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Harvard-Yale Regatta

Crimson crews better by a wide margin

By John Veneziano
Globe Correspondent / May 29, 2011

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LEDYARD, Conn. — Perfect, perfect, and perfect.

That’s what the Harvard crews can call themselves after sweeping Yale yesterday on the Thames River.

The Crimson’s varsity, second varsity, and freshman boats prevailed by comfortable margins to improve to a combined 21-0 on the spring and cap undefeated dual seasons. This week’s IRA National Championships are all that remain on the docket.

Nothing could stem the Crimson’s tide in the 146th racing of the regatta, which is the nation’s oldest intercollegiate athletic event, dating to an 1852 contest on New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee. The sweep was Harvard’s fourth straight.

Rowing in steadily improving conditions, Harvard’s varsity captured the 4-mile upstream race by 13.4 seconds, 19:05.7 to 19:19.1, to increase its all-time series lead to 92-54.

“Our guys rowed a very solid race. We had to, because Yale put a great deal of effort into it,’’ said Harvard coach Harry Parker, who improved to 42-7 against the Elis.

“There wasn’t a specific moment or move that decided the outcome. Both crews rowed well. We were just a little stronger.’’

The crews came out aggressively in the calm conditions and overlapped for the first 1 1/2 miles before Harvard pulled away. The Crimson’s lead was 2 lengths at the midway point, and while Yale gamely pressed on, it simply couldn’t match Harvard’s power or pace.

“We expected them to race hard and did feel a bit of pressure early on, but we stayed focused on our boat and executed our race plan,’’ said captain Anthony Locke, the Crimson’s four-man. “In the second and third miles, we were able to assert ourselves and open up the margin.’’

Still, first-year Yale coach Steve Gladstone said his crew could come away with a sense of accomplishment.

“Losing to Harvard hurts, but they’re obviously very fast,’’ he said. “I was pleased with how we stayed right with them for the first 1.5 miles, and our guys absolutely gave full measure.’’

“Like all things in life, this is a step-by-step process,’’ added Gladstone, who has coached Brown and California to success on a national stage. “As a coach, it’s compelling to be part of this process. The building [of a program] is the fun part and our rowers should feel a sense of growth.’’

With the win, Harvard’s varsity improved to 7-0 and earned its 21st undefeated mark in Parker’s 49 years.

However, the Crimson, who captured the Eastern Sprints crown two Sundays ago, will be an underdog at IRAs against top-ranked Washington and defending national champion California. Harvard last captured the IRA title in 2005.

“That’s the one race I’ve never won,’’ said Locke, “so it’s the one I really want.

“It’s going to be difficult coming off the back of this race, but Harry does a great job of preparing us, so we’ll be ready.’’

On paper, the second varsity race was expected to be the regatta’s most competitive. And it was . . . at least until the halfway point.

That’s when Harvard found another gear and not only turned the race into a rout, but also set a 3-mile course record with its time of 13:38.0. Yale, which finished in 14:08.0, now trails the second varsity series, 72-37.

The Crimson freshmen set the tone with a 6-length win in the most difficult conditions of the day, handling an unruly tailwind to take the 2-mile contest, 9:03.2 to 9:24.2.

The victory completed the fifth straight undefeated season for Harvard’s frosh, whose last loss came in 2006 at the hands of Yale, and improved their all-time series lead to 67-39-1.

“We’ve got a good thing going in the boathouse,’’ said Harvard freshman coach Bill Manning.

“If you’re looking for a reason for the success of our freshmen, it’s the message they’re getting from the upperclassmen. That message of complete commitment is reinforced year after year, and the guys buy into it fully and enjoy the rewards of it.’’