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Harvard won the first Harvard-Yale Regatta—now the nation’s oldest intercollegiate sporting event—in 1852. Since then, the Crimson has continued to dominate the race, and 2011 was no different.
On the afternoon of May 28, Harvard’s heavyweight varsity, second varsity, and freshman eights all finished off perfect dual seasons with a sweep of the Bulldogs in the 146th Regatta on the Thames River in New London, Conn.
It was the fourth consecutive year in which Harvard (7-0) swept rival Yale (3-4) at the Regatta, allowing the Crimson seniors to graduate undefeated in the annual contest.
“It’s not the kind of thing you want to dwell on while you’re doing it, but it definitely feels good [to beat Yale four years in a row],” co-captain Anthony Locke said.
Harvard completed the four-mile upstream race in 19:05.7, besting the Bulldogs, which finished in 19:19.1, by 13.7 seconds.
The victory gave the Crimson a 92-54 all-time record in the event, which includes wins in 11 of the previous 12 contests.
Earlier in the day, the freshman eight won their race by 21 seconds and the second varsity won by 30, setting a new three-mile course record.
“The freshman had a great race,” Locke said. “I think the second varsity had an even more outstanding row, because they set a new course record and they put a huge margin into Yale ... it’s a really awesome result.”
Fighting rough conditions caused by a heavy tailwind, the freshman eights took to the water first. After strong starts by both schools, the Crimson began to pull away and gained a two-second advantage at the half-mile mark.
At the two-mile race’s midpoint, Harvard increased its lead to two lengths of open water and took a 14-second advantage into the final half-mile. As it pushed towards the finish, the Crimson challenged the course record before settling for a time of 9:03.2, besting Yale’s 9:24.2 finish.
“The freshmen raced pretty dominantly, as they have all season,” junior Patrick Lapage said. “Once they got going they hit that rhythm and they just pulled away ... they rowed really well, much more aggressively than the other boat.”
By the time the second varsity eights took to the water, conditions had calmed significantly. Harvard took a slight advantage at the start line and led by a boat deck through a half-mile. Pacing itself with a steady stroke throughout the race, the Crimson gained a boat-length lead a mile in.
Halfway through, Harvard had gained a five-second advantage. The squad doubled that margin over the next half-mile and doubled it again over the subsequent half, opening up a lead of more than 20 seconds with a final half-mile to go. The Crimson finished with a time of 13:38, besting the 2004 Crimson second varsity’s time of 13:46.1. The Bulldogs finished in 14:08.
“[The Harvard JV was] a little bit down off the start,” Lapage said. “Yale is notorious for starting aggressively, in this race especially. But [Harvard] recovered and [was] running pretty confidently over the last half of the course, and the water flattened which helped them out.”
By the time of the varsity race, the sun had come out and conditions had greatly improved. The Crimson gained an edge of a couple seats after a half mile and of nearly a length after a full mile.
“We planned to go out and row and pace in the first mile,” Lapage said. “It just worked out that we were at least level or slightly leading them for most of the first mile. We sort of picked up the pace a little bit going into the second mile.”
Yale stayed in range and trailed by just three seconds through a mile and a half, but Harvard soon gained open water and increased its advantage to six seconds halfway through.
The Bulldogs could never get back into the race from there. The Crimson lead increased to 10 seconds through three miles and 14 seconds through 3.5, before finishing with the 13.7-second win.
“I think Yale had put a lot of effort into staying with us the first mile,” Lapage said. “In the second half, we just started pulling away pretty confidently.”
After winning the Eastern Sprints Championships earlier in the month, the race marked Harvard’s final tuneup before the IRA National Championships in Cherry Hill, N.J.
“I think we were all really pleased,” Locke added. “We definitely had a plan that we wanted to execute, and I think we did a real good job executing the plan.”
—Staff writer Scott A. Sherman can be reached at email@example.com.
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