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Dominant Yale breaks regatta drought, sets record

Ledyard – Rarely has the word dominant been associated with Yale in the country's oldest collegiate sporting event.

The Bulldogs certainly owned that label Sunday on the Thames River.

They ended a prolonged drought in the Harvard-Yale Regatta and did it in impressive fashion, leading from the start under the Gold Star Bridge to the finish in Bartlett's Cove. They set the upstream course record in the grueling four-mile race, crossing the line in 18 minutes, 35.8 seconds and winning by a comfortable 16.7 seconds.

It was Yale's largest margin of victory since 1983 and only sixth win since that date.

Winning the race on the 150th anniversary made the victory taste extra sweet.

"To do what the Yale crew did today takes some very strong willed people, it really does," Yale coach Steve Gladstone said, "because they've never done it before. And Harvard has won this a lot, which is an understatement."

The Bulldogs hosted the postrace victory celebration at their Gales Ferry home for the first time since 2007, much to the delight of their happy supporters. A larger than usual crowd turned out for the historic event on a sparkling Sunday morning.

"It's a huge statement for the program," Yale junior Chris Carothers said. "It's definitely a great sign. Everyone is excited. The whole boat worked hard all season long as well as the team. This is the first year that we've had real depth across the board.

"... It's been a great season. And it's definitely a great way to culminate our championship races. ... It's a huge deal and having three times the size of the crowd is incredible."

Yale, which had lost 14 of the last 15 regattas, came in as the favorite after recently capturing the Eastern Sprints title for the first time in 33 years. Harvard was one of the beaten teams in that field.

Then Harvard gained some revenge by posting a better finish than Yale at the International Rowing Association National Championship Regatta.

But the Bulldogs considered that result to be bit of a fluke in an otherwise successful season.

"The IRA semifinal was the anomaly," Gladstone said. "They had raced really well all season long."

They came into Sunday's race confident and poised to break a streak of seven straight losses. They followed their pre-race strategy and established a quick lead.

With Yale in command early, the result seemed like a foregone conclusion, especially with the Bulldogs remaining consistent and efficient in their focus and work rate.

They never let up, stretching their lead and cruising home past the painted rock to the finish at Bartlett's Cove.

"I have full confidence in my crew," Carothers said. "They've shown all season long that they're a fast boat. So I knew if we raced our race ... we would cross the line first and that's what we did. I couldn't be more happy or more proud of these guys."

The record-setting time was an added bonus.

"I can't say I saw this coming," Gladstone said. "I know this a strong crew and they row efficiently, but it's a four-mile race. ... It's really hard to predict what is going to happen."

The mood was much more subdued at Red Top, the home of Harvard.

All Harvard coach Charley Butt could do is tip his cap to the winners.

Yale was the better boat on Sunday.

"I'm proud of how hard our guys rowed," Butt said. "It was a race any rowing fan could appreciate, two crews rowing well. ... Yale has some exceptional people on board."

Harvard still leads the overall series, 95-55.

Next year, Yale will shoot for its first winning streak in the series since capturing four straight from 1981-84. The Bulldogs return their entire varsity crew. They also won the second varsity race by 4.3 seconds.

But Gladstone wasn't ready to make any rash predictions about the future.

"One has to be careful not to row off into the sunset," Gladstone said. "This is one race. This is 2015. And Yale won the varsity and second varsity race. We are very, very pleased with that. Next year is 2016 and a whole new game.

"But what happened today was very, very important to the program. No question. Very important."

g.keefe@theday.com

Twitter: @GavinKeefe

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