LIGHTWEIGHT CREW | Yale reclaims Johnson Cup

Yale lightweight crew’s first varsity boat broke away from the United States Naval Academy in the first 500 meters of the two teams’ race on Lake Carnegie in Princeton, N.J. on Saturday. They never looked back.

The Bulldogs recaptured the Eads Johnson, Jr. Cup from the Midshipmen, who took the race last year, with a 3.3 second margin over the 2000 m course, spearheading Yale’s near clean-sweep of the day’s five races. The Elis also triumphed in three other races — the second and third varsity and freshman boats won their races against Navy, while a combined freshman and fourth varsity boat was edged out in an exhibition race.

“To win four out of five races is something that the guys can enjoy — for a day,” said head coach Andy Card. “It took all of what we had on the day to win.”

In the eight years Yale has raced Navy for the Johnson Cup, each school has won the title four times apiece, Card said, adding that the first varsity boats have finished within two or three seconds of each other seven years out of eight.

The result was “certainly an accomplishment,” said captain Andrew Hakanson ’11, noting that the first varsity boat felt in control of their race after finding some “true speed” in the first 500 m.

Still, Hakanson cautioned against reading too much into the speed of the Yale’s boats more than a month out of championship season, which begins with the Eastern Sprints on May 15.

“It is impossible to predict what our speed will be like come mid-May but I am confident we will be competitive with the teams at the top,” he said. “I also believe most teams are not at their top speed as of now. This includes us.”

Will Zeng ’11, who sits in the stroke seat of the first varsity boat, agreed with Hakanson’s assessment and added that the rhythm his boat established early on in the race was a “microcosm for how [the boat plans] to attack the rest of the season.”

“Our guys have great fitness that we’ll be taking advantage of to groove in the practice necessary to maintain the maximum hull speed that we’ve shown thus far,” he said.

But Card said the team is nowhere near championship speed at this stage and will develop more as the season progresses. He said the composition of the varsity boat is also open to change, a view echoed by Hakanson.

“Each race serves as a checkpoint where we can make adjustments,” Hakanson said. “Whether it is personnel, technique or strategy changes, we hope to develop a crew that continually finds speed each week leading up to our championship races.”

Next week, the Bulldogs will take on the Massachusetts Institute of Technologyfor the Joy Cup in a series of races on the Housatonic River that will also feature crews from Georgetown, who are invited as guests. Last year, Yale crews took out all five races, a result that team members said they hoped to repeat.

“Replicating last year’s performance of winning all five events would be great,” Hakanson said. “The last two years, our races with Georgetown have been close, so I would not be surprised if they are right there with us the entire way.”

The Georgetown team fell this weekend to Princeton, who are two-time defending champions at both the Eastern Sprints and the Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championships.

“Princeton was unable to break a large margin away from the Hoyas in their race yesterday morning — a three second differential,” Zeng said. “So I’m looking forward to taking our rhythm up against the challenge they and the MIT crew will present us.”

Races this weekend against Georgetown and MIT kick off at 9 a.m. on the Housatonic River in Derby, CT.

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