If it is possible to draw any conclusions from this weekend’s early-season results, then it is safe to say that the men’s heavyweight crew team has some work to do if it wants to be a force come June.
In their first action of the season, the Bulldogs struggled during their weekend trip to Redwood Shores, Calif., where they faced the fastest West Coast crews in the Windermere Real Estate Classic. On Saturday, Yale fell to host Stanford in the morning and UC Berkeley in the afternoon. On Sunday, the Bulldogs had beaten Oregon State before catching a tight 1:45 p.m. flight back to the East Coast. The Cardinals, Bears and Beavers beat the Bulldogs the previous time the teams met at the IRA Championships last June. Berkeley took third in the Grand Final, while Stanford won the Petite Final, in which Oregon got third and Yale placed sixth. Although the heavyweights did not complete a reversal of last year’s results, their performance indicates that such a reversal may be within reach if they can learn from this weekend.
In head racing action off of Stanford’s recently renovated boathouse, the first varsity eight got blanked on Saturday. The Bulldogs had to deal with a vigorous headwind on the race course in addition to contending with the Cardinals and Bears, two of the top teams in the nation.
“I think on Saturday the problem was that it was really, really windy,” Yale head coach John Pescatore said. “We also raced the two toughest teams of the weekend. Essentially, at this time of year, they are clearly better than we are.”
The effect of the wind was exacerbated by features of the race course, team captain John Petersen ’06 said.
“The first half of the course is covered and protected by houses,” Petersen said. “As you come through, the second thousand opens into a large lake area that is really unprotected.”
The Bulldogs were within striking distance of Stanford and Cal before they had to negotiate the bridge near this transition. Although the loss to Cal was by a sizable 21-second margin, the loss to Stanford was by 10 seconds. After falling behind early, the Bulldogs seemed to be pulling closer to the Cardinal over the second 500-meter stretch, only to see Stanford leg out on them over the last 1,000 meters.
“When we came through the bridge we got a huge gust of wind, and we got destroyed,” Pescatore said. “We couldn’t do anything in the second half of the race — we lost balance and the boat crashed from side to side. We don’t have the skill at this time of the season to handle that.”
Stanford and Cal had the advantage of having practiced on the water all winter. With more time in the boat than the Bulldogs, the California teams were able to handle the challenges presented by the conditions, Pescatore said.
But the Elis bounced back to beat Oregon by 12 seconds on Sunday in a race that was never close. On Sunday, the wind was too light to be a factor. The Bulldogs thrived in the calm conditions, and were able to end the regatta on a high note, Petersen said.
“Sunday we had a really solid piece, one of the fastest pieces of the day,” Petersen said. “It showed us that we have that potential and we need to step up to the plate when we race these crews. I have no excuses for the way we performed on Saturday.”
The second varsity boat had more success, posting a 2-1 record. Although it also lost to Berkeley, it won comfortably against both Stanford and Oregon. The Elis’ success in the second varsity eights division demonstrates the depth of the heavyweight team.
“The guys in the 2V are rowing pretty well right now,” Pescatore said. “They have gelled a little bit more quickly; somehow, they seem to have found some ability to move the boat much more readily than the varsity boat has.”