Logs and debris bobbed in the water of Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River. The buoys meant to mark the lanes had fallen victim to the raging current. But in the midst of these difficult conditions, the women’s crew team roared down the two-kilometer course, winning four of five races to claim the Connell Cup for the seventh time in eight years.

In the first regatta of the spring season, the Bulldogs dominated rivals Columbia and Pennsylvania. Despite head coach Will Porter’s initial doubts as to the team’s readiness, the 19 veterans and 15 newcomers to the squad proved that even this early in the season, they are prepared to compete — and, judging by Saturday’s performance, to win.

“It’s always hard to make predictions before the first race of the season,” Jamie Redman ’08 said. “So we didn’t focus on the other crews so much as on our own rowing. We just wanted to go out there and perform well. We’ve been training hard all year long — everyone is geared up for the racing. It’s the highlight of our season.”

Redman and the rest of Yale’s varsity eight turned in the fastest time of the regatta, clocking in at a blazing 5:48 and leaving the Lions to claim second place seven seconds later, trailed by the hosting Quakers at 5:57.9. The impressive performance justified the fourth-place ranking the Elis received in the preseason NCAA Division I Varsity Eight poll, though Redman said that the squad still plans to work on perfecting its racing strategies.

The junior varsity eight boat shot past its competitors in a similar fashion, finishing at six minutes even, leaving Penn to clock in eight seconds later and Columbia to bring up the rear at 6:20.5.

The freshman eight race was a dramatic one, but the drama didn’t involve the Bulldogs. They coasted to victory, clocking in at 6:03.4 — a comfortable eight seconds ahead of Penn and Columbia, who took second and third, respectively, after a photo finish saw them separated by a mere tenth of a second.

“It was [the freshmen’s] first spring race at Yale, so we didn’t know what to expect,” said Mia Kanak ’10, coxswain for the freshman eight boat. “But I think that our race was a good starting point for the rest of our season.”

The varsity fours proved to be the only tough spot for the Bulldogs on an otherwise triumphant day. The first varsity four boat came in twelve seconds ahead of Penn, but in the varsity four “B” race, the Quakers eked out a four-second victory.

The conditions were rough all day — as demonstrated by the Columbia novice four boat that flipped over at the starting line due to the current. But the Elis navigated the river successfully, thanks in no small part to the concentrated efforts of the coxswains, Redman said.

“Kudos to our coxswains for keeping a cool head in the crazy water,” she said. “Steering a straight course was extremely difficult [on Saturday], but they did a stellar job.”

Next weekend, the Elis head northwest to Ithaca to take on Syracuse and Cornell in a battle for the Cayuga Cup. And, though it could be tough, expectations are high, Lee Glandorf ’09 said.

“As far as next weekend goes, I think we’re all excited to have another chance to go out and race,” she said. “We want to attack every 2K with as much intensity and focus as we can. Our expectations are to put together another strong piece from start to finish, refining our race plans and finding more boat speed in each part of the race.”