Just as at the English race a week before, the incredibly powerful German crew had caught the Philadelphians off guard at the start and moved out at a quick, hard 50 strokes a minute to establish a lead of nearly a length. Straining to regain the lost distance, Vesper settled down to a long stern chase, their red-and-white blades churning at 38 to 39 strokes a minute. Vesper's prerace plan had called for a spurt near the halfway mark, and Vesper did indeed begin to catch up at that point. But the plan had not called for giving so much away to the Germans at the start and, as Vesper applied extra pressure to make it up, one of its oars caught something very close to a crab. "We used it all up by the middle of the race," said Stowe.
"Vesper was a little bit ahead of us at 1,700 meters," said the Ratzeburger's Klaus Behrens, "but then we came on again." If this was true, the Vespers didn't know it; as far as they were concerned, Ratzeburg never stopped coming on. The Philadelphians held on heroically, but Ratzeburg was still pulling strongly and crossed the finish line at a steady 40 strokes a minute, a few critical, but nonetheless decisive, inches (and exactly one second) ahead. Because of the closeness of the race and the angle of the finish line, few ashore knew who had won. But when the German victory was announced over the loudspeaker, someone on the shore suddenly yelled:
"Heil!" roared the crowd in response.
"Heil!" shrieked the crowd.
"Heil" is not exactly what Bill Stowe said when the race was over. "We're going home to practice nothing but starts," said the Vesper stroke. "Then if we can raise the dough to come back over here for the European championships we'll take 'em on again."