Yale caps historic season with Regatta win over rival Harvard

NEW LONDON >> What’s the best way to cap off what might be the best season in the history of Yale heavyweight rowing, just six days after winning a national championship at the IRAs? How about sweeping an archrival in America’s oldest intercollegiate athletic competition?

The Bulldogs swept the three races Saturday — for the first time since 1996 — in the 152nd edition of the Yale-Harvard Regatta with the varsity boat putting an exclamation point on its perfect dual-racing and postseason in nearly perfect conditions for the Thames River.

The four-mile varsity contest was decided by just over 4 seconds and included leads by both boats. Harvard’s was early, but the Elis took over and never relinquished the advantage, completing the course in 18:56.1. The Crimson, who made a great push in the East lane around the three-mile mark that closed the gap to three seats, could not sustain the final push and finished at 19:01.4 in one of the all-time classic regattas.

“Steve [Gladstone] always says to be the breaker not the broken,” said senior stroke Stephan Riemekasten about his head coach while paddling back from the finish line to Gales Ferry where an enormous gathering was preparing to celebrate and second straight successful Regatta.

“It was a terrific race,” said Gladstone. “Harvard had that big push two-thirds of the way into the race, and then Yale countered. Deep muscle fatigue had set in already. That was a spectacular move [by Harvard], real coach’s dream. To have the wherewithal and courage to put it all on the line is impressive. It’s equally impressive to counter that move and go on to win.”

The Blue, whose yellow Class of 1983 Empacher did not reach open water until the fans on the rock at Bartlett’s Cove could make out the shirt colors in the boats, kept trying to break the Crimson, who came in undefeated in dual action. Harvard answered each push by the national and Sprints champions, who were wearing their blue racing shirts with a large letter Y.

“We expected to be close. They [Harvard] are a fast crew and we knew they would hang with us all the way. We stayed with our race plan. When the time came to be the breaker, we did it,” said junior coxswain Grant Louis. “We had a move planned, a floating push, and we tried it a mile in. It didn’t work. They stayed with us. Told the guys we need to take another floating push and we need to go now. It was a little too exciting.”

The two varsity boats were level at a half mile just 2:43 into the start. It was just a few seats for Yale at one mile and 4 minutes, 32 seconds. Over the first three miles, it never got more than a three-seat advantage, but the busy Bulldogs ramped it up from 33 strokes per minute to 35 and ended any hopes for a Harvard upset.

“Every half mile we took a big move, and every single time I said, this is it, they are done,” said senior Nate Goodman, who had the Yale four seat. “I know we are stronger [than them]. But they kept coming. I started thinking with 1,000 meters left, they are a good sprinting crew, and I better start gearing up for the finish. I was anticipating a close finish. That last half mile was a lot of relief and a lot of pain. We are rowing our race. We are playing offense and letting them defend. That mentality really carried us through the race.”

Second varsity

The Yale 2V finished the year 7-0 with an eight second victory over the Crimson in the three-miler. The Elis jumped out to a big lead and had open water in the first quarter mile. They were up four boat lengths by the two-mile marker, having emptied the tank early. However, the Blue still had enough to steer it home with the largest victory of the day and the 2V’s second win over Harvard in the last three years.

Third varsity

Harvard jumped out to an early advantage in the two-mile 3V event but was down by three seats by the half mile. Rowing for the first time with captain Robert Hurn, who sat out the varsity championship at the IRA with an illness and was working his way back, the Elis put an end to a 10-year drought in the shortest of the YH races. Yale had open water with a half mile remaining, but the Cantabs tightened things and made it a closer finish.