The women’s crew team glided to a smooth finish on equally smooth Connecticut waters this weekend as it successfully defended its claim to the Cayuga Cup against Syracuse and Cornell.

The Bulldogs captured victories in three out of five races on the Housatonic on Saturday, snagging the Cup once again by taking first in all their varsity races and coming in second to the Big Red in the two novice competitions. The second and third varsity fours raced “a competitive, aggressive piece,” according to Jamie Redman ’08, and they did so even without the added motivation of competition against Cornell and Syracuse, who did not enter those races.

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Although the varsity eight was bumped from its former first-place ranking in the USRowing poll by the University of California at Berkeley, the boat actually earned more first-place votes than did the Golden Bears — and Saturday’s performance justified the rank. The Elis’ boat clocked in at 6:05.5, almost 10 seconds ahead of the Big Red and 14 seconds ahead of the Orange. The solid performance was a 15-second improvement over last week, although vastly improved conditions certainly helped matters, Redman said.

“We always race hard, no matter the conditions,” she said. “That being said, the weather this weekend was much more conducive to fast racing. The warmer weather and flat water definitely helped us achieve some fast times. We were really able to utilize our length and power to gain some boat speed, more so than last week.”

Small changes in the boat lineups also may have shaved seconds off racing time, although the rosters are not necessarily finalized, captain Jennie Hansen ’08 said.

“We made some small switches between boats, and they seemed to work well this week,” she said. “It’s possible that there may be other changes in the future — it’s all about finding the combinations that click and create the most speed.”

The second varsity eight came in at an impressive 6:19.4, outstripping the Big Red by 11.6 seconds and Syracuse by 19.3. And the largest margin of all came in the first varsity fours race, when the Yale boat seized first with a time of 6:55.7, a very comfortable 23.4 seconds ahead of Syracuse, which, in its only second-place finish of the day, clocked in at 7:19.1.

The novice eight and the second novice four had slightly tougher races. The novice eight took second with its time of 6:40.8, about 10 seconds behind the Big Red, while the novice four also lagged by about a 10-second margin, coming in at 7:44.3 to Cornell’s 7:34.9. But the weekend as a whole showed a marked improvement over the previous week’s regatta, Hansen said, although there is still plenty of room for improvement.

“I think we had good performances across the board,” she said. “We’re happy with the results as a team, and I think we showed good speed this weekend. … Now that we have a few races under our belts, we are getting more comfortable in race conditions.”

“It has been difficult to get up to top speed this spring due to the cold weather and wind,” head coach William Porter added. “Last week, we practiced in 18- to 20-mile-an-hour winds all week. We have been able to work hard each day and push for it, but it is not clean rowing yet.”

Still, he said, “Each day we are getting a bit better.”

The team now sets its sights on performing well in next week’s regatta against Dartmouth and Boston University. Dartmouth holds the No. 19 ranking in the USRowing poll, down from No. 18 last week, and both teams have offered solid opposition in the past, Redman said.

“Boston and Dartmouth have traditionally been tough competitors,” she said. “Both teams have some extremely skilled athletes, and we’ll definitely have to bring our A-game to the boathouse next weekend.”