Yale beats Harvard for the third straight year
Ledyard — The atmospere surrounding Yale University's Gales Ferry boathouse early Saturday evening was one of celebration, music blaring, bus loads of people being picked up and dropped off.
It marked Yale's third straight official victory in the Harvard-Yale Regatta, its first such streak since the 1980s, following the Bulldogs' second straight national championship a week ago. Yale won the four-mile event on the Thames River, rowed upstream from the Gold Star Bridge to Bartlett's Cove, in 18 minutes, 51.06 seconds, with Harvard coming in at 18:58.10.
The race, in its 153rd running, is considered the oldest intercollegiate athletic event, somewhat magnifying the stakes. Bragging rights.
But it was a feeling Saturday that Yale coach Steve Gladstone identified more with relief.
"They won the Eastern Sprints (in May). That's a big deal," Gladstone said. "They won the national championship. Big deal. But you know in your heart of hearts if you don't finish the job (against Harvard), it will be with you the rest of your life. It would be unpleasantness.
"The national championship is your major objective. This, from my point of view, was an obligatory act. They had to do what they had to do today."
Yale had open water on the Crimson by the three-quarter mile mark, about three and a half minutes in, starting quickly. The Bulldogs opened a length and a half lead at a mile and a half and increased its five-second margin of victory of a year ago, despite Harvard's attempt to close over the final mile.
Gladstone received the regatta trophy in his launch and quickly handed it over to his varsity eight, with seniors Sholto Carnegie, Cole Tilden and captain Paul Jacquot representing the most accomplished class in program history, with four Eastern Sprints titles, three Harvard-Yale titles (no result was recorded in the fourth after the Harvard boat was swamped) and Yale's first two national championships.
The winning boat consisted of Jack Lopas in the bow, followed by Thomas Digby, Thomas Beck, Jacquot, Charlie Elwes, Tilden, Leonard Jenkins, Carnegie and coxswain Vlad Saigau.
"It's such a long race. It's a marathon," Carnegie said. "... We think about gaining more and more distance every stroke. It was really incredible. Just total trust all the way down."
Gladstone said this crew is sound technically, as well as possessing ideal leadership.
He didn't know for certain by seeing the Bulldogs take an early lead — something they're known for, winning the national championship wire-to-wire — that they'd be able to hold on to it. But he could venture a guess.
"They're not going to let another bow cross the finish line first (at that point)," Gladstone said. "It's in their souls. I love them. ... What I know about the character of the people in the boat, they'd be very hard to break."
That left Harvard coach Charley Butt consoling his rowers on the dock of the Crimson boathouse. Butt made his rounds to talk to each crew member, hugging each and telling them he couldn't be prouder.
Harvard, including senior crew members Sam Hardy, Alexander Richards, captain Conor Harrity and coxswain Cole Durbin, was second in the Eastern Sprints this season and fourth in the national championship.
"We really raced hard," Butt said. "There was never any quit in any of our boats. It works out to about two seconds a mile or one second every half a mile. That's just the way (Yale rows). They're just very strong and they row very well. They just happen to be stronger than we are right now.
"We didn't win, but we had a very good effort. There are times you run into someone who's better or faster. LeBron James is still a great basketball player, but he didn't win the last two years. We didn't win, but that doesn't mean they're not accomplished athletes."
Yale also won the three-mile second varsity race 13:53.28-13:58.74 and Harvard took the two-mile third varsity race 9:08.41-9:11.62. Yale won Friday's two-mile combination race 9:23.2-9:27.7.