One of Yale’s proudest athletic traditions had yet another day for the ages Saturday, as the men’s lightweight crew team claimed the national title with a victory in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association Final. With the resounding win, the Eli squad notched its third national championship in its last six tries.

With most Yalies long departed from New Haven, the team remained, gearing up for the IRA’s final meet, held each year during the first weekend of June. After spending the three weeks after exams practicing on the Housatonic and building upon what was already a very impressive regular season, the Bulldogs headed to Camden, N.J. late last week along with the 11 other qualifying teams.

In order to qualify for the Grand Final, the Eli varsity eight boat needed to finish in the top half of a preliminary round of sprints. Yale took first in its qualifying run, eking past a pesky Cornell squad, to land in the final round.

In the Grand Final, the Bulldogs squared off against three familiar Ivy League foes — Harvard, Cornell and Penn — as well as Georgetown and Navy boats. Yale had something to prove against these teams that it had faced three weeks before in the ECAC Sprints: the Bulldog varsity boat held a paper-thin lead throughout most of the final race May 15, before falling behind and losing to Harvard by less than a second.

The IRA Grand Final proceeded in similar fashion, with the Elis blasting out to an early lead.

“We had a good start, and we took the lead right off the start, maybe 500 meters into the race,” team captain Alex Ramsay ’05 said. “We were able to start pushing and moving throughout the second 500. By the 100 we were four or five seats up on the second-place boat.”

The heat would not be a coast to the finish, Ramsay recalled, as fellow Ancient Eight boats mounted late pushes.

“We were leading by almost a full boatlength at one point,” Ramsay

said. “Then, Cornell and Penn were able to close the gap a bit — they were really charging hard — so we had to see them and respond to them.”

The Elis crossed the finish line with a time of 5:41.89, almost two full seconds ahead of a charging Big Red boat and three ahead of the Quakers.

The ECAC champion Cantabs came in a surprising fourth, finishing at a 5:45.45 clip, with Georgetown and Navy not far behind.

Because of the historic win, the varsity squad will receive yet another honor, gaining a trip to England’s renowned Henley Regatta later this month for the first time since 2002. There, Yale will square off against the best the world has to offer, as well as the formidable Cornell lightweight boat that finished a close second to the Bulldogs on Saturday.

“The Henley kicks off the 29th of June,” Ramsay said. “We had to win sprints or IRAs for the alumni to fund the trip. The team will head over to England on the 18th or 19th. Regatta starts on Wednesday the 29th and runs through the next Sunday.”