After a 13-week period of indoor training, the men and women of Dartmouth Rowing are finally beginning their racing seasons. This weekend, I travelled with the lightweight squad down to Cambridge, where we would face off with perennial powerhouse Harvard and perennial under-achiever MIT.
The results were as expected. My boat (the 3V 8+, for those of you who understand such code), beat MIT’s crew handedly, and fell to Harvard’s crew even more handedly. The race, which took place over a stretch of the Charles River known as “the Basin”, saw relatively kind conditions and flawless logistics. No delays, no disqualifications, and (thankfully) no last-minute injuries.
The experience of racing at Harvard, however, was unlike any other.
We launched out of Harvard’s historic Newell Boathouse, which, as I should have mentioned before, could be considered a shrine to great rowers, past and present.
Pictures of national-champion crews, flyers from international competition, and acknowledgements of individual achievements cover the aging, wooden walls. The face of legendary coach Harry Parker looks down from framed portraits on almost every wall. The few empty spaces tempt the current rowers, as if to encourage them to fill the space with their own historic achievements.
I could have stayed and looked around for hours, but I had business to take care of. As a Dartmouth rower, it was my goal to try to beat these guys.
We rigged, rowed, and stowed the boats. We weighed in on an ancient scale, and went to dinner at the local Cheesecake Factory. All was going smoothly.
We returned to Newell Boathouse the following morning at 8 AM sharp, dressed and ready to race. The atmosphere had changed; whereas before I was a guest, an observer, and an admirer of Harvard’s successes, I had now become its antagonist. The air was charged with all the fire of competition. It was time to take down the giant.
But despite our bravest efforts, the Harvard Goliaths proved why their very name has become synonymous with success (results available here: http://www.row2k.com/results/resultspage.cfm?UID=6619084&cat=1#.U0rUuV5UHF8). They swept us in each event, handing the Dartmouth crews our second disappointing loss of the season.
We will not compete against Harvard again until Eastern Sprints, on May 18th. Until then, I can go back to admiring all that the members of Newell Boathouse have achieved. I can also guiltlessly encourage anyone who gets the chance to visit this boathouse to do so. It’s like a functional museum, a factory of Olympic-caliber athletes, and it is certainly worth your time.
Many thanks to Harvard for hosting us so kindly and comfortably, and to MIT and Harvard for making the racing possible.