Easy victories mark crew teams’ opening races

The men’s lightweight and women’s crew teams successfully kicked off their spring seasons with two impressive showings this past Saturday.

The men’s lightweight crew swept all four of its races against the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on the Charles River on Saturday to win its 23rd straight Joy Cup. At home on the Housatonic River in Derby, the women’s crew bested the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia to retain the Connell Cup.

A steady 15-knot headwind did not deter the lightweights from continuing their domination of the annual series with MIT. On the 2,000-meter Charles River course, the varsity eight turned in a time of 6:48.7, just under 10 seconds better than MIT’s varsity boat. Yale’s first and second freshman eights both won their respective races handily.

Even though the Eli second varsity boat bested its competition by nearly 30 seconds, the second varsity race provided for the day’s most exciting action. Since there was no third varsity race, Yale entered its third varsity boat in the race to compete against MIT’s second varsity boat in an exciting battle for second place.

A floating start was used because of the rough conditions at the start of the course, and the third varsity caught an unlucky break by being a length behind the Yale and MIT second varsity boats when the race began. The Eli second eight jumped out to a large lead, but the Eli third eight remained a length behind their MIT rivals for most of the race. The Bulldogs made their push in the final 200 meters.

“We moved into a big time sprint where we decided we were not going to lose the race, we were going to win it. Everybody pulled as hard as they could to the finish,” Jonathan Smith ’04 said. “I couldn’t believe how quickly we pulled right through them.”

That final burst was enough for the Yale third varsity to overtake the MIT boat by a slim six tenths of a second margin. The thrilling finish was something the whole team could revel in.

“It helped build the confidence of the team. It was the freshmen’s first race and they had never seen a boat come from a length behind and win,” Smith said. “If you think you can do it and you put your heart into it, you can walk away with a victory.”

There was no real nail-biting action in the women’s competition Saturday — mostly just Bulldog domination. Yale won five of six races in primarily calm conditions on the Housatonic River.

The varsity eight kept the Connell Cup in Yale possession with a 6:42.9 time on the 2,000-meter course — 12.2 seconds better than second-place finisher Columbia.

The second varsity eight, novice eight, and both varsity fours also posted victories.

The only blemish for Yale crew over the weekend occurred in the second novice eight race, in which Penn, with a time of 7:09.8, bested the Yale boat by 5.5 seconds.

The women’s crew team is at home again this Saturday with a race against Cornell and Syracuse. Last year, on the Cayuga Inlet in Ithaca, N.Y., the women’s varsity eight took second in the race, beating Cornell but falling to an always tough Syracuse boat.

The lightweights head to California this weekend to compete in the San Diego Crew Classic. The varsity eight will look to regain the Secretary of the Navy Cup, which Yale had won four straight times between 1997 and 2000. The Bulldogs did not compete in the event last year.

The men’s heavyweight crew will also compete in the San Diego Crew Classic.

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