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Yale and Harvard rowers ready to resume rivalry

Ledyard — For the first time in three years, the nation's oldest intercollegiate sporting event will be contested on the Thames River on Saturday.

All is right in the rowing world once again now that the historic Yale-Harvard Regatta is resuming.

"It's great to be back," Yale coach Steve Gladstone said on Thursday standing near the boathouse. "The two years off, everybody was put off and disoriented by the COVID deal. Being back just gives you such a powerful appreciation for what you missed and didn't have.

"The operative word here is gratitude. Gratitude to be back, gratitude to be engaged. And the athletes feel the same way."

It just feels good for both programs to be back at their respective rowing homes preparing for what is considered their biggest race of the season.

Basically just about everything is how they left it in 2019.

"It's an incredible place," Harvard senior Clark Dean said of Red Top, Harvard's home. "I feel lucky to be back, for sure. It's exactly how we left it. There's really no place in the world like it. ... Everyone looks forward to being here the whole year."

The big rock in Bartlett Cove still has a Y painted on it from the Bulldogs' last victory in 2019.

After a long dominating period by Harvard, which won the varsity race 14 out of 15 years from 2000 to 2014, Yale has seized the upper hand, winning the last four.

Yale is the clear favorite into the 155th running of the regatta. The Bulldogs have had a sensational season, sweeping the Eastern Sprints and capturing the team trophy at IRA national championship.

"It's a very strong squad," Gladstone said.

Harvard has developed into a resilient bunch while dealing with injuries, adversity and inexperience.

"We're underdogs based on the season and based on the results," Harvard coach Charley Butt said. "But I like my guys. They're strong. As individuals, they're very good. And as a team, we've yet to have our best."

Harvard may need its best performance to break its losing streak in the heavyweight series that it leads 95-58 with one no result.

It's a grueling four-mile race where just about anything can and has happened. The course will run upstream.

"There's four miles for things to go well or go wrong," Butt said. "One year a swan swam out and nearly upended (the boat) in the late 80s. We had the boats get swamped (in 2016) and we never did end up rowing that one, so that was full of a lot of drama.

".... It's like watching a hockey game. Random stuff is going to happen."

Gladstone added: "This has a ton of vagaries. There are boat wakes that come over. One major or minor screw-up and it's over. But there's 20 minutes for these screwups to take place. ... This is a very different contest."

Race day kicks off at 3:45 p.m. on Saturday, with the third varsity eights competing in a two-mile race. Then the three-mile second varsity competition begins, followed by the marquee varsity race at approximately 5 p.m.

Weather is expected to be good for racing.

There is so much at stake for both programs.

"This is the biggest (race), by far," Harvard senior captain George Cozens said. "You could win every other race and lose this one and your season is a failure and vice versa. It's the defining race."

g.keefe@theday.com

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