In Friday morning’s regatta at Providence, R.I., the heavyweight crew team won its first race of the spring season. The team beat Brown’s two varsity four boats with a time of 6:38.8 over the 2,000-meter course on the Seekonk River. But despite getting an early lead in all three eight-boat races, the Bulldogs ultimately fell to their Ivy rival in the varisty eight, second varsity eight and third varsity eight categories.

The varsity eight race was particularly close: Yale led for the first 1,200 meters in the last race of the day, but Brown made a comeback in the last 500 meters to win the race by 1.5 seconds with a time of 5:25.5. The annual Yale-Brown race has been evenly-matched in recent years, as last year the Bulldogs beat Brown by 1.9 seconds on their home course but lost to the Bears at Providence in the 2010-’11 season.

Head coach Steve Gladstone said he thought the Yale varsity squad raced very well and that the times recorded were “superb.”

In the varsity four, Yale beat the Brown A squad by 3.3 seconds and the Brown B squad by over 20 seconds. Brown’s freshman boat took the third varisty eight race with a time of 5:42.4 after overtaking Yale’s boat about halfway through the course. Yale’s third varsity boat lost by a margin of 5.7 seconds. Similarly, the second varisty eight race saw Yale take an early lead but give it up around the halfway point. Brown took therace by 5.3 seconds with a time of 5:38.0.

“It was a great day of racing, and Brown is a formidable opponent,” said team captain Jon Morgan ’13, who raced in the second varsity race. “They’re effectively the fastest boat in the northeast.”

Last year, Brown won the Eastern Sprints and came in second in the IRA National Championship in June. Gladstone said it was advantageous for Yale to open its season against a strong opponent because it provides more information on the team’s relative strengths and weaknesses.

“We always want to increase technological efficiency, but we also need to race the full two kilometers,” Gladstone said. “You only get that through race experience. It’s not physiological, but more psychological. You can’t sit on the lead — you need to expand it.”

While Yale has not had glittering success in heavyweight crew over the past few years, Gladstone said the team is working very hard and could “break into the top echelon” of collegiate rowing this season.

The Bulldogs will race next April 13 at home as they host Dartmouth at the Gilder Boathouse in Derby, Conn.