On Saturday, the women and lightweight crew teams found themselves in a familiar place: the Gilder boathouse. Both teams raced on the Housatonic, while the heavyweights took on Columbia and Penn on Columbia’s Overpeck Lake, New Jersey course-minute delay, the fog on the Housatonic River lifted and spectators were able to enjoy a clear view.
As the first home regatta of the spring season, the women’s team welcomed many program alumni to watch the team race for the Eisenberg Cup. No. 7 Princeton retained the Cup, beating No. 9 Yale’s first and second varsity eights.
“It is always special to have alumni, like Ginny Gilder ’79, around,” captain Nina Demmerle ’15 said. “Our program has tremendous history and really paved the way for female athletics. It is incredible to be a part of a team with that history and we are very lucky, as athletes, to have the opportunity to interact with the women who made it happen.”
Lining up against the Tigers, last season’s surprise Ivy League champion, marked the biggest test of the Bulldogs’ season thus far. Though Yale’s varsity four boats, including the still-undefeated first varsity four, and third varsity eight beat Princeton — a sign of the team’s depth — the first and second varsity eights were unable to pull the win out.
The first varsity eight was a particularly exciting race. Princeton powered off the line and was ahead by six seats within the first 200 meters. Yale began to creep back around the 500-meter mark, and as the teams came around the first curve, Yale pulled to within one seat and the crowd erupted into cheers.
But Princeton’s strategy, pouring on the speed at the third 500, paid off and the Tigers regained a five-seat lead. The Bulldogs remained rowing at 38 strokes per minute and succeeded in narrowing the gap to 3.5 seats with 75 meters to go. The team was unable to overcome this last lead, and finished the race 1.4 seconds behind its Ivy opponent.
The second varsity eight had a similar race, falling behind Princeton at the start, nearly catching up at the first curve, and ultimately losing ground as the Tigers made a huge push in their third 500. The Bulldogs finished 3.1 seconds behind the Tigers.
“It is very helpful to see other teams’ speed before racing at Ivies,” Demmerle said. “It lets us know what we need to work on before racing in May at the Ivy Champs.-meter marker. With Big Green clearly in sight, the Bulldogs had the advantage of watching any maneuvers Dartmouth attempted to make.
Rowing at 38 strokes per minute, as opposed to Dartmouth’s 34, Yale won by six seconds. Noting that the Bulldogs were in “midseason form,” the announcer added that the team was “machine-like and really pump[ed] that rhythm.”
The first varsity eight race was initially a little tighter, as Yale did not initiate an open-water lead until the last 250 meters.
“In terms of skills and technique, these teams are both equal,” the announcer said.
Still the first varsity managed to finish 7.3 seconds ahead of Dartmouth.
The lightweights look to continue their success next week, when they welcome Ivy foes Harvard and Princeton to race for the Goldthwait and Vogel Cups on the Housatonic once more.
With their victories in the first and second varsity eights, the heavyweights won the Blackwell Cup for the sixth consecutive year. The Bulldogs’ third win preserves their undefeated spring season, leaving the team in good shape as they shift from the final part of the regular season and into the postseason championships.
“The weekend’s win puts the squad in a very strong position for the Eastern Sprints, IRAs and the Yale/Harvard race,” Simon Keenan ’15 said. “Despite the varsity and the second varsity being the only crews to come away with a victory, the close margins of the other races displays the immense depth that exists within our squad at the moment.”
Although they were farther south, the heavyweights enjoyed just as perfect conditions as the lightweights and women.
Penn won the first race, as the Quaker’s third varsity finished three seconds ahead of Yale. Columbia was 30 seconds behind Yale.
But the next race, second varsity shell, went to the Elis. They crossed the finish line seven seconds before Penn and 17 before Columbia. Similarly, Yale won the first varsity with Penn in second and Columbia in third. Penn’s first varsity came out to a hot start, according to Keenan, and pushed the Yale shell for the first 1,000 meters.
The first varsity boat finished the race in 5:41 flat.
The fourth varsity race was similar to that of the third varsity, as the Quakers took first, the Bulldogs second and the Lions third.
“We realize the job ahead of us and what needs to be done to continue our success this season,” Keenan said.
The heavyweights have one final regatta, taking on Princeton and Cornell in Ithaca, before heading to Eastern Sprints in Worcester, Mass., on May 25.