For the first time in 11 years, the Durand Cup did not make the return trip to the Gilder Boathouse in Derby, Conn.

The men’s lightweight crew team finished third to Dartmouth and Rutgers in New Brunswick, N.J., last Saturday for its first loss of the spring season. Yale fell behind early and never recovered, finishing nearly ten seconds behind the Scarlet Knights and two behind the second-place Big Green. The Elis fared better in Sunday action at home, defeating Georgetown by 17 seconds in the first meeting between the schools in three years.

Team members said racing into strong headwinds on both days made the races longer than usual and increased margins between finishing times. Like the Bulldogs’ home course in Derby, the Rutgers course has a staggered start to account for a slight bend in the course.

Yale started furthest back and was unable to pull even before, after and during the turns. Yale head coach Andy Card said coxswain Dorothy Halsey ’06 did a good job steering, but with such a large margin the race was not determined by the coxswains.

“Rutgers stormed ahead off the start and we never really saw them,” Card said. “They did a great job of running away and hiding, much as we expected them to do. We were unable to find the speed to stay with them. We made up some ground on Dartmouth, but in the second half of the race they were able to match us and keep us behind them.”

Things began well for the Elis with the third varsity and freshman boats both rowing to victory in their respective races. Yale finished in the middle of the pack in the second varsity race, six seconds ahead of Rutgers but nearly eight behind the Big Green. But in the varsity eight matchup, the Elis could not match the speed of the Rutgers boat, which took home the trophy for the first time since 1978.

The Eli crews have had to contend with Mother Nature for most of April, enduring choppy waves and heavy winds in all of their races. They came out on top against Navy on April 1 and the triple threat of Columbia, Cornell and Penn two weeks ago, but could not keep up with the pace in the Durand Cup.

“The guys know [crew] is an outdoor sport, and with the largest playing field of any sport — 2000 meters long and 156 wide — you are bound to get some crazy conditions sometimes,” Card said. “The team is dealing with the wins and losses just fine. This is another step in the process of finding our best speed.”

Indeed, the Bulldogs recovered quickly from the upset, and took control against Georgetown the next morning, winning four of five races. They lost only in the novice eight, where the Hoyas’ first freshman boat finished ahead of the Elis’ second freshman crew by 20 seconds.

As the end of the season approaches, the Goldthwait Cup races against Harvard and Princeton next weekend represent one last opportunity for the lightweights to test themselves against Eastern Rowing Athletic Conference competition. Although it is a busy time academically with exams looming just around the corner, the team will stick to its regular workout schedule and continue to work toward the same goals.

“This is obviously an important weekend, but we approach each week in the same fashion,” captain Joe Fallon ’06 said. “We’ll be working on the same thing we have been each week — moving the boat as fast as we can. Everyone is eager to represent Yale to the best of their ability in front of the home crowd.”