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Back on the Thames following a two-year pause, Yale dominates rival Harvard

Ledyard — Yale drained all the drama out of the 155th Yale-Harvard Regatta Saturday.

From the start under the Gold Star Bridge to finish at Bartlett Cove, the Bulldogs were in command of the nation's oldest collegiate sporting event.

Riding an upstream record-setting pace, Yale cruised to victory on the four-mile course on the Thames River, finishing in 18 minutes, 17.5 seconds, about 25 seconds ahead of Harvard.

"There's only one way to go into a race like that, and that's hard off the line and then just listen to (cox) Vlad (Saigaul) and hold on," said junior Dan Williamson, who was still soaking wet from his team's post-victory dip. "The boys executed our race perfectly today.

"Pretty easy in a race like that to look across and start to do calculations in your head, figure out how much you've got left ... but not for one second did a single man hold back today, and you could feel that the whole way down the course. The result speaks to that."

The victory capped a highly successful weekend during which Yale swept all four races in the event for the first time since 1996.

The results were far from a surprise.

The Bulldogs had a national championship season and came into the race a significant favorite. Three Olympians — senior Jack Lopas, senior Andrin Gulich and Williamson — compete on the first varsity along with junior Noah Norman, freshman Marcus Emmett, junior Miles Beeson, junior Fergus Hamilton and Saigaul, a senior.

At about the two-mile mark, Yale made a hard push, began to pull away, and gradually opened up a huge lead.

"We moved at pretty much a consistent speed all the way," Yale coach Steve Gladstone said. "There was no tactic that won that race. It was very simply a crew letting out their best effort. ... They put out their best effort (all year).

"That consistency comes not from emotion but devotion to the training. And in the devotion to training the oarsmen build very strong bonds simply because they're all pushing each other and all supporting each other. That's why you see everybody congratulating each other."

Winning the race by a record pace was just a bonus.

"A lot of crews have come before us on the same course," Williamson said. "I don't think it's fair to say this is the fastest Yale crew there is for the pure reason that it's so much up to the conditions. The fact that we put ourselves in a place to get the record is amazing. Very proud of that."

A large crowd of Yale supporters turned out to cheer on the Bulldogs and provided a rowdy welcoming committee for when the winners returned to the boathouse.

'The rivalry is so strong — not in a negative way, not in an angry way — and deeply powerful," Gladstone said. "You have to win this if you're going to have a good season at Yale."

The day was a bit more special because the Yale-Harvard Regatta returned for the first time in three years.

The break gave the competitors a deeper appreciation for the historic race.

"This is an incredibly special place for the Yale crew," Williamson said of the team's home on the banks of the Thames. "One hundred meters down the river, it's an incredibly special place for the Crimson boys. It's a race unlike no other. It's been three years. There's a few classes that didn't get to race their last race or their last two races.

"You can see how much it means to the alum today looking around to be back here and get a win."

The big rock at the finish line at Bartlett Cove will remain painted in Yale blue for another year.

It was the fifth straight victory — the competition was declared a no-contest in 2016 — in the historic race for the Bulldogs.

g.keefe@theday.com

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