Yale’s three rowing teams made strong showings over the weekend, but it was an all-freshman lightweight crew that stole the show at the annual two-day Head of the Charles regatta in Massachusetts. Four freshman Bulldogs and a freshman coxswain finished first in the lightweight four, while their teammates in another boat took second. The Head of the Charles is one of rowing’s most prestigious regattas, a long-standing institution that this year commanded a crowd of more than 200,000 spectators and brought competitors from as far as China and the Netherlands. While the Charles does not factor into national standings, Bulldogs said it was an opportunity to race for pride in a fun atmosphere in front of a large crowd.
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Little wind made for perfectly flat water conditions that led to fast races, with 12 course records broken along the Charles’ winding path. This contrasted to last year’s harsh conditions, which left crews rowing past snow. All Yale teams wore pink at the event, in support of Pull for the Cure, an initiative by major collegiate teams to help fund-raise for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Yale has netted almost $15,000 in its attempt to raise $20,000.
In what head coach Andy Card said was an unprecedented finish, Yale took both first and second place in the lightweight four, improving upon a fourth-place finish in last year’s race. The “B” team, made up entirely of freshmen, came in at 16:23.6, edging out the veteran “A” entry by just half a second. Card said that prior to last weekend he did not know of an all-freshman team that had ever won an open lightweight event, but he said the times for both fours had been very close throughout the season. Both groups came from behind in the second half to secure their finish.
“Our two fours have not rowed together for very long, but they have been going at it hammer and tongs when they have rowed,” Card said. “To actually place where we did was a surprise, a real pleasant one!”
Yale’s lightweight four team also won in 2008 with an all-upperclassman boat.
The Bulldogs’ lightweight eight entry came in at ninth place, down from seventh place last year. This fell short of team expectations, captain Andrew Hakanson ’11 said.
“We didn’t execute where it mattered, but overall it was a great team performance,” he said.
Lightweight crew will continue its season this weekend with the Princeton Chase regatta, a race with fewer turns than the Charles. The Princeton Chase is the largest collegiate-only race of the fall.
The heavyweight Bulldogs improved on their performance last year in the championship eight, moving up one place to 14th and coming in 40 seconds quicker with a 14:30.155 finish. While the team considered it a good row, the Charles was not a focus of the team’s season, players said, as the races are for little more than prestige and have no effect on the team’s season standings.
With a time of 16:45.513, the championship four team came in with an 11th-place finish, just half a second behind Harvard. This was up two places from last year’s 13th-place finish. According to Alex Mastroyannis ’11, the team did not know what to expect time-wise, but did meet their goal of “enjoying the regatta and seeing old teams and coaches.”
In a close finish, the championship eight team placed fourth with a time of 15:58.467, just edged out by Brown, Virginia and Princeton. Brown came in less than half a second ahead of the Bulldogs to clinch third place. Head coach Will Porter said it was a strong showing for a young team, with many members in seats they had not rowed in before. A penalty led the Bulldogs’ second entry in the race to finish at 17:32.298.
“It was a good step,” captain Caroline Nash ’11 said. “It was our first really big race, and there were a lot of distractions.”
At 18:44.995, the championship four team placed 10th.
This event marked the end of the fall season for the team and the beginning of winter practice.
“This overall indicated a lot of work that needs to be done as a team to build our fitness and prepare for the spring,” Porter said. “To place higher than other teams, we will need to work harder throughout the winter.”
The women’s crew team will open its spring season March 26, when it takes on Penn and Columbia in the Connell Cup on the Schuylkill River.