After sneaking past Navy by just .41 seconds to win the national title last spring, the lightweight crew team expanded the gap between the Elis and the Midshipmen this time around.

Last weekend, the nationally ranked No. 1 men’s lightweight crew team defended its titles in the lightweight and open eight races at the San Diego Crew Classic by three seconds. The Bulldogs were three seconds faster than runner-up Navy in both the lightweight (6:15.2 to 6:18.58) and open (6:08.07 to 6:11.07) grand finals.

Navy’s presence in San Diego provided extra incentive for the Bulldogs, whose closest race last year came against the Midshipmen.

“We only beat Navy last year by 0.41 seconds to take the National Championship, so we headed into this race very prepared for some tight racing,” said captain Ben Hamilton ’03. “We matched our speed against theirs in San Diego in both events, and fortunately, we came out on top.”

But it is too early in the season for the Bulldogs to dwell on the large three-second cushion.

“Those Navy guys are always pulling hard, and I was thankful we could beat them because I expect them to get faster by the Sprints,” said head coach Andy Card.

Card said he expects all Eastern Association of Rowing colleges — the entire Ancient Eight minus Brown, Rutgers, Georgetown, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Navy — to improve considerably in the next month for the conference title.

“We’ve already raced Georgetown and Navy; I still see them as threats because they’ve seen us now, and they have over a month to prepare for the Sprints,” Card said. “Everyone else is a threat, too.”

Yale looks to continue its winning ways in Orchard Beach on City Island, N.Y., racing Columbia and Penn for the Dodge Cup this weekend. This race marks the first time that Penn first-year coach Mike Irwin — Yale freshman lightweight and freshman heavyweight coach the last seven years — will race his former team.

“We all remember Mike [Irwin] fondly here in New Haven, and we wish him and his crews well, up to a point,” Card said.

Women’s Crew

While the men’s lightweight crew team competes in New York, the No. 8 women’s crew team hosts Dartmouth and Boston University in Derby, Conn.

On the heels of last weekend’s success against Cornell and Syracuse, this weekend is even more important for the women, marking the 30th anniversary of women’s rowing at Yale.

“Obviously, we’re excited to race in front of a ton of alumni and fans, but more importantly, these teams are in our region for NCAA qualification, so it is an important race for everyone,” captain Melissa Merritt ’03 said.

Men’s Heavyweight Crew

The nationally ranked No. 10 men’s heavyweight crew team will see its first competition of the spring this weekend, taking on Dartmouth at home.