With gray clouds looming overhead, stagnant waters and headwinds upwards of 10 mph, the women’s crew team had to overcome rough conditions to defeat two nationally ranked teams this weekend.
The No. 2 Bulldogs took the Nathaniel Case Cup for the fifth year running with Saturday’s varsity eight victory over No. 13 Radcliffe and No. 3 University of Virginia. With the win, they draw out their perfect spring season to five triumphant regattas. But the varsity eight is not the only boat to remain undefeated — the second varsity eight and the varsity four came in first in their races as well, continuing their own uninterrupted winning streaks.
“It was a great day for our program,” head coach Will Porter said. “It seems like we have been rowing in wind all spring, and it just seems to be making us stronger. It is not like it is difficult to row in flat water — I think we’ll know what to do when we get our chance.”
The varsity eight race was close, but not for the Bulldogs, who pulled in at 7:17.9, a comfortable 4.7 seconds ahead of the second-place Black and White. Radcliffe barely eked out the second-place finish, however, coming in at 7:22.6 — barely more than a second ahead of the Cavaliers, who finished with a time of 7:23.7.
The second varsity eight had a similarly strong performance, coming in with a solid time of 7:22.7. The Black and White snagged another second place with a time of 7:28.4, and Virginia brought up the rear, clocking in at 7:31.3.
But perhaps the most exciting results of the regatta came in the first varsity four. During the 2006-2007 NCAA Championships, when the Cavaliers and the Elis met up in the varsity four Grand Final, Virginia took first with a time that was more than 10 seconds faster than its nearest competitor and almost 20 seconds faster than the Bulldogs, who pulled in at sixth. The Elis were not about to let history repeat itself, though — and they proved it with a 7:57.3 finish, 9.3 seconds ahead of last year’s varsity four champions.
“I think we had strong results this weekend, and it’s a good indicator that we are where we need to be as a team,” captain Jennie Hansen ’08 said. “We’re getting near our top end speed. We showed our depth again today in all crews, and we’ve proven that we can put together a good race over the full 2,000 meters.”
The remainder of the Yale boats could not quite manage to eke out wins of their own. The third varsity four B boat clocked in at 8:28.5, only a few seconds behind Virginia, but the third varsity four C boat had a tougher time of it, coming in 14.8 seconds behind the Cavaliers with a final tally of 8:51.2, and the novice eight finished with a time of 8:12.4, sandwiched between the first-place Black and White at 7:57.0 and the trailing Cavaliers at 8:16.3.
“The novices are doing just fine,” Hansen said simply. “They had a good race against Virginia today, but maybe didn’t accomplish what they wanted against Radcliffe. Freshman year is such a building year,” she explained. “I think the most important parts are just learning how to race at the DI level and learning the ropes of the team.”
Now the squad must focus on the final race of the year before they enter the EAWRC sprints May 18 — next week’s regatta against defending NCAA champion Brown. The Bears are 4-1 this season, and this weekend’s regatta against Columbia and Cornell saw them defeat their opponents in all six races. Based on Brown’s recent performances, there is no doubt that it will be a difficult contest, Porter said.
“There is no rest for us as we get ready to race Brown, the defending NCAA champions, next weekend,” Porter said. “They seem to have things rolling just at the right time and there is no course more challenging than theirs. Next week we will be right up against it again.”