Fast Facts: Sailing, the first-ever collegiate competition?

LAKE WINNIPESAUKEE — Sports Illustrated, in light of a recent federal investigation into possible cheating in college basketball, featured a story on its website about the depths of deception in intercollegiate competition. The Feb. 24 story highlighted a collegiate regatta in 1852, hailing it as the first-ever competition between two institutions of higher learning. The regatta was also the first incident of cheating in college sports, the Sports Illustrated article alleged.

Those competing in the collegiate regatta, it was believed, were not students but instead professional rowers hired to guide their respective boats to victory, according to the Sports Illustrated article.

The merits of whether such a contention is true or not is beyond the scope of this article.

A flyer made for the regatta was shared with the Sports Illustrated article, listing the four boats expected to compete and the nature of the race.

Harvard and Yale were scheduled to compete against each other on Aug. 3 and 5, 1852. The participating boats were Oneida (Harvard), Undine (Yale), Shawmut (Yale) and Atalanta (Yale).

“These boats were built at a great expense, and their crews are disciplined in the most perfect manner,” the regatta flyer stated. “They carry eight oars to a boat and are from 35 to 40 feet long. The races will consist of several one-mile heats, and the ground has been so selected that any number of spectators, however large, will obtain each an equally good view of each other.”

The regatta was held at Lake Winnipesaukee, the largest lake in New Hampshire. Local rail companies offered half-price rail fares for those who wanted to attend the regatta from the nearby cities of Concord and Warren.

Harvard’s Oneida won the regatta; another three years would pass before a similar boat race was held.

Franklin Pierce, who would soon be elevated into the White House as the 14th President of the United States, was among those in attendance.


Sources: Sports Illustrated, Yale Alumni Magazine

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