HENLEY-ON-THAMES, ENGLAND, JULY 1 -- An American rowing crew survived jet lag to win its first race at the 148th Henley Regatta today, but a $20,000 trip by another American crew ended in defeat.

The annual event, a traditional favorite of the British aristocracy, opened with a surprise: eight previously unbeaten freshmen from the University of Pennsylvania lost to a late entry, Vesta of West London.

But a coxless four from the Boston Rowing Club, including Charlie Butt Jr. of McLean, Va., and Steve Schmidt of Arlington, Va., advanced into the second round despite only arriving the night before.

Penn lost by three-quarters of a length in the Ladies' Challenge Plate and became the latest victim of a rule change that bars overseas crews from the Thames Challenge Cup. Top overseas crews were left to enter the Ladies' Plate.

Some critics have claimed that the Ladies' Plate has become overly competitive in its early stages.

Penn had spent nearly $20,000 sending its crew across the Atlantic.

Despite weariness from their trip, the Boston rowers managed a well-controlled, three- or four-length victory over a crew from the host club, Leander.

U.S. team officials said the reason for the crew's late arrival was that the Americans had been required to take part in the national championships in Indianapolis, which they won.

Butt and Schmidt will represent the United States at next month's world championships in Copenhagen.