The lightweight crew team will look to build on past successes as it officially kicks off its spring season this weekend.

Though the Bulldogs took to the water against Trinity heavyweight crew last weekend in a series of scrimmages, the team’s season officially begins Saturday, when it will seek to reclaim the Eads Johnson, Jr. Cup from the United States Naval Academy in Princeton, N.J.

“The Johnson Cup against Navy is always a great race and usually the crews are within a length at the varsity level,” said head coach Andy Card, adding that Navy has had the advantage of a race against Princeton already this season.

The race is the first of six before the championship season, which opens with the May 15 Eastern Sprints and culminates with the June 2–4 Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championships.

Last year, the first varsity boat took third place at the Eastern Sprints and came in fourth at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championships, finishing behind Princeton and Harvard on both occasions.

Captain Andrew Hakanson ’11 said the team’s intensive winter training will put it in good stead this season, but added that it must make the “vital transition onto the water.”

“We have a good group of guys this year who really know how to work hard,” he said. “I am confident this will translate into positive results through the course of our season.”

It is difficult to predict how Yale’s first varsity boat will stack up against that of other colleges because every rower weighs approximately the same, he explained, and thus it is hard to say how Yale will fare in the championship races, where races are traditionally very close and “virtually every team has a legitimate shot” at winning.

Card agreed, quipping he would be a “fool” to look that far ahead, and so did Will Zeng ’11, who explained that the early races in the season would not necessarily be at full championship pace. The team aims to hit maximum speed during the championship season, Hakanson added.

“There’s no crew that begins the season in March with the speed to win the IRAs in June,” Zeng said. “We’re fitter and stronger coming into this season and are returning our rhythm from last year with our returning rowers … We’re only moving up.”

Training has been hindered somewhat due to flooding of the Housatonic River, which has been the fifth highest recorded, he added.

After the Johnson Cup this weekend, the Elis will look to defend the Joy Cup against the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Georgetown on April 9, and the Dodge Cup against Penn and Columbia on April 16. The Bulldogs have retained the Dodge Cup every year since 2003 and have won in 29 of the last 31 years.

Then, the team will take on Cornell and Delaware on April 23 before racing Dartmouth later that afternoon.

The Johnson Cup will take place this weekend at Lake Carnegie in Princeton, N.J. and spectators can look on from the boathouse.