Yale’s crew teams opened their fall seasons in familiar waters at the Head of the Housatonic Saturday.

All three of the Elis’ rowing units, the men’s heavyweight, lightweight and women’s squads, got in their first racing action of the fall in rough, windy conditions on Yale’s home course on the Housatonic River. The event, which featured watered-down competition, provided an opportunity for the Bulldogs to get their feet wet before the more serious events of the fall season.

“The conditions were pretty awful, and we weren’t really adjusted to the lineup,” heavyweight captain Nate Kirk ’02 said. “I don’t think [the race] was an indicator of how fast we are going to be.”

Kirk said he was disappointed with the performance of the heavyweight first varsity boat, which finished second to the lightweight first varsity in the open eight race.

The heavyweight team had only two days of practice on the water before the event, so the composition of the boats, Kirk said, was based solely on erg scores — times individual team members post on indoor rowing machines. In the team’s first competitive race, Kirk said, it became clear that erg scores alone could not determine which group of eight rowers should man the first varsity boat, and changes will be made before the varsity resumes racing.

“We found out that we actually have to switch one of the people out [of the first varsity boat],” Kirk said. “Erg scores aren’t necessarily indications of who is going to move the boat fastest.”

Despite the lack of chemistry within the boats, Kirk said the team is going to benefit from solid conditioning.

“We are in really good shape, better shape than we have been in a long time in the fall,” Kirk said.

Lightweight crew captain Ian Malloch ’02 was more upbeat about his team’s results.

“We did pretty well, overall,” Malloch said. “I thought it was a good starting point. We haven’t had as much time as we have had in years past boated up, and we weren’t necessarily boated up enough for this race.”

In addition to winning the open eights, a Yale boat of both varsity and junior varsity rowers won the lightweight eight category with a time of 14:22.01. Another mixed Bulldog boat finished third in the event.

“We are definitely not at peak speed right now,” Malloch said. “We’ve got lots of room for improvement.”

In the blustery conditions, the women’s crew won every event it entered. The Elis won the open-eight, open-four and open-pair races.

The men’s lightweights and heavyweights return to action this Saturday when some boats travel up to the Stonehurst Invitational in Rochester, N.Y. With stronger fields to row against, the event will be a better measuring stick for the Bulldogs.

“Brown, Harvard and Dartmouth go up there,” Kirk said. “It is going to be a lot faster.”

The women’s team, in addition to all the men’s teams, will resume its racing schedule at the Head of the Charles in Cambridge, Mass., on Sunday Oct. 24.

The men’s lightweight first varsity will look to defend its title at the Head of the Charles, where it became the first college crew since 1979 to win the lightweight division of the prestigious race.