Both of the men’s crew teams started their fall seasons Saturday at the 18th annual Head of the Housatonic race in Shelton, Conn.

The regatta was the first of two fall head races, or time trials, for the lightweight and heavyweight crew teams. It served as an opportunity for the freshmen to gain racing experience and for the new line-ups to integrate before winter training and the spring cup races and championships.

Lightweight crew head coach Andy Card said the fall races provide a break from fall training and were originally started by oarsmen who were bored without any races in the fall.

The lightweight crew team raced one single, two pairs, one novice 8+, four 4+’s and three varsity 8+’s. Yale’s fastest eight boat, which won the collegiate event, finished in 13:27 and beat Yale’s top heavyweight 8+ by 20 seconds. The other two 8+’s finished in third and sixth places, with times of 13:49 and 14:11 respectively,

“Great preparation from our coaches in the previous weeks and solid racing condition led to a well-earned win in the varsity category,” lightweight oarsmen Greg Hausheer ’13 said.

The heavyweight crew team raced two collegiate 4+’s, which placed first and third, and two novice 8+’s, which placed fourth and sixth. Three eight boats raced in the collegiate event and finished second, forth and seventh at 13:47, 13:51 and 14:13, respectively.

Heavyweight captain Jon Morgan ’13 said the team has come together well throughout fall training. He noted that a mixture of varsity oarsmen and freshmen raced in each of the eight boats.

All Yale oarsmen had the opportunity to race on Saturday, and some raced twice.

The Head of the Housatonic is one of the nation’s largest head races, with race categories for everyone from high schoolers and collegians to veteran masters. Boats start the 2.7 mile course at staggered intervals and “race against the clock” to achieve their best possible times. By contrast, the crews race on a 2000 meter course in the spring races and championships.

Card noted that this year is unique for men’s crew because freshmen as well as sophomores must be integrated into the varsity level. The 2012-’13 season is the first in the history of American collegiate rowing in which freshmen are eligible to race in the varsity boats and are not strictly kept in their own category.

Lightweight crew captain William Ferraro ’13 said the team’s freshmen and sophomores are adjusting well to the varsity level.

“We need them to be fast learners and hard workers, and they’re answering that call,” he said in an email to the News.

While the fall races do not hold as much importance as the spring championship races, Ferraro said he was happy to see the team apply techniques it has worked on in practice into a race setting.

“Fall head races are good for building racing experience and exposing strengths and weaknesses,” Ferraro said. “We learned a lot about how we can improve, and we look forward to gaining boat speed in the days and weeks leading up to our next race.”

Both the lightweight and heavyweight crews will race in the Head of the Charles in Boston, Mass., on Oct. 20 and 21. The lightweight crew team will finish its fall season at the Princeton Chase on Oct. 28.