The Bulldogs had a strong showing in Cambridge, Mass. this past weekend at the world’s largest two-day rowing race, the Head of the Charles Regatta. Boats from the women’s crew and men’s lightweight crew teams notched up several top-five finishes.
Although the heavyweight crew team did not fare quite so well — its championship four and eight settled for 11th and 17th places, respectively — Yale’s other two crew teams tasted success as their boats glided through the three-mile Charles River course. Still, two head coaches and several rowers said the weekend’s racing does not necessarily predict future success in the more competitive spring season.
“I thought both [lightweight four] crews had good rows — not perfect by any stretch,” lightweight crew head coach Andy Card said. “Certainly there are things that can be improved, but these will come with time. We only just started rowing a month ago, after all.”
His two championship four boats beat out all the other collegiate crew teams in their division, finishing second and third behind the New York Athletic Club Pan-Am Games boat by 32 and 72 seconds, respectively. With the result, Yale lightweight crew has topped the pack of collegiate championship four boats for seven straight years. The team’s championship eight boat, meanwhile, closed in fifth place.
The women’s crew squad saw similarly strong performances; its championship eight boat took home a fourth-place finish on Sunday, while its club eight boat slotted in second on Saturday.
“The Head of the Charles is always a hectic race, but all three boats raced well and did a good job of focusing internally,” captain Kathleen O’Keefe ’12 said. “The race also showed us areas where the team needs to improve in order to be highly competitive this spring.”
Head coach William Porter said the team’s championship eight boat could have gone faster had Brown’s slower boat not blocked it for the first mile and a half of the race. Race rules state that slower crews should yield to faster crews passing them, he explained.
Indeed, the Head of the Charles “head-race” format, in which boats race single file, starting seconds after each other, and the winner is the boat with the quickest final time, means the competition is not indicative of how teams are shaping up for the spring racing season, heavyweight crew head coach Steve Gladstone said.
Where a boat starts in the race makes a “big difference” because later boats usually experience choppier water, he explained. Nevertheless, he said he was “absolutely not satisfied” with the results his boats achieved in the championship races.
“We had a solid showing at the Charles,” captain Tom Dethlefs ’12 added. “We’ve got a small team with a lot of young talent so it was good to give them an opportunity to race at the most attended regatta in the world.”
Dethlefs said the weekend’s results do not indicate how competitive the spring season will be, except that there will be tight competition throughout the field. Before spring racing kicks off with a March 24 race against Brown, the team will work on its fitness and go on a seven-day training camp in Florida starting Dec. 28, Gladstone said.
“People try to parse the results from the fall, but you just can’t do that,” Card said, explaining that in lightweight crew competition there is no weigh-in during the fall season that is similar to the spring weigh-in.
In women’s crew, however, fall results can be a good indicator of spring results, Porter said. The fall allows the team to observe the competition and train through the winter to close the gap on or stay ahead of competition.
The lightweight crew and women’s crew teams will take to the water one final time before winter break, at the Oct. 30 Princeton Chase in Princeton, N.J.