HEAVYWEIGHT CREW | Elis retain Olympic Axe

The seniors on heavyweight crew competed in the final home regatta of their Yale crew careers on Saturday. The team will next face Columbia and Penn in New York.
The seniors on heavyweight crew competed in the final home regatta of their Yale crew careers on Saturday. The team will next face Columbia and Penn in New York. Photo by Diana Hayes.

On Saturday, the heavyweight crew team swept its second and last home regatta of the season, winning all three races against Dartmouth and retaining the contested Olympic Axe for the ninth straight year.

Since 2004, the winner of the annual Yale-Dartmouth race has received the battle-axe trophy — and the Big Green has yet to get a hold of it.

The Bulldogs are currently undefeated in their spring season, as two weekends ago they swept Brown on the Housatonic in their season opening regatta.

“We were definitely excited to come away with another sweep — it’s great to keep up the positive momentum,” varsity oarsman Alexander Krey ’12 said, adding that it was a particularly special win because it was the seniors’ last home regatta ever.

But both Krey and team captain Tom Dethlefs ’12 said the team still has a lot of work to do at the Gilder Boathouse in Derby, Conn. Since the rowing season does not finish until June, the team will still practice and race amongst itself every day on the Housatonic.

Saturday’s tailwind and calm waters allowed the freshmen, junior varsity, and varsity boats each to finish the 2000m course about one minute faster than two weeks ago, when the strong headwind and choppy water slowed the crews down.

Varsity coxswain Oliver Fletcher ’14 said although tailwind conditions make for a faster race, it is a challenge to establish a separation of the boats in the shorter timeframe and the margin of error is much smaller.

Krey added that it can be difficult to row efficiently in a strong tailwind.

“You have to be really precise at the catch and at the finish, otherwise your stroke shortens up a lot, and you won’t move the boat as well,” Krey said. “I thought in all the boats we did a good job of keeping our strokes long and really moving together.”

In the first race of the day, Yale’s freshman eight managed to get a small lead on Dartmouth in the first half of the course and extended it in the last 750m, finishing 9.1 seconds ahead of the Big Green with a time of 5:45.2.

The junior varsity eights from each team raced next, and the Bulldogs finished with a similar result. Yale’s boatstarted the race slightly staggered behind Dartmouth’s JV 8+, but by the slight turn in the river mid-course, it had caught up to its opponent. In the last half of the race, Yale surged ahead to beat Dartmouth by 10.2 seconds — 5:38.5 to 5:48.7.

But the contested Olympic Axe came down to the all-important varsity race, and the V 8+ boats posted the fastest times of the day. Yale finished 6.2 seconds ahead of Dartmouth, with a time of 5:30.7 compared to the Big Green’s 5:36.9.

Head coach Stephen Gladstone said he was pleased with the outcome of the weekend and that he thought the crews raced aggressively. He added that although he is happy with the early victories, the team’s schedule gets increasingly challenging through the spring.

“The season will ultimately be defined by the regional Eastern Sprints race, the historic Yale-Harvard Boat Race, and the IRA National Championship in May and June,” Gladstone said. “We need to build off of each of the cup races, as the more experience we have going into the three big ones, the better we’ll do.”

Next Saturday, the Bulldogs will travel to Orchard Beach, N.Y., to compete against Columbia and Penn for the Blackwell Cup.

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