The Bulldog heavyweight and lightweight crews are proving very hard to beat on their home waters.

In their second home regatta of the season, the lightweights faced off against Penn and Columbia for the Dodge Cup trophy Saturday. Starting in the inside lane of the staggered Housatonic course, the Bulldogs managed to pull their way through the Quakers and Lions by 1,000 meters for a one-and-a-half second advantage coming into the second half of the race. Withstanding a Quaker charge in the last 750 meters, the Bulldogs crossed the finish line a bow-ball’s distance ahead for a victory margin of .2 seconds. The Lions remained a distant third, 3.9 seconds back. The JV boat also won a close race, edging out the second-place Quakers by .8 seconds, while the freshman boat placed second behind Columbia.

Although the JV heavyweight crews had already made an appearance on the Housatonic, defeating Dartmouth April 9, Saturday’s matchup against Penn and Columbia was the first time the varsity boat has raced at home. Coming off an up and down weekend at the Windermere Classic last weekend, the varsity boat put in a solid performance, winning the race by 3.2 seconds to take the Blackwell Cup. The JV boat also had a strong race, legging out to a 2.9 second lead at the finish line.

Rowers gave some of the credit for the strong showings to the enthusiastic crowd of supporters lining the boathouse.

“A good amount of alums came up in groups to support the team,” heavyweight captain John Hopkins ’05 said. “During the race you don’t really hear them, but after, when you look at the boathouse swarming with people — it feels pretty good.”

Heavyweight coach John Pescatore said he was pleased with the results, especially because the line-ups have been juggled since last week.

“We did make quite a few changes in the first two boats,” he said. “These changes were made late in the week on Thursday for a Saturday race. These crews had only been together for two practices — considering that, I’m impressed with their performance.”

The lightweight race was far tighter. Captain Alex Ramsay ’05 said the Elis gained respect for the Penn crew.

“Penn had a really strong last 750 meters,” he said. “They have some really strong guys, and they were rowing really solidly — we were very fortunate to hold on at the end.”

According to lightweight coach Andy Card, the close finish follows the Bulldogs’ historical results against the Quakers — the Elis beat the Quakers by 2.5 seconds at the Head of the Charles, but fell to them by three seconds at the Princeton Chase.

“I think that the Penn and Yale profiles are very similar, and so the result is not surprising,” Card wrote in an e-mail. “It’s been a ding-dong, see-saw battle with these two teams for a while.”

While the heavyweights were done for the weekend Saturday, the lightweights traveled up to Cornell to take on the Big Red. At the Princeton Chase, Cornell finished second, 8.1 seconds ahead of fifth place Yale. After a long season of training, the Elis did not know what they would see from the Red at its Cayuga Lake Inlet site in Ithaca. Cornell swept every race except the Freshman Eight, where the Bulldogs came from behind in the final 1,000 meters to win by 3.1 seconds.

“We didn’t know what to expect, but we knew it’d be a very close race,” Ramsay said. “We hoped to be on the winning side. Cornell is obviously a strong crew, and we look forward to racing them again in Sprints.”

Because the May 15 Eastern Sprints are the de facto Ivy League championships, the team is training to peak late in the season. Card views this loss as a good indicator of what the team needs to improve.

“I think the Cornell race has shown us that we are still a work in progress,” he wrote. “As disappointing as the result is, though, some things did go well for us, we just slipped in some crucial areas that often make the difference between winning and losing.”

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