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Harvard-Yale Regatta - 150 Years of Tradition

There are many chapters in the history of the great Harvard-Yale rivalry.  Yet the first was written in the summer of 1852— on the waters of Lake Winnipesaukee in Center Harbor, N.H.  As is the case with its football counterpart known as “The Game,” the Harvard-Yale crew race is a season unto itself as victory will make any campaign a success, while defeat can spoil an otherwise spectacular spring.  Sports Illustrated has called this the most venerable rivalry in all of college sports and Yankee Magazine recently wrote a cover story on the race. Now that we’re into the third century of this race, let’s take the time to review some of the grand moments of the past 150 years. — when crews from the two schools met in a two-mile race.

 

Boat clubs at Harvard and Yale had existed since the early 1840s, but races against outside competition was rare.  That all changed when Yale issued a challenge to Harvard “to test the superiority of the oarsmen of the two colleges.”  Thus the oldest intercollegiate athletic event was born. 

 

On August 3, 1852—in a two-mile race on the calm waters of Lake Winnipesaukee—Harvard and Yale battled like never before.  Yale was represented by two boats, the Shawmut and the Undine, while Harvard rowed in the Oneida.  Harvard won the inaugural race by about four lengths, earning a pair of black walnut oars as its prize.  It seems that people right away knew this was going to be the start of something big for among the distinguished observers was General Franklin Pierce, the Democratic party nominee and native of nearby Hillsborough, who would be elected President later that year.

 

No further races were held between the schools until July 1855, when Yale issued another challenge.  In a contest held on the Connecticut River in Springfield, Harvard made it two straight, winning by one minute and 38 seconds.  Harvard and Yale met again in 1859 and 1860, but it wasn’t until 1864 that the Regatta became an annual event.  Yale gained its first series win that year, taking the three-miler on Worcester’s Lake Quinsigamond by 42 seconds.

 

In 1876, the series’ first four-mile race was held as the crews met on the Connecticut River. Yale won the contest, which was the first since the inaugural one to use eight-oared shells, by 29 seconds.

 

The Regatta came to New London in 1878 and, with rare exception, has been held in the town originally known as Nameaug (good fishing place) ever since. Yale arrived 12 days prior to the June 28 race, settling in at Gales Ferry and taking quarters at a two-story house owned by Latham Brown.  Harvard set up camp five days later, moving into a house owned by Charles Stoddard, about a mile south of Yale.

 

In anticipation of the race, a huge grandstand—seating approximately 3,000 fans—was erected.  A crowd of 25,000 showed up.  Harvard led the entire way and took victory with its time of 20:44.75, an American record.  One casualty on the day was the press boat, which struck a tugboat midway through the race and missed the ending.

 

The Regatta wasn’t held in 1896 because of a breakdown in relations between the two schools, but was renewed in 1897 with a three-boat race in Poughkeepsie that included Cornell.

 

President Theodore Roosevelt was in attendance for the 50th anniversary Regatta and saw a 13-second Yale victory.  This came during a dominant streak for the Elis, who were in the midst of winning 17 races in 19 years.

 

The 1911 race marked the first appearance of an airplane on the Regatta course.  The flier was H.W. Atwood, noted aviator who set a record time for a flight from Boston to New London.  By today’s standards, his travel time would barely qualify him for the breakdown lane on I-95 as he completed the 135-mile flight in 2 hours, 12 minutes.  Harvard won the race easily, as Yale’s stroke was taken from the shell at the three-mile mark.

 

Just three years later came the closest race in Regatta lore. Yale won by an official count of 1/5 second—the smallest fraction measured on stopwatches of the time—but the true margin was even closer.  The 1914 Regatta also marked the inaugural junior varsity eight-oared race, replacing the varsity substitute fours.

 

Then, in 1925, a crowd estimated at 100,000 along the shoreline and two packed observation trains of 32 cars witnessed history as, for the first time, a crew trailing by open water at the mile mark came back to win.  Yale roared back from its deficit to gain victory with a record-breaking upstream clocking of 20:26.

 

In 1934, distinguished Harvard alum and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was among the spectators.  His son, Franklin, Jr. was a member of the Crimson’s JV crew that year. Roosevelt didn’t do much cheering as Yale swept the day’s events, and set a downstream mark with a time of 19:51.8.  With Roosevelt in attendance again the following year, Yale scored a second-straight victory.

 

But in 1936, Harvard initiated a 10-year winning streak that was the longest in the rivalry at that time.  And the 1938 season marked an unprecedented triumph by the Crimson, as Harvard earned its first-ever quadruple sweep since the combination race was added in 1920.

 

The Regatta was not held in 1943-45 because of World War II, and the 1946 race, the shortest in history, was held on Charles River.   When the crews reappeared in New London the following spring, they saw the new highway bridge that had been completed above the Thames.  But the result was the same...Harvard won the race by six seconds.

 

In 1952, the schools went to New London in June then ventured to Lake Winnipesaukee in August to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first Regatta.  The race followed the original script, with Harvard winning by 2.7 seconds.

 

Yale won five races in a row starting in 1954, culminating with a 13-second upstream victory.  That win pulled the Elis within 48-46 in the all-time series.

 

Since that year, however, Harvard has seized the upperhand.  The Crimson won 21 of the next 22 races—including 18 in a row to start Harry Parker’s coaching tenure.  The only Eli breakthrough came in 1962, one year before Parker’s arrival.  The 1963 combination race set the tone, as one of the great comebacks in Regatta history occurred when the Crimson—after trailing by as much as three lengths—burst through Yale in the final strokes to win by a half-length.  The varsity had an easier time the next day, winning by 28 seconds.  Harvard’s final win in that 18-year run saw the Crimson establish a course record that still stands, with time of 18:22.4 in its two-length victory.


The Elis bounced back to win four straight between 1981 and 1984, starting with an 11-second upstream win. But Harvard answered with an 11-year Regatta streak that ran from 1985 until 1995. In the 1995 contest, both crews smashed the upstream mark. Harvard’s winning time of 18:41.9 and Yale’s clocking of 18:45.5 both bettered the previous standard. Yale returned to the winner’s circle in 1996 and again in 1999 in downstream races, victories sandwiched around a pair of Harvard sweeps. The Crimson had swept the Regatta four of the last six seasons and won seven straight entering the 2007 regatta. Yale, who closed the gap against the Crimson at Sprints, won the second varsity eight and then pulled ahead in the final strokes to defeat Harvard in the varsity eight. Harvard, seeking revenge, swept all three races in the Regatta, in 2008.

The 2008 victory marked the beginning of the Crimson's six-straight sweeps of the Regatta. The 2013 sweep was Harry Parker's 51st and final Harvard-Yale Regatta and ended his record at 44-7 all-time against the Elis. 

 

The Varsity Series

Year

Date

Site

Dist.

Dir.

Winner

H Time

Y Time

1852

Aug. 3

CH

2

H

by 2 lengths

 

1855

July 21

Sp

3

Harvard

22:47

24:00

1859

July 26

W

3

Harvard

19:18

20:18

1860

July 24

W

3

Harvard

18:53

19:05.5

1864

July 29

W

3

Yale

19:43.5

19:01

1865

July 28

W

3

Yale

19:09

18:42.5

1866

July 26

W

3

Harvard

18:43.5

19:10

1867

July 19

W

3

Harvard

18:12.75

19:25.5

1868

July 24

W

3

Harvard

17:48.5

18:38.5

1869

July 23

W

3

Harvard

18:02

18:11

1870

July 22

W

3

Harvard

20:30

fouled

1872

July 24

Sp

3

Harvard

16:57

18:13

1873

July 17

Sp

3

Yale

uncertain

16:59

1874

July 18

Sa

3

Harvard

16:56

disabled

1875

July 14

Sa

3

Harvard

17:05

17:14.5

1876

June 30

Sp

4

Yale

22:31

22:02

1877

June 30

Sp

4

 

Harvard

24:36

24:43

1878

June 28

NL

4

D

Harvard

20:44.75

21:29

1879

June 27

NL

4

D

Harvard

22:15

23:58

1880

July 1

NL

4

D

Yale

25:09

24:27

1881

July 1

NL

4

D

Yale

22:19

22:13

1882

June 30

NL

4

D

Harvard

20:47.5

20:50.5

1883

June 28

NL

4

D

Harvard

25:46.5

25:59

1884

June 26

NL

4

D

Yale

20:48

20:31

1885

June 26

NL

4

D

Harvard

25:15.5

26:30

1886

July 2

NL

4

U

Yale

21:05

20:42

1887

July 1

NL

4

D

Yale

23:10.5

22:56

1888

June 29

NL

4

D

Yale

21:24

20:10

1889

June 28

NL

4

U

Yale

21:55

21:30

1890

June 27

NL

4

D

Yale

21:40

21:29

1891

June 26

NL

4

U

Harvard

21:23

21:57

1892

July 1

NL

4

D

Yale

21:42.5

20:48

1893

June 30

NL

4

D

Yale

25:15

25:01.5

1894

June 28

NL

4

D

Yale

24:38

23:45.5

1895

June 28

NL

4

D

Yale

22:05

21:30

1897

June 25

P

4

Yale

21:00

20:44

1898

June 23

NL

4

U

Yale

24:35

24:02

1899

June 29

NL

4

D

Harvard

20:52.5

21:13

1900

June 28

NL

4

D

Yale

21:37.4

21.12.8

1901

June 27

NL

4

D

Yale

23:45

23:37

1902

June 26

NL

4

D

Yale

20:33

20:20

1903

June 25

NL

4

D

Yale

20:29.6

20:19.8

1904

July 1

NL

4

U

Yale

22:10

21:40.5

1905

June 29

NL

4

U

Yale

22:36

22:33.5

1906

June 28

NL

4

D

Harvard

23:02

23:11

1907

June 27

NL

4

U

Yale

21:13

21:10

1908

June 25

NL

4

U

Harvard

24:10

not taken

1909

July 11

NL

4

U

Harvard

21:50

22:10

1910

June 30

NL

4

D

Harvard

20:46.5

21:04

1911

June 30

NL

4

D

Harvard

22:44

23.40.5

1912

June 21

NL

4

D

Harvard

21:43.5

22:04

1913

June 20

NL

4

D

Harvard

21:42

22:20

1914

June 19

NL

4

U

Yale

21:16.2

21:16

1915

June 25

NL

4

U

Yale

21:13.5

20:52

1916

June 23

NL

4

D

Harvard

20:02

20:17

1918

June 1

D

2

Harvard

10:58

11:04

1919

June 20

NL

4

D

Yale

21:47.6

21:42.2

1920

June 25

NL

4

U

Harvard

23:11

23:46

1921

June 24

NL

4

D

Yale

20:44.2

20:41

1922

June 23

NL

4

U

Yale

22:06

21:53

1923

June 22

NL

4

D

Yale

22:35

22:10

1924

June 20

NL

4

D

Yale

22:11

21:58.4

1925

June 19

NL

4

U

Yale

20:32.4

20:26

1926

June 25

NL

4

U

Yale

20:21.6

20:14.4

1927

June 24

NL

4

D

Harvard

22:35.1

22:39

1928

June 22

NL

4

D

Yale

20:56

20:21.6

1929

June 21

NL

4

U

Yale

21:39

21:20

1930

June 20

NL

4

D

Yale

20:30.8

20:09.4

1931

June 19

NL

4

U

Harvard

22:21

22:30

1932

June 24

NL

4

D

Harvard

21:29

21:42

1933

June 16

NL

4

D

Harvard

22:46.6

22:53.6

1934

June 22

NL

4

D

Yale

20:01.6

19:51.8

1935

June 22

NL

4

U

Yale

21:04

20:19

1936

June 19

NL

4

U

Harvard

20:19

20:40.6

1937

June 25

NL

4

U

Harvard

20:02

20:06.2

1938

June 24

NL

4

U

Harvard

20:20

20:23.8

1939

June 23

NL

4

D

Harvard

20:48.4

20:53

1940

June 21

NL

4

U

Harvard

21:38

22:09

1941

June 14

NL

4

D

Harvard

20:40

20:53.4

1942

May 23

D

2

Harvard

10:09.6

10:20.8

1946

June 1

C

1.75

Harvard

9:18

9:38

1947

June 18

NL

4

U

Harvard

20:40

20:46

1948

June 25

NL

4

D

Harvard

19:21.4

19:23

1949

June 24

NL

4

U

Yale

19:54.2

19:52.8

1950

June 23

NL

4

D

Harvard

21:36.4

21:37.2

1951

June 22

NL

4

D

Harvard

21:26

21:48.8

1952

June 20

NL

4

U

Yale

22:52.8

22:48.8

1953

June 12

NL

4

U

Harvard

20:09

20:20

1954

June 19

NL

4

D

Yale

22:02

21:58.4

1955

June 17

NL

4

U

Yale

20:10

20:05

1956

June 16

NL

4

D

Yale

19:47.4

19:26

1957

June 15

NL

4

U

Yale

21:04

20:35.2

1958

June 14

NL

4

U

Yale

22:52

22:39

1959

June 13

NL

4

D

Harvard

19:52

20:02

1960

June 18

NL

4

D

Harvard

19:41.2

20:08.6

1961

June 17

NL

4

D

Harvard

22:00

22:29.5

1962

June 16

NL

4

U

Yale

21:27

21:26

1963

June 16

NL

4

D

Harvard

19:47

20:15

1964

June 20

NL

4

U

Harvard

20:48.2

21:06

1965

June 19

NL

4

D

Harvard

19:41.6

20:21

1966

June 18

NL

4

U

Harvard

19:44

20:06

1967

June 17

NL

4

D

Harvard

22:43.4

23:08.2

1968

June 15

NL

4

D

Harvard

20:21

21:05.4

1969

June 14

NL

4

U

Harvard

19:37.2

20:09.2

1970

June 13

NL

4

D

Harvard

22:05

22:34

19718

June 19

NL

4

U

Harvard

20:06

20:52

1972

June 17

NL

4

D

Harvard

20:34.8

20:55.3

1973

June 16

NL

4

D

Harvard

19:52.8

20:39.3

1974

May 18

C

3

U

Harvard

16:23

17:34

1975

June 7

NL

4

U

Harvard

22:07

22:49

1976

May 22

NL

4

U

Harvard

23:43.9

24:47.9

1977

May 22

NL

2

U

Harvard

9:42.6

9:57.7

1978

June 10

NL

4

U

Harvard

23:26

23:39

1979

June 9

NL

4

U

Harvard

19:22.9

19:25.4

1980

June 7

NL

4

D

Harvard

18:22.4

18:30.8

1981

May 31

NL

4

U

Yale

21:39.6

21:28.6

1982

June 12

NL

4

D

Yale

20:07.8

19:51.8

1983

June 5

NL

4

U

Yale

21:03

20:45

1984

June 3

NL

4

U

Yale

21:23.16

21:10

1985

June 8

NL

4

U

Harvard

19:41.1

19:57.9

1986

June 7

NL

4

U

Harvard

20:22.4

20:35

1987

June 6

NL

4

U

Harvard

22:07

22:39.9

1988

June 5

NL

4

U

Harvard

20:50.4

20:58.9

1989

June 10

NL

4

D

Harvard

19:15.3

19:53.6

1990

June 9

NL

4

U

Harvard

19:36.0

20:06.5

1991

June 1

NL

4

D

Harvard

21:18.5

21:30.5

1992

June 6

NL

4

D

Harvard

19:08.3

19:45.6

1993

June 5

NL

4

U

Harvard

19:09.3

19:21.7

1994

June 4

NL

4

U

Harvard

18:52.4

18:59.9

1995

June 10

NL

4

U

Harvard

18:41.9

18:45.5

1996

June 8

NL

4

D

Yale

20:08.5

20:01.9

1997

June 1

NL

4

U

Harvard

22:06.8

22:10.3

1998

June 6

NL

4

U

Harvard

21:32.3

21:53.7

1999

June 5

NL

4

D

Yale

20:51.98

20:45.94

2000

June 10

NL

4

U

Harvard

19:44.4

19:54.2

2001

June 8

NL

4

U

Harvard

18:55.6

19:32.7

2002

June 8

NL

4

U

Harvard

19:02.5

19:43.8

2003

June 7

NL

4

U

Harvard

18:54.4

19:44.2

2004

June 12

NL

4

U

Harvard

18:42.1

19:06.8

2005

June 11

NL

4

U

Harvard

19:20.4

20:00.0

2006

June 11

NL

4

U

Harvard

23:22.6

23:30.4

2007

June 9

NL

4

U

Yale

19:58.0

19:57.5

2008

June 14

NL

4

U

Harvard

18:54.1

19:01.6

2009

June 13

NL

4

D

Harvard

21:25.6

21:45.1

2010

May 29

NL

4

U

Harvard

19:40.3

19:46.2

2011

May 28

NL

4

U

Harvard

19:05.7

19:19.1

2012

May 26

NL

4

D

Harvard

19:41.3

19:51.2

2013

June 9

NL

4

U

Harvard

21:17.6

21:41.3

 

The Second Varsity Series

Year

Result

Record

1899

Harvard 10:51, Yale 15 lengths back

1-0

1900

Harvard over Yale by 6 lengths

2-0

1901

Harvard over Yale by 6 lengths

3-0

1902

Harvard over Yale by 3 lengths

4-0

1903

Yale 10:59.4, Harvard 3 lengths back

4-1

1904

Harvard over Yale narrowly

5-1

1905

Harvard over Yale by open water

6-1

1906

Yale over Harvard by 24 seconds

6-2

1907

Yale over Harvard

6-3

1908

Yale 10:33.5, Harvard 3 lengths back

6-4

1909

Harvard over Yale by 9 seconds

7-4

1910

Harvard over Yale by 6 lengths

8-4

1911

Harvard over Yale by 4 lengths

9-4

1912

Harvard over Yale by 10 lengths

10-4

1913

Harvard over Yale by 18 seconds

11-4

1914

Harvard over Yale by 7 lengths

12-4

1915

Yale over Harvard by 1/2 length

12-5

1916

Harvard over Yale by 1/2 length

13-5

1918

Yale over Harvard by 3/4 length

13-6

1919

Harvard over Yale by 8 lengths

14-6

1920

Yale over Harvard

14-7

1921

Harvard over Yale

15-7

1922

Harvard over Yale

16-7

1923

Yale 10:10, Harvard 10:28.4

16-8

1924

Yale 10:41, Harvard 10:45

16-9

1925

Yale 9:50, Harvard 10:02

16-10

1926

Harvard 10:36.6, Yale 10:43.6

17-10

1927

Yale 9:23.4, Harvard 9:29

17-11

1928

Yale 10:45.4, Harvard 11:04.8

17-12

1929

Yale 11:00, Harvard 11:12.8

17-13

1930

Harvard 11:07.2, Yale 11:10.6

18-13

1931

Yale 10:43, Harvard 10:54

18-14

1932

Harvard 8:00.6, Yale 8:05.2

19-14

1933

Harvard 11:48.2, Yale 11:49.2

20-14

1934

Yale 9:40.2, Harvard 9:48.6

20-15

1935

Yale 9:56, Harvard 9:56.4

20-16

1936

Yale 10:52.4, Harvard 11:08.4

20-17

1937

Yale 11:56.2, Harvard 11:59.4

20-18

1938

Harvard 10:27, Yale 10:30.4

21-18

1939

Harvard 9:35, Yale 9:39

22-18

1940

Harvard 11:33.4, Yale 11:41.2

23-18

1941

Harvard 10:06.8, Yale 10:10.6

24-18

1942

Harvard 10:30.8, Yale 10:39.4

25-18

1946

Harvard over Yale

26-18

1947

Harvard 9:42, Yale 9:47

27-18

 
 
 

1948

Harvard 9:30, Yale 9:34.4

28-18

1949

Yale 9:36.0, Harvard 9:42.6

28-19

1950

Harvard 10:59.2, Yale 11:08.0

29-19

1951

Harvard 10:08.0, Yale 10:11.6

30-19

1952

Yale 11:05.2, Harvard 11:05.4

30-20

1953

Harvard 9:46.0, Yale 9:56.4

31-20

1954

Harvard 10:44.8, Yale 10:52.4

32-20

1955

Yale 9:53.4, Harvard 10:01.0

32-21

1956

Yale 9:44.0, Harvard 9:51.0

32-22

1957

Yale 16:04.2, Harvard 16:15.2

32-23

1958

Yale 17:05.6, Harvard 17:29.6

32-24

1959

Harvard 15:50.0, Yale 16:00.0

33-24

1960

Harvard 15:20.0, Yale 15:22.2

34-24

1961

Yale 16:22.5, Harvard 16:28.0

34-25

1962

Yale 15:49.0, Harvard 15:56.6

34-26

1963

Harvard 15:45, Yale 16:02.4

35-26

1964

Harvard 15:33.2, Yale 15:41.2

36-26

1965

Harvard 15:54.9, Yale 16:11.0

37-26

1966

Yale 14:12.0, Harvard 14.23.0

37-27

1967

Harvard 18:15.4, Yale 18:27.4

38-27

1968

Harvard 16:02.0, Yale 16:14.0

39-27

1969

Harvard 14:43.5, Yale 15:07.0

40-27

1970

Harvard 17:35.0, Yale 18:24.0

41-27

1971

Harvard 15:10.8, Yale 15:20.6

42-27

1972

Harvard 15:32.1, Yale 15:43.1

43-27

1973

Harvard 15.19.4, Yale 16:02.4

44-27

1974

Harvard 10:58, Yale 11:38

45-27

1975

Harvard 16:46, Yale 17:09

46-27

1976

Yale 17:34, Harvard 17:43.8

46-28

1977

Harvard 10:01.6, Yale 10:15.8

47-28

1978

Harvard 18:01.0, Yale 18:29.4

48-28

1979

Yale 14:28, Harvard 14:38

48-29

1980

Yale 14:18.0, Harvard 14:45.8

48-30

1981

Yale 15:44.2, Harvard 17:04.7

48-31

1982

Yale 15:19.0, Harvard 15:32.0

48-32

1983

Harvard 15:24.7, Yale 15:30.8

49-32

1984

Harvard 16:48.5, Yale 17:13.11

50-32

1985

Harvard 14:23.5, Yale 14:47.0

51-32

1986

Harvard 15:05.9, Yale 15:21.0

52-32

1987

Yale 16:53.6, Harvard 17:05.0

52-33

1988

Harvard 15:10.0, Yale 15:18.0

53-33

1989

Harvard 15:05.2, Yale 15:20.7

54-33

1990

Harvard 14:57.0, Yale 15:09.4

55-33

1991

Yale 15:43.5, Harvard 16:00.8

55-34

1992

Harvard 14:40.6, Yale 14:55.4

56-34

1993

Harvard 14:27.7, Yale 14:56.8

57-34

1994

Harvard 13:51.7, Yale 14:00.6

58-34

1995

Harvard 13:54.7, Yale 14:11.8

59-34

1996

Yale 16:37.6, Harvard 16:42.4

59-35

1997

Harvard 13:57.2, Yale 14:11.6

60-35

1998

Harvard 16:12.6, Yale 16: 18.4

61-35

1999

Harvard 16:17.4, Yale 16:26.3

62-35

2000

Harvard 15:01.2, Yale 15:15.74

63-35

2001

Harvard 14:23.7, Yale 14:37.5

64-35

2002

Harvard 14:19.0, Yale 14:45.8

65-35

2003

Harvard 13:57.0, Yale 14:31.2

66-35

2004

Harvard 13:46.1, Yale 14:16.4

67-35

2005

Yale 14:12.7, Harvard 14:32.9

67-36

2006

Harvard 16:22, Yale 16:30

68-36

2007

Yale 15:27.0, Harvard 15:45.0

68-37

2008

Harvard 14:03.2, Yale 14:23.4

69-37

2009

Harvard 16:16.9, Yale 16:19.2

70-37

2010

Harvard 14:46.8, Yale 15:02.4

71-37

2011

Harvard 13:38, Yale 14:08

72-37

2012

Harvard 14:55.5, Yale 15:27.2

73-37

2013

Harvard 16:24.9, Yale 16:30.9

74-37