After promising performances at the Eastern Sprints and IRA National Championship last year, both the heavyweight and lightweight crew teams bring experience to the boats as the 2013-’14 season gets underway this weekend.
The lightweight Elis placed second in the IRAs last year and won the Jope Cup at the Eastern Sprints, an award that recognizes the most dominant team overall across all events, for the second consecutive year.
The heavyweight squad, which returns its entire varsity eight this year, placed seventh in the IRAs and fifth in the Eastern Sprints.
“Last year we knew we were in a process of building a team, becoming stronger as a team,” heavyweight rower Hubert Trzybinski ’16 said. “We had some promising results and also some that were not so good. We would’ve liked to have been in the grand final at the IRAs, which is the top six boats.”
Both teams will race at the Head of the Housatonic this weekend and at the Head of the Charles in Boston on Oct. 19th and 20th.
Yale is usually the only EARC team to bring varsity boats to the Head of the Housatonic. The event is more about getting race experience than winning, lightweight captain Matt O’Donoghue ’14 said.
The next weekend’s regatta will provide a stiffer challenge, as every crew that the Bulldogs face in the spring will be at the Head of the Charles.
“We still take [fall racing] seriously, but it doesn’t have the same value to us,” Trzybinski said. “We take it really seriously, we prepare our boats for it, and of course we want to do very well.”
Both teams have their eyes set on the Eastern Sprints and IRAs in May.
The heavyweights, though, are especially motivated to take down their rival at the Yale-Harvard Regatta in June. Last year, the Eli varsity eight lost to the Crimson by almost 25 seconds in the four-mile race.
“We were quite disappointed with that result,” heavyweight captain Zach Johnson ’14 said. “We thought that we were going to be much closer to them … that memory is now one of the things that is really driving the team forward, because we don’t want that to happen again.”
The lightweight team will also compete against Harvard in the spring, facing both the Crimson and the Princeton Tigers in April.
The team also seeks a third consecutive Jope Cup at the Eastern Sprints and another strong performance at the IRAs.
“[The Jope Cup] is important to us because the whole team can contribute to that,” O’Donoghue said.
The heavyweight crew does not have to worry about making a transition at the beginning of the season, as no one on last year’s varsity eight graduated. The 2012-2013 boat had two juniors, two sophomores and four freshmen. Johnson said that the lineup for this year’s varsity eight is not final, as the boats are always changing.
The lightweight team graduated three seniors from last season’s varsity eight, but O’Donoghue said that he is confident that the team is deep enough to fill the spots with younger players. The Eli freshman eight has won the past three Eastern Sprints.
“We graduated three seniors from last year’s varsity, and as always, at first you think you can’t replace them … and then you do,” lightweight coach Andy Card said in a message to the News. “It’s the same thing every year. Talented oarsmen lost means that new oarsmen can have their chance in the arena.”
The Yale athletes kept in rowing shape by training individually over the summer. In July, three rowers from the heavyweight team and two from the lightweight team competed at the Under-23 Rowing Championships in Linz, Austria. Trzybinski earned a gold medal in the single scull for Germany.
Many of the Bulldogs competed for the California Rowing Club, and other rowers raced for similar programs.
“Everyone kept training over the summer and worked really hard over the summer,” Johnson said. “We’re just trying to keep that inertia going this fall, to keep making up time on our opponents.”
The gun will fire at the Head of the Housatonic on Saturday, Oct. 12.