Heavy, light m. crew rev up for ‘The Race’

After spending most of the winter indoors, the heavyweight and lightweight crew teams are ready to break the ice on the spring season.

Although both teams have trained on the frigid Housatonic already — the lightweights spent all of spring break on the river — they will be returning to their regular season practice schedules this week. In the off-season, the squads spent hours rowing in the tanks, running the gym stairs, and working the ‘erg’ machines to improve their strength and technique from the fall season. With the first regatta of the spring campaign coming up April 2 on the Charles River, the teams are excited to brave the cold and return to competition.

“We feel as though we’ve had a good winter, and we’re very eager to get out there and race,” lightweight captain Alex Ramsay ’05 said. “We’ve been training all winter.”

In the last meet of the fall season, the Princeton Chase, the lightweight team finished fifth out of 35 teams, in keeping with the team’s consistent performance all fall. The best heavyweight performance came at the Head of the Charles, where the squad placed seventh in a highly-competitive field that included not only the best college teams but also international entrants.

Both the heavyweight and lightweight coaches downplayed the significance of these early results.

“The fall is an indicator of what can happen in the spring — but not what will happen,” heavyweight coach John Pescatore said.

In the fall season, teams only have a few weeks in the preseason to work out before being plunged into a schedule packed with regattas nearly every weekend. As a result, many crews are not as prepared as they are at the start of the spring when they have been in training all winter.

Understandably, crews emphasize conditioning and technique training before they break back onto the water during spring break.

“The goals in the winter training are simple — everyone is trying to work harder and smarter than they did the year before,” Pescatore said. “My goals are for the team to improve each year, and for the individuals to improve on their own performance from the previous year.”

Card had a similar take on the process of improving in rowing. He characterized it as a day-by-day progression over a long period of time.

“Rowing is a grind,” he wrote in an e-mail. “And we are grinding.”

While Ramsay said the lightweights’ goals for the spring were mostly internal, heavyweight captain John Hopkins ’05 noted that the squad has its eye on the match race against Harvard.

“That’s the pinnacle of the Yale crew tradition — it’s the oldest intercollegiate event in the country,” Hopkins said. “It’s always special to end the season with a win over Harvard — it’s such a good way to finish up, and such a storied tradition.”

Spring break offered different opportunities for both teams.

The heavyweight team traveled to Tampa, Fla. for a practice routine that maximized time in the boat. The team had two sessions on the water every day as well as a scrimmage against Michigan State.

The lightweights, on the other hand, spent spring break in New Haven training out of their boathouse on the Housatonic.

“We’ve been on the water almost every day, and it’s been a cold March so far,” Ramsay said. “We’ve been battling with sheet ice at times.”

Card called slicing through the ice a “sublime experience” while dismissing any discomfort the chilly conditions may have caused.

“Rowing in the cold of early spring/late winter should be as natural as football players playing in mud or snow,” he wrote in his e-mail response.

The men’s lightwieght crew team navigates its way down the Housatonic River last fall. The spring season commences April 2 when the team faces off against Navy.
Ed Stein
The men’s lightwieght crew team navigates its way down the Housatonic River last fall. The spring season commences April 2 when the team faces off against Navy.

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