How many Ivy League women’s crew teams does it take to beat Yale’s? After the Elis dominated Columbia and Penn in their first race of the 2006 season, nobody knows.

The Bulldogs brought home their sixth Connell Cup in seven years yesterday in New York, defeating the Lions and the Quakers in all five races they entered. The closest margin of victory was a wide 4.5 seconds in the Varsity 4B race. After the day’s competition, team members said they were geared up for a close race and were not expecting a blowout.

While Columbia was predicted to be the closer of the day’s competitors, Penn’s performance was an all-around surprise for the Bulldogs.

“It’s always different when the spring season comes and you have another team right next to you,” Jennie Hansen ’08 said. “You never really know what to expect in the first race.”

The key to Sunday’s victory was the physical strength and mental preparation that the team brought on the water, Jamie Redman ’08 said.

“We laid it on the line and pretended that there was a boat with us every second of the race,” she said.

The long months of winter training paid off in full, Rachel Jeffers ’07 said. While there is little to complain about after a 100 percent victory, the Bulldogs will not rest on this laurel.

“We’re definitely happy for the win,” Jeffers said. “Now we have a starting point for the rest of the season.”

Despite the display of superior strength and skill, most on the team realize that there is always room for improvement, Hansen said. With a win under their belts, the Elis were able to shake off some early season jitters as they prepare for what they expect to be progressively harder races, she said.

Despite the strong times of Sunday’s race, Jeffers said the team expects even more out of itself as the season progresses.

“It’s still early. We haven’t hit our top speed and we know it,” she said.

In order to hit that top level, the freshmen will pay closer attention to their technique, Lilah Hume ’09 said.

“While we are a strong, powerful crew, we will definitely be working on out beginnings and endings, making sure that we are hitting higher ratings and going faster,” she said.

In the world of crew, faster is always better. And according to the team, the competition only gets stiffer from here.

“The Ivy League competition is always a challenge, so we’ll just have to keep getting stronger and faster,” Hansen said.

The next competition for women’s crew is next Saturday against Syracuse and Cornell for the Cayuga Cup in Syracuse, N.Y.

For now, the Bulldogs will leave Columbia’s Orchard Bay Lagoon with their heads high, their belts notched and spirit of victory coursing through their veins.