointing third of three boats, and a distant six seconds behind the first-place Yale crew in Saturday's annual running of the H-Y-P lightweight showdown.
The previously undefeated Crimson, hoping to unseat the top-ranked Elis, fell behind the Yale crew early in the heavy winds and rough water of the Charles and never rebounded from its poor start.
Harvard had previously defeated the Princeton crew in Augusta but realized that Saturday's triangular match with the undefeated Bulldog eight would be the first true test of the Crimson's mettle.
Most of the other races slated for the day were later cancelled because of the heavy chop on the Charles, but the lightweight coaches moved up the varsity race to seven in the morning in hopes of avoiding the forecasted heavy winds and rain.
Butt's lights found out the hard way that you can't fool Mother Nature.
Stroke Fabian Birgfeld opened the race for the Crimson at a comfortable 41 strokes per minute for the first five and 20 and settled down to the race cadence of 35. But the rhythm and ratio were not what the crew needed.
"The cadence was about where we wanted it," coxswain Andy Cameron said, "but we weren't being effective through the water. We spotted Yale a length in that first 500 meters and they are too good a crew for us to fall behind that early."
The Crimson fell behind the first-place Elis by a little over a length at the 700-meter mark and found that the water was becoming rougher closer to the Mass. Ave. Bridge. That meant that catching the Elis in the choppy Charles would be a formidable task.
During the middle 1000 meters the Crimson was poised to make a move through the second-place Tiger crew, but came up short and faded again to third place. Meanwhile, the Elis extended their lead in the second 1000 meters and remained relatively unchallenged for the duration of the race.
Butt's lights have run hot and cold all season, and Saturday's weather did not help the confidence of the oarsmen. In spite of its talents, the Crimson has been experiencing difficulty in finding the consistency necessary to row a solid 2000 meter race.
Some weeks, Harvard has blazed off the stakeboats, established a commanding lead, but has failed to demolish its opponents. Other races, the Crimson has slugged at the water lethargically and beaten admittedly weaker crews by narrow margins. Only after the Augusta victory did all eight oarsmen feel that they had "drained the tank."
Butt's crew must try to find that feeling of "draining the tank" when it rowsagain in two weeks at the Eastern Sprints inWorcester. There is a good chance that Butt mayrearrange lineups or at least threaten to in hopesof lighting a fire under his oarsmen.
Harvard can rest assured that at least part ofSaturday's results are attributable to the freakweather conditions. The Crimson lost to aPrinceton crew that it had thrashed only weeksbefore. Flat water in Worcester will allow theCrimson to answer if it is for real
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