If collegiate crew had an equivalent to The Game, it would be the Head of the Charles. And this weekend, all three Eli squads delivered what the football team hasn’t in six years — success at their premier fall sporting event.

Despite damaging penalties in the championship fours race, the women’s crew team exceeded all expectations. The varsity eight rowers moved up a spot from their 2005 finish at the Head of the Charles, finishing fifth overall and third among collegiate teams in 16:15.13, behind Princeton (16:13.109) and University of Virginia (16:15.13).

“We were pretty pleased with our result,” captain Rachel Jeffers ’07 said. “After [this weekend], we are definitely excited to go down to Princeton next weekend and gain more boat speed.”

The Eli freshmen boat blew its competition out of the water, taking the top spot in the collegiate eights by a 17 second margin. After winning in the youth eights division in 2005, the Bulldogs were forced to compete in the collegiate division due to a new NCAA regulation that prevents college crews from racing against high schools. Despite the change, the freshmen proved just how talented their class is.

“We have a pretty young team this year,” Jeffers said. “It was good for them to get that experience.”

The Elis struggled the most in the championship fours race, where they received two penalties — one for a buoy violation and one for failing to yield to another boat. Christine Geiser ’07 said the Elis were caught in a crowded turn and a slower boat ahead of them did not yield. As a result, the Elis were unable to yield to a boat behind them and were penalized for it, although she thought other boats were not punished for the same violation.

“The race that we were in had a lot of boats and it was really difficult to steer,” Geiser said. “Our coxswain did exactly what she was supposed to do, but two boats were slower than us and would not yield.”

The penalties added an additional 1:10 to the Bulldogs’ 18:40.763 finish. With the adjusted time, the Elis’ ranking dropped from ninth to a disappointing 19th-place finish.

“We were really upset with the results, but we were pleased with the way we raced and handled the situation,” Geiser said. “Our raw time was actually pretty good even though we had such a frantic race.”

Both men’s teams exceeded expectations this weekend as well. In the championship eights event, the heavyweight crew team finished third overall in a time of 14:24.943. Coming in behind the University of Washington (14:21.917) and US Rowing (14:09.673), the Elis delivered one of their best performances at the Head of the Charles in recent history and their top finish since the arrival of head coach John Pescatore in 2002.

In the championship fours event, the Bulldogs finished in 16:39.74 — just four-tenths of a second behind the University of Wisconsin — to place fifth among collegiate crew teams and 11th overall. The freshmen rowers also had an opportunity to get their feet wet in the Charles, competing in the youth eights division against other college and high school teams. The Elis placed fifth in 15:40.794, a solid result for the novice rowers, Greg Muir ’10 said.

“The Head of the Charles is the one race in the fall that every school looks to dominate because every school that we race against in the spring shows up,” men’s heavyweight captain Pat Purdy ’07 said. “We were very happy to be able to put that kind of strong result on the board this early in the season. At the same time, we were very cognizant that it’s still very early in the season. We know that we have a long winter and lots of hard work ahead of us.”

In the first lightweight regatta of the season, the Elis just missed placing three teams in the top ten as a result of a bow penalty in the lightweight eights race. The varsity eight rowers completed the race in 15:04.116, a time that would have secured a tenth place finish, but fell back into 12th place when their time was adjusted for the ten second penalty. Among collegiate boats, the Bulldogs placed fourth overall, falling behind Princeton (14:48.719), Navy (14:53.386) and Cornell (15:04.670).

In the lightweight fours, the Elis finished fourth overall and second among collegiate boats. Their time of 17:07.536 was just 2.5 seconds off the time of the top collegiate team from Brock University in Ontario, Canada.

“Overall, we thought the team did well, with strong finishes from the freshman boat and our lightweight four,” captain Brendan Stallard ’07 said. “In terms of our varsity eight finish, we see the results as an indicator of what we need to build on for the spring season. We are confident in what we are doing on the team and it’s a matter of continuing our development throughout this winter.”

The freshmen lightweights, competing in the youth eights division against freshman heavyweights and high school senior heavyweights, performed well, finishing 7th in 15:43.929.

“Placing top amongst the lightweight crews and seventh out of the 80 teams in the event, including heavyweight freshman teams, was a great feeling and a perfect way to start our Yale lightweight rowing careers,” John Grunyk ’10 said. “Everyone’s in high spirits now and excited for the spring season.”

Next up for all three Eli squads will be the Princeton Chase. Although the Bulldogs did not compete in the Chase last year, they are hungry for another chance to face the Tigers, one of their toughest competitors.

“We are very excited to beat Princeton since they are one of our biggest rivals,” Geiser said. “We’re definitely going to have a great race.”