No. 6 Yale women’s crew won four out of five races on the Housatonic Saturday against Penn and Columbia to extend its possession of the Connell Cup for more than a decade.

Yale won its first regatta of the spring season, but the first varsity boat did not row as well as it could have, head coach William Porter said. In contrast, he said that the second and third varsity boats raced extremely well. The second varsity four also won, while the first varsity four was Yale’s only defeated boat, placing second behind Columbia.

“In the first varsity we really struggled to find a rhythm and settle down,” captain Caroline Nash ’11 said. “We raced scared in a way.”

She said that although the crew won, they were unhappy with the quality of their race. They did not come together in the same way that the other boats had, she said.

The “pretty challenging” weather — 33 degrees with a windchill of 20 — could have hurt the Bulldogs’ performance, Nash said. But she hesitated to blame the weather.

“You never want to use the weather as an excuse,” Nash said. “We have a joke that we look forward to rowing on days with nasty weather because if you can row well in that you can row well in anything.”

Yale’s first varsity won with a time of 6:09, three seconds ahead of Penn’s time of 6:12. Columbia finished third with a time of 6:22.

Yale’s second varsity won with a lead of 11 seconds, while the third varsity ran away with the race, finishing 20 seconds ahead of any other boat.

Porter also acknowledged the weather as a factor in the race, saying that the second varsity and third varsity did a great job handling the cold, windy conditions.

When asked what the team needed to do to improve, Nash spoke of persistence.

“Hard work. Hard work is the cure for everything,” she said.

She said that crew is both a psychological and a physical game and that the mental facet of the sport can be just as important as the fitness and technique.

Nash also said the first varsity boat slightly lost its composure when Penn crept up on them at the turn, halfway through the race.

“Penn has been dominating their opponents this season, so we were lucky to perform well enough to get away with the win,” Porter said.

He added that the team’s varsity eight was not fast enough, but that he thought it would get to nationally competitive speeds.

“I definitely think that our winter training has put us in an exciting position to have what could be a great season,” said Maddie Lips ’14, who rowed in the first varsity boat.

Lips was optimistic that this weekend’s win could give the team some momentum for the rest of the season, though she acknowledged that every race was different.

Next week Yale takes on Cornell and Syracuse in a chase for the Cayuga Cup on the Housatonic. Last year Yale beat both Cornell and Syracuse, despite hitting a bridge during the first varsity race on Cornell’s narrow course.