The first intercollegiate athletic competition was held between Yale and Harvard today in 1852 to “test the superiority of the two colleges.” Now WE know em

Photograph: Werner Schmidt

Photograph: Werner Schmidt

On May 24, 1843, the shell Whitehall arrived at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

Yale University then founded the first collegiate rowing crew in the United States.

One year later, Harvard University founded their rowing club.

These boat clubs served primarily a social purpose, that is until Yale issued a challenge to Harvard “to test the superiority of the oarsmen of the two colleges”.

This challenge resulted in the first Harvard-Yale Boat Race (and the first ever American intercollegiate sporting event).


“Real athletes row. Everyone else just plays games.” — Rowing Shirt Logo

Lake Winnipesaukee

The oarsmen gathered at Center Harbor, New Hampshire located in Belknap County centered between Meredith and Moultonborough harbors on August 3, 1852.

The town was a popular summer resort and landing place on Lake Winnipesaukee for both steamers and stagecoaches.

Center Harbor was also the home of Dudley Leavitt, author of the first Farmers’ Almanac in 1797.

Harvard–Yale Regatta

In this two-mile race, Harvard’s Oneida prevailed over Yale’s Shawmut by about two lengths, with Yale’s Undine finishing third.

The first place prize was a pair of black walnut, silver inscribed trophy oars.

These famous trophy oars were awarded to Harvard by General Franklin Pierce who in 1853 became the 14th President of the United States of America.


1956 Yale-Harvard Race (photo from Tom Charlton)

1956 Yale-Harvard Race (photo from Tom Charlton)

Today the Yale–Harvard Boat Race or Yale–Harvard Regatta has become an annual rowing race between Yale University and Harvard University, except during major wars fought by the United States.

The Race has since moved to the Thames River, New London, Connecticut.

Harvard beats Yale on the Thames, New London

Harvard beats Yale on the Thames, New London

Although other locations for The Race have included the Connecticut River at Springfield, Massachusetts, and Lake Quinsigamond at Worcester, Massachusetts, the Thames has hosted The Race on all but five occasions since 1878 and both teams have erected permanent training camps on the Thames at Gales Ferry for Yale and at Red Top for Harvard.

The Race has been exclusively between Harvard and Yale except for 1897 when the race was held as part of a three boat race with Cornell on the Hudson River at Poughkeepsie, New York, where, although it lost to Cornell, Yale was deemed the winner of the Harvard–Yale race.


The original race outcome was repeated 100 years later when the schools celebrated the centennial of the race by again competing on Lake Winnipesaukee in 1952 (Harvard winning by 2.7 seconds).

Now WE know em



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