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Each year the third week in June produces both America's oldest rowing classic and the battle for national crew honors

To U.S. oarsmen there is nothing quite so tremulously exciting as the combination of a late June afternoon, a blue expanse of water, and the urgent cadence of the coxswain's cry as eight bodies bend in unison to their oars. Add the din of shrieking sirens and tooting horns from spectator yachts forming a flag-draped lane to the finish line and you have the setting for a championship crew race. This weekend, only 24 hours and 225 miles apart, the scene will be duplicated at America's two best-known races. At New London, Conn, (see opposite and following pages), Yale and Harvard, who originated college rowing 103 years ago, will race for the 90th time, upstream over an exhausting four-mile course. At Syracuse, N.Y., 12 other varsity crews will vie for the mythical national championship in the 53rd renewal of the Intercollegiate Rowing Association Regatta, better known from other days as The Poughkeepsie. For a preview and cast of characters in these classics, see page 17.

Brightly bedecked craft of all descriptions line the course in New London's Thames River as Harvard's high stroking freshman crew sprints for the finish line in the opening race of last year's traditional regatta with Yale. Other spectators watch from observation train.

The big one: In the full sunlight of late afternoon, Yale's varsity crew (at-left) approaches the end of the long and tiring four-mile course, clinging to a lead of a length-plus over Harvard. Officials, coaches and press representatives trail the shells in launches.

Rowing fans, Yales and Harvards alike, follow the varsity race in air-conditioned comfort from a streamlined observation train. Railroad right of way parallels the river over the entire course, providing fine panoramic view of the race from start to finish.

Completely exhausted by the cruel, merciless grind of America's longest crew race, dejected Harvard oarsmen sag limply in their shell at the finish. Harvard somehow found strength for a closing sprint to trim Yale's victory margin to-less than a boat length.