John Pescatore’s No. 10 men’s heavyweight crew laid claim to the Blackwell Cup Apr. 17 when the Elis unleashed a dominating performance on No. 18 Penn and Columbia. This was not merely a contest among oarsmen, but a showdown between master and apprentice.
Penn head coach Stan Bergman instructed Pescatore, Yale’s current head coach, in both high school and college. Pescatore said there was added incentive to win Saturday at his alma mater, but he added that his feelings about defeating his mentor were bittersweet.
Three of the Eli boats rowed to victory on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, fighting a 15 mph headwind and moderate chop. The conditions worsened during the warm-up period, forcing Pescatore to change the race plan on the water. Pescatore told his varsity eight’s coxswain and crew to lower the strokes per minute after the first 500 meters so that his oarsmen could conserve energy for the longer race.
“We were expecting a really fast race,” captain Andrew Brennan ’04 said. “However, that morning there was a headwind pushing against us, so we lowered our rating a bit to make sure we stayed efficient in the slower conditions.”
The Bulldogs’ first varsity boat, stroked by Brennan, turned in the largest margin of victory, besting Columbia by nearly 25 seconds with a 5:56.9 time on the 2000-meter course. Penn’s crew was closer than the Lions but crossed the finish line almost ten seconds after the Elis.
Both the Elis and Quakers left Columbia behind at the start, and the two boats moved out together for the first 400 meters. With the race a quarter completed, the Elis took a lead that extended throughout the remainder of the race.
“Penn had a pretty fast start and gained a couple seats on us at the very beginning of the race, but we didn’t let it faze us,” Brennan said. “We stuck to our race plan and were able to move out on them during the second 500.”
Yale’s second varsity crew clocked a 6:10 to best its Quaker adversary. Columbia did not enter a second varsity boat. The freshmen crew continued the winning trend, finishing the two kilometers five seconds prior to Penn and 17 seconds before Columbia with a 6:10.3.
The third varsity eight and second freshmen boat raced the course in times of 6:31.8 and 6:21.4, respectively. However, both crews fell to Penn’s boats.
Pescatore said his emphasis on proper technique and lengthening strokes paid off for the varsity crew. Pescatore plans to continue emphasizing technique and intensity during this week’s practices. Currently, Pescatore said his squad is between 85 and 90 percent as fast as it can be, and only more hard work can push that number higher.
“It takes a lot of work to keep improving,” Pescatore said. “It is exponentially harder to go from 90 to 91 percent than from 80 to 81.”
Prior to this weekend’s race, Yale was ranked behind four other Ivy League teams by USRowing. Harvard, Princeton, Brown and Cornell along with Yale occupy half of the top ten spots. The Elis will be presented with the opportunity to make up some ground on two of those crews Apr. 24 when No. 3 Princeton and No. 9 Cornell come to Housatonic River for the Carnegie Cup.