Brown edged out Yale heavyweight crew by just 0.43 seconds in the 2000m first varsity boat race on Saturday.

With 200m left in the race, the Bulldogs’ first varsity boat was up by a two-seat lead. But it didn’t “close the door,” said head coach Steve Gladstone, letting Brown counter and take the win by the slimmest of margins in Providence, R.I.

Though Brown’s first varsity boat thwarted the Bulldogs’ hopes of claiming their season opener, Yale’s other boats fared better, with the team’s second, third and fourth varsity crews winning three of the four other races of the day.

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“On balance, it was a strong performance,” Gladstone said. “What’s gratifying is that all the boats are performing at a really strong level, which means as an overall squad we’re getting stronger through the course of the year and that’s good.”

At this stage in the season the varsity boat is still in a development phase, Gladstone explained, and it has not yet focused its training on starts, finishes and in-race moves. He added that the team is looking forward to working on those race segments so that it is able to challenge other boats and compete more competitively in the future.

The freshman and varsity boats both lost in close races, which showed their potential and highlighted areas that need improvement before Yale takes on Dartmouth in two weeks, said captain Derek Johnson ’11.

“We’re expecting Dartmouth to be fast this year and we won’t make the mistake of underestimating them,” he said.

The outcome of the Brown race would provide added motivation to improve, said oarsman Alex Mastroyannis ’11.

Still, Gladstone and Tom Dethlefs ’12 said that because of how early it is in the season, the results of the Brown regatta are not necessarily indicative of how Yale will perform when the championship season begins with the May 15 Eastern Sprints.

“Given the small amount of time we have trained at race pace so far, I think the next three months have a lot of potential,” Dethlefs said.

Gladstone added that it would take until Eastern Sprints for the team to get a good sense of how fast each college’s crews are.

In the meantime, the Elis will take advantage of the next two weeks to further develop and prepare for the championship season ahead, Gladstone said. He explained that the members of the first and second varsity boats are not set in stone and may still move some rowers around.

Gladstone noted that the second varsity boat rowed a “very aggressive race,” and he would be open to moving some members from that boat to the first depending on their development throughout the season.

“I’d be very surprised if there isn’t any movement between all four varsity boats in the two weeks leading up to Dartmouth,” Johnson said.

Yale heavyweight crew will next take the water on April 9, when it competes with Dartmouth for the Olympic Axe.