Crew Earns Open Water Victory Despite “Rapids”

Only nature had any hope of stopping the Harvard heavyweights on Saturday morning.

And as it turns out, nature didn’t have much luck, either.

The Crimson varsity heavyweights demolished Northeastern early, then worked to overcome a brutal cross tailwind and terribly choppy water in a rout over the Huskies early Saturday morning on the Charles River.

“The water was basically Class 3 rapids,” varsity seven-seat Andrew Boston said. “I don’t know what to call it—it was almost like white-water rafting. But we kept a good rhythm, which is hard to do in those kinds of conditions.”

Harvard’s varsity eight earned an open-water victory in terrible conditions for the second consecutive week, rounding out the dual season with a pair of dominant performances.

“I don’t think anybody expected it to get so bad in the last 1000, but we knew it was not going to be good water. But it was great rowing,” varsity coxswain Jess Hoy said. “We’ve been really working on rowing aggressively, and I think we did that [on Saturday].”

The Crimson varsity kept even with Northeastern off the start, as both boats aimed to take the boats up to as high and steady a rating as possible under the conditions.

Harvard, however, quickly set to work on opening up the early stalemate, and the Crimson began a steady walk on Northeastern shortly after the settle into the first 500 meters.

By the end of the first 500, Harvard had opened up a slight lead over Northeastern. A push across the 500-meter mark cushioned the Crimson’s advantage, and Harvard opened up an open-water advantage by 800 meters down.

The rest of the course was a battle—not between Harvard and Northeastern, which fell out of any sort of contention by the midway point, but rather between the Crimson and the conditions that became even worse after the Mass. Ave. Bridge.

“We established a very good pace,” Hoy said. “I think it was very aggressive, especially under those conditions. We are learning to establish a very aggressive and very strong racing cadence, and that’s very important.”

For the second consecutive week, the Crimson enjoyed a striking open-water advantage for the second half of the varsity race. Harvard made a strong push at the midway mark to open up half a length of open water, and the Crimson just added to the margins as both boats entered the turbulent second 1,000 meters.

Northeastern trailed by almost five boat lengths in a time of 5:59.06.

“It’s hard to tell with margins just because the water was so bad, but 14 and a half seconds is awesome,” Hoy said. “It’s really exciting.”

The second varsity enjoyed similar success—if less horrific water—in an earlier victory over the Huskies.

The second varsity raced prior to the varsity race, and the crew escaped the worst of the water that assailed the Harvard varsity in the final 1,000 meters.

But while the Harvard second varsity avoided the turbulent water, it certainly had its finest competition to date in Northeastern’s second boat.

The Crimson had yet to see contact with another boat after the 1,000-meter mark this season, but a formidable, undefeated second varsity from Northeastern posed the most direct threat to Harvard’s undefeated dual record.

“We were prepared for that—we knew it as going to be a hard race,” sophomore stroke George Kitovitz said. “But I guess we came out on top.”

The second varsity did indeed finish first, and Harvard did so once again in a triumphant, dominant fashion.

But first, Harvard suffered a slight blow that no training or preparation could have prevented.

The race starter called for the start before Harvard had settled in at the line, as the windy conditions made it impossible for both boats to remain aligned at the start for more than a few seconds.

The minor setback lasted for precious few strokes. Harvard built a two-seat lead after the first 25 strokes, and the Crimson would never relinquish the lead again.

“The plan was that the harder we attacked it, the better our boat would set up,” Kitovitz said. “And the rest took care of itself.”

And in between the impromptu start and the choppy water throughout the course, Harvard dismissed the Huskies with the ease that has characterized the second varsity’s wins all season long.

The Crimson built a boat-length lead by the 700-meter mark, and Harvard broke free for an open-water advantage shortly thereafter.

Once again, the Crimson second varsity spent its morning racing itself after the midway point. Harvard finished in 5:47.1, and the Northeastern second varsity followed more than two lengths behind in a time of 5:54.9.

“We have the confidence to [add to an open-water lead],” Kitovitz said. “If you can’t sustain it, it’s an inefficient race plan.”

“The guys have been going at it really hard from the first stroke, and we’ve shown we can keep moving away. That’s very important,” he added.

The emphatic victory put the exclamation point on an undefeated dual season for the second varsity, which had just one dual victory a year ago. A lopsided win by the Harvard varsity four and a five-seat victory for the freshman eight helped Harvard improve its Smith Cup record to 15-3.

The heavyweights will not race again until Eastern Sprints on May 21, where the Crimson varsity will be after its fourth consecutive Sprints title while the second varsity will be looking for its fourth Sprints title in five years.

—Staff writer Aidan E. Tait can be reached at