Yale women’s crew came out strong in its spring season-opener with a sweep of Columbia and Penn this weekend.

The Bulldogs’ five boats all earned victories in the Connell Cup, a 2000-meter race on the Orchard Beach Lagoon in New York. The Elis also won the Cup last year.

“The team performed well, and the races provided all boats with a starting point for the spring,” captain Kathleen O’Keefe ’12 said. “The races gave us an opportunity to find where we will need to improve throughout the season.”

Yale’s varsity eight, the members of the fastest boat, finished the race with a time of 6:31.0, two seconds ahead of Columbia and three seconds ahead of Penn.

The second varsity eight cruised to victory with a time of 6:40.9, which was almost six seconds ahead of the second-place Columbia boat.

“I thought we raced well and raced to our abilities for this time of year,” head coach Will Porter said.

In the varsity four race, the Elis also defeated their opponents by a six-second margin with a final time of 7:29.4.

Yale’s third varsity eight and second varsity four both had dominant races and clocked in 17.5 seconds and 15.8 seconds ahead of Penn, respectively.

Porter said he was especially pleased with the performances of the freshmen on the team.

“I think our novices did a nice job for their first race,” he said. “All five of our crews had at least one freshman in them, so it was nice to see the freshmen perform well in their first race for Yale.”

The Bulldogs had to overcome challenging conditions on the water. Porter said the race was held in tidal water, water that moves differently in each lane. Boats also had to combat side wind through the first 100 meters of the race.

Despite the team’s success at this race, Porter said the team still needs to improve its speed.

“I think as a team we’ve worked really hard through the winter, and we’re fit, we’re strong, but we’re not going fast yet,” he said. “We have a long way to go. We are just getting started.”

The Elis return to action this weekend when they travel to Columbus, Ohio to take on Ohio State and Michigan.