The Yale heavyweight crew team is now the proud owner of the newest trophy in its sport.
The No. 9 Elis secured the “Olympic Axe” in its first year of existence by defeating all of visiting No. 11 Dartmouth’s three boats on Lake Housatonic Saturday.
“This was a good race for us,” captain Andrew Brennan ’04 said. “We did what we knew we had to do, and our moves worked well to increase our boat speed and counter [Dartmouth’s] moves.”
The Bulldogs entered this weekend’s competition coming off of the promising Windermere Collegiate Crew Classic March 27-28. At the Windermere, the Elis defeated Stanford and finished only three seconds behind No. 3 Cal.
The Elis maintained form throughout its two-week reprieve. The well-rested first varsity boat never trailed during its 2000-meter dash down the lake.
The Bulldogs executed their race plan, gaining a quick half-boat advantage off of the start. All eight Eli oarsmen maintained a synchronized rhythm, and their Big Green adversaries could not overcome the initial deficit.
Yale had worked on its starts for the past two weeks after head coach John Pescatore identified the outset as a team weakness and chief reason for the loss to Cal. Pescatore stressed the importance of having a strong first five strokes.
“[Pescatore] wants you to row so hard that you feel like you are going to break the oar,” Matt Brown ’06, a member of the first boat, said.
The Elis’ good start boosted the team’s confidence and set a high level of intensity that was maintained throughout the race. Senior captain Andrew Brennan ’04 sat stroke against Dartmouth and set a high stroke rate for the seven other Bulldogs.
With the aid of a light tailwind and mild helping current, the Bulldogs held off a Dartmouth charge during the third 500-meter segment of the race. The Elis’ finishing strokes cemented the victory, and the Bulldogs crossed the finish line in 5:35, two seconds before the Dartmouth skull.
“This was a good race for us,” Brennan said. “We did what we knew we had to do, and our moves worked well to increase our boat speed and counter [Dartmouth’s] moves.”
The other three Eli boats echoed the success of the first varsity boat. Second and third varsity crews clocked 5:47.8 and 5:41, respectively, besting the 5:54 posted by the Big Green. The freshman eight won the most lop-sided decision. The frosh put up a 5:44.8, obliterating their New Hampshire adversaries by nearly 12 seconds in their first race of the season.
The freshmen entered Saturday’s race confident, but not knowing what exactly to expect from their first collegiate test. The rookie Elis pulled farther away from Dartmouth throughout the race.
“This was a great way to start the season,” Charlie Cole ’07, a member of the freshman boat, said. “We found out some of our own speed.”
The Elis are excited with their performance, but take the victory with a grain of salt. The Dartmouth team began practicing on the water after the Elis, and the Bulldogs are expecting to face a much faster boat by the time league and national championships roll around. Yale knows it must continue to get faster by improving technique and strength if wants to revisit the winners’ circle.
The next opponents on the Elis’ docket are scheduled for the Blackwell Cup in Philadelphia April 17. The Bulldogs will face unranked Columbia and No. 17 Penn this coming Sunday. On April 24, Yale returns home to take on No. 3 Princeton and No. 7 Cornell for the Carnegie Cup. While the Blackwell may seem like a formality compared to the much tougher Carnegie, the Elis cannot afford to look past any opponent.
“Every race is a big race for us; we definitely aren’t looking past the Blackwell Cup,” Brennan said. “We will keep working to improve physically, technically and mentally every day.”