10 June 2017
Göran R Buckhorn writes:
Today, it’s the 152nd Harvard-Yale Regatta on the Thames River in New London, Connecticut. As usual there will be three races running on the river. This year, they will go upstream and in the morning:
The Freshman/Third Varsity two-mile race will start at 9:15 a.m. from Mamacoke Hill to Bartlett’s Cove
The Second Varsity three-mile race will start at 10 a.m. from the Coast Guard Academy to Bartlett’s Cove
The Varsity Race four-mile race will start at 11 a.m. from the Gold Star Bridge to Bartlett’s Cove.
Last year’s Varsity race ended up a fiasco. The Yale crew took an early lead while the Harvard crew were trailing behind, having problems with large waves. At about the half-mile mark, the Crimson boat was waterlogged and began to sink. Yale managed to stay afloat, but an umpire in the launch raised a red flag to stop the race. However, as the Bulldogs were still afloat, they continued to row and crossed the finish line, thinking that they had won the race. They were wrong. After an eight-month investigation, the regatta committee ruled that the Varsity race should be regarded as a ‘non-race’, with the Sexton Cup being engraved ‘no official result’ for 2016. This was the first time in the regatta’s 165 years history that a boat sank due to bad weather conditions. Up to this year’s race, there don’t seem to have been any rules of racing for the Harvard-Yale Regatta. Remarkable, to say the least.
When the ‘no official result’ was released on 12 February 2017, Steve Gladstone, Yale’s Varsity coach, told the Associated Press (AP): ‘The race was poorly officiated. There is some precedent. In the other big 4-mile race, the Oxford-Cambridge race, the crew that crosses the finish line is the winner. If the other boat sinks, they sink.’
There have been a few occasions in the Oxford-Cambridge University Boat Race when one or both crews have sunk: Cambridge sank in 1859, 1978 and 1984 (in the latter race, the Light Blues collided with a barge before the start, which led to a row another day) and Oxford sank in 1925 and 1951 (the latter race led to a re-row another day). In 2016, Cambridge women got waterlogged, but despite the umpire’s advice to pull their boat to shore, the crew decided to continue and did cross the finish line.
In 1912, both Oxford and Cambridge boats got waterlogged, but Oxford, stroked by R. C. Bourne, managed to seek shore, where the crew emptied out the water and continued to Mortlake despite the umpire, Frederick I. Pitman, had called off the race. Read more here.
Probably feeling robbed out of the 2016 Sexton Cup, the Bulldogs will seek revenge this year, though they can hardly blame the Crimson crew for losing the cup. This is Coach Gladstone’s seventh season and Yale has steadily gone from good to (much) better. Previously this season, the Bulldogs won the Eastern Sprints for the third consecutive year, and a week ago they added a new achievement to their list: winning the Grand Final of the IRA National Championships (Harvard took a bronze). This was the first time Yale Heavyweights won since these championships started in 1895. Yale rowing started in 1843.
Favourites for today’s Varsity race is without question the Bulldogs. Let’s hope the weather is cooperating and that the umpire is less eager to wave his red flag.
Re Oxford in 1912, one account suggests that a spectator assisted the crew to relaunch their boat after they beached to empty it, which would have earned disqualification if the race hadn’t been stopped already – see Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race.