After a disappointing ninth-place finish at the IRA National Championship regatta last spring, the lightweight crew team looks to regain the top spot in the country. The Elis won the national championship in 2000 and 2002.

At the 2003 IRA National Championship, Yale placed fourth in its heat, putting the Elis in the Petite Final, where they finished third. Overall, the Bulldogs were ninth.

“The IRA was marked by a rather brutal back injury to Patrick Hamm ’04, and as a result, he was a last minute scratch, which did not help in our search for speed,” coach Andy Card said.

With veteran coach Card returning for his 14th year and captain Tamas Toro ’04 leading the way, the team has been working hard this fall to train its younger members, mainly freshman and sophomores.

“This fall, we have been spending our time in mixed eights, which means that we mix all the members of the four classes together randomly and try to work on uniform technical improvements,” Card said.

Because the team is practicing mixed eights, lineups for the fall races have not been set. During the autumn, the team competes in head races, which are approximately three miles in length. In head races, crews race single file up or down a river, with the fastest time winning. The spring season involves more boat-on-boat competitions.

The team’s season begins Oct. 11 with the Head of the Housatonic in Derby. On Oct. 19, the team will compete in the biggest and most prestigious of its fall races: the Head of the Charles in Cambridge, Mass.

“At the Charles, we get to race nation teams and clubs, there is no distinction, and while the national teams usually win, it’s fun to compete against the best, and it’s still important to be the fastest college,” Card said.

Another highlight of the fall is the Princeton Chase Oct. 16. In this college-only event, schools can enter boats multiple times, so each boat can race twice daily.

Though the fall involves some prestigious events, the springtime is when it counts. And the spring is almost a brand-new season.

“There really is no real accomplishment or meaning in the fall as regards the spring. You can be really slow in the fall and then go fast in the spring,” Card said.

Heading into the fall races, the team looks to fill big shoes vacated by nine graduating seniors. The top varsity crew lost five members: coxswain Julia Tierney ’03, stroke Mark Dugan ’03, Eric Feins ’03, captain Ben Hamilton ’03, and Justin Knapp ’03.

Feins already has found success beyond Yale. He rowed for the United States in the 2003 World Championship, capturing a silver medal.

Despite losing such talent, the team returns varsity boat members captain Toro, Evan Gibson ’04, Hamm, and Brendon Hill ’05.

Although they did not capture the national championship last spring, Yale did find success last season. At the EARC Sprints, Yale was the only school to win medals in all five lightweight events. In the process, the Bulldogs finished second in the Jope Cup for overall lightweight supremacy at the Sprints.