- Photo courtesy of Henley Royal Regatta Photos
With a stunning final sprint, the Harvard heavyweight men’s crew closed on the English Leander Club eight and, in a photo finish, won the Ladies’ Challenge Plate at the Henley Royal Regatta on July 1 by a mere foot after a race of one mile, 550 yards. Leander had led for the entire race, getting nearly a length ahead in the first mile, staying in front at the Barrier and Fawley splits, and holding a three-seat advantage with only 50 meters left. But the British eight, which boasted 14 world-championship medals among its oarsmen, could not hold off Harvard’s closing charge. The triumph put a capstone on Harvard’s season, which marked the fiftieth with Bolles head coach Harry Parker at the helm for the men’s crew. (The heavyweights’ international lineup included two New Zealand brothers, Sam and James O’Connor, who were recently profiled in Harvard Magazine.)
The Crimson won their eighth Ladies’ Plate (an “intermediate” event, for club and university eights) overall and second in the past three years. Harvard’s winning time of 6:33 was the fastest recorded by any crew in any Henley event this year, including California Rowing Club’s winning time of 6:36 in defeating Brown University in the final of the Grand Challenge Cup, Henley’s top eight-oared event.
A detailed, anecdotal account at the rowing website rowt2k.com relates the story of Leander’s taunting the Crimson at the Ladies starting line, uttering words they were forced to dine on just a few minutes later.
During the week’s racing, three other Harvard and Radcliffe boats made the semifinals of their events: the varsity lightweight eight (U.S. national champions under head coach Charlie Butt), in the Temple Challenge Cup; coach Liz O’Leary’s Radcliffe varsity heavyweight eight in the Remenham Challenge Cup; and a Harvard heavyweight four in the Prince Albert Challenge Cup. The Harvard freshman heavies got as far as the quarters in the Temple. All these crews were knocked out by the eventual champions. “They each have a legitimate claim to being the second-best boat in their event,” said Parker, “and that’s very much to their credit.”