The 14 crews facing Harvard, undefeated in 24 straight races, felt a lot like the parson who was chased up a tree by a grizzly bear. "Oh, Lord," the parson prayed from his unsteady pulpit, "if you can't help me, please don't help that bear."
Harvard was grizzly. Princeton had been given a good chance against the Crimson in the Compton Cup regatta. Harvard ate up the Tigers by four lengths. Penn was then given a better chance. It lost by three lengths.
Unbeaten in college competition since May 1963, the Crimson had won the Eastern Sprints heavyweight championship at Worcester, Mass. three consecutive times, and last weekend was ready to make that four. "The only way to beat Harvard," said one hanger-on, "is to get a tail wind and a big-eared crew."
Others were unanimous in attributing Harvard's dominance to Harry Parker's good coaching. " Harvard's material is no better, really," Cornell Coach Stork San-ford said, "but Parker is a real student of the sport, gets the stuff across and is not afraid to experiment."
"Parker," Wisconsin's Norm Sonju said more simply, "is the best thing to happen to Harvard since old Jawn died."
Partly because Harvard had made salad out of the Ivies earlier this season, such heretofore undreaded naval powers as Northeastern and Boston University had been seeded second and third in the sprints. That made sense. Northeastern had lost to the Crimson by a mere second, and the only crew close to the Huskies had been BU.
Perhaps alone among the challengers Northeastern showed no sign of fearing fierce Harvard. "We expected it," said Publicist Jack Grinold of NU's No. 2 seed. It became apparent, moreover, that Northeastern fully expected to win.
"We understand that the traditional crews win this race," Coach G. Ernest Arlett said at a crew luncheon. "But we plan to start a new tradition."
The annals of rowing at Northeastern University extend back exactly three years, and nobody in the varsity boat had seen the inside of a shell before then. But what some folk had failed to properly appreciate was that by hiring Arlett away from Harvard in 1964, NU had imported a powerful dollop of tradition readymade. Steely-haired, black-spectacled, peak-capped Arlett comes from Henley-on-Thames, where his family has been in coaching and rowing for more than a hundred years. A teakettle boils in his office, awaiting visitors.
"I ought to first tell you how I came to America, shouldn't I?" Arlett said last week, a warm smile softening his strong English features. "It was a boyhood ambition of mine, but I never had the get-up-and-go, as you say, to do it. I did talk to Jack Kelly—you know, the brother of Grace—and I was always impressed by the attitude, the desire to win, of American oarsmen I had met at Henley. At last my daughter decided to come as a secretary and I thought, by gosh, if my daughter can do it, I can."