Well, early summer has arrived, and with it heat, and, more importantly, the Yale Men's Crew. We live across the street from on the Thames River (pronounced with the "th" sounding, unlike it's name sake in London), and across the street from us is the Yale Boathouse. Not the fancy, up-to-date one in New Haven, you understand, but the big old run down barn-like buildings where they come to practice for the Harvard-Yale Regatta, known in Yale & Harvard rowing circles as "The Race."
The Race is a four mile all out sprint against Harvard, which has a boathouse down river. This is the longest running intercollegiate sporting event in the country, now going strong after more than 125 years! For the first 20 years or so the Race was rowed on Lake Winnipesaukee, in NH, then moved to the Thames because it was more or less half way between Boston and New Haven.
It is also the longest rowing race in all of rowing, an incredible athletic feat that Yale usually loses. alas. It doesn't matter if they beat Harvard during the regular rowing year, they rarely win at "The Ferry." Nevertheless, over the years Yale has made itself quite well known in the neighborhood, which has seen Yalies come and Yalies go for over 100 years.
At first the boys stayed in neighbors' homes, but as time went on they bought property, added onto the old houses and made themselves a temporary home away from home where generations of rowers have come, spent two or three weeks training for the long haul up the river, rowed the race, and gone home.
Several times I have met former Yale rowers in other situations-outside of Philadelphia where I grew up, or in the Poconos- and each time I tell them I live in the house across the street, they say, "The red one with the seagull on the roof?" Yup. that's us.(The seagull is wooden) And for the last 26 years the one with the "Row Well Yale" sign up on the roof. We townies have our own traditions, too, you know.
A few years ago, Rene added to the neighborhood traditions by painting "Go Yale Go" in blue on the street. The next year she added a big white Y on either side. Occasionally she has to repaint it. This year the blue is outlined in white, and the Y' s have oars on either side, like the huge Yale rowing flag that flaps in the breeze on the top of the dorm building. Shhhh. Don't tell anyone, I am sure the public works department does not approve.
The first race-the freshmen-is usually on Friday night, along with the Yale Rowing Alumni Association Cocktail Party, to which the neighbors (that's us!)are invited. It is the only cocktail party I attend most years, and neighbors talk to neighbors, while Yale talks to Yale. It is actually fun, as we try to get as much food and drink out of Yale as is neighborhoodly possible in one three hour interval. I usually don't last that long, since I only have one cocktail, and don't like to stand too long. Still, it is an event to attend. We catch up on what has gone on all winter, while the alumni reminisce about rowers past and discuss their stock portfolios. ( I made that last part up, I am rarely privy to their conversations, I'm too busy with neighbors!)
The other three races are on Saturday, the sophmores row 2 miles, the JV , 3 miles, and the Varsity, a muscle screaming, lung crushing, agonizingly long 4 miles. They usually start down near the mouth of the river and row upstream to Bartlett's cove, which is about a mile downstream from us. We stand on Yale's property, listen to the race on the radio and scream for Yale to hurry up. With binoculars, we can see them cross the finish line, usually second.
Still, since none of us went to Yale, it is not the end of the world, and we come back across the street to watch the alumni and rowers' families clog up the neighborhood with volvos and audis and mercedes, while they wander around telling each other, wait till next year! When, of course, the same scenario will be played out once again. It's a neighborhood/Yale tradition!