On Saturday afternoon, the lightweight crew team swept its first regatta of the season, beating Naval Academy in four races on Lake Carnegie in New Jersey to take home the ninth annual Johnson Cup. Head coach Andy Card said it was the first time Yale has taken every race in the nine-year series.
This was a promising start for the defending national champions, who placed first in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association last June. The rain held off all afternoon, but the Bulldogs had to contend with a strong head crosswind to win against the Mids in the freshmen 8+, both junior varsity 8+’s and the all-important varsity 8+.
Varsity oarsman David Kahan said the team “had a solid race” against Navy, an opponent it takes very seriously. He added the regatta provided the first opportunity of the season to see the squad’s strengths and weaknesses.
Team captain David Walker ’12 and varsity oarsman Brendan Harrington ’13 said they were particularly proud of the two sophomores in the varsity boat, Josh Mann ’14 and Joe Hanlon ’14, who won their first race at the varsity level, stepping up from the freshman boat last year.
“Props to [Mann and Hanlon],” Harrington said. “We’re all really proud of how they’ve stepped up this semester, and they’ve both made a fantastic transition to the varsity.”
Hanlon said it was exciting to represent Yale at the varsity level and that he is pleased with the win, although he is just happy to have the first race of the season under his belt.
In the first race of the day, Yale’s second junior varsity eight took an early lead against its Navy counterpart and the Navy second freshman boat, and maintained that lead for the rest of the 2000m race. The Bulldogs ultimately crossed the finish line at 6:35.1 — 2.6 seconds ahead of Navy’s 2JV 8+, which finished the course at 6:37.7. The second Navy boat came in just behind at 6:38.4.
Card said the 2JV performed particularly well given the lineup changes that took place in February and March.
The freshmen boats took to the water next, and the Blue and White steadily advanced throughout the race to finish a whopping 25.6 seconds ahead of the Midshipmen. In their first official race for Yale, the freshan eight timed in at 6:25.1 — well ahead of Navy, which finished in 6:50.7.
The pattern of winning continued into the junior varsity and varsity races. Yale’s JV 8+ started strongly and pulled ahead of Navy at the beginning of the race, finishing at 6:16.5. Navy crossed the finish line at 6:20.7.
In the varsity race — which determined the winner of the Johnson Cup — Yale’s varsity eight steadily gained distance on Navy throughout the course and finished nine seconds ahead of its opponent. The Elis posted the fastest time of the day, 6:09.3 compared to the Navy varsity’s 6:18.3.
This weekend, the lightweight crew team followed in the footsteps of the heavyweights, who opened their season at home last weekend with a three-race victory over Brown.
“I’m very happy that every boat got a win early in the season, but we still have a lot of work to do as a team,” Walker said. “We had a great start to the season, but we can always improve overall speed and consistency throughout the race. The goal is to get eight guys moving perfectly together, which will be a constant focus all season.”
Next weekend, the lightweight team will travel to MIT to compete against the Engineers and Georgetown for the Joy Cup. The heavyweights will resume their race schedule after a break this weekend as they host Dartmouth at the Gilder Boathouse in Derby — their last home regatta of the season.
The heavyweight races will begin at 10 a.m. and buses will depart for the boathouse from the Payne Whitney Gym at 9 a.m.