The Yale crew teams opened up their fall season on Saturday in successful fashion at the Head of the Housatonic Regatta in nearby Derby. In front of a large crowd featuring many Yale crew alums, the Bulldog heavyweight team grabbed a first-place finish in the Men’s Collegiate Eight race. The lightweight team, rowing alongside the heavyweights, had a sixth-place finish in the Men’s Collegiate Eight, finished second, third and fifth in the Men’s Collegiate Four and won the men’s open four to headline an excellent opening performance. The Eli women capped off a strong top-to-bottom performance with a win in the Women’s Collegiate Four and a second-place finish to Brown in the Women’s Collegiate Eight.
“There is nothing like a race day,” lightweight coach Andy Card said. “We always enjoy our home-course head racing. The weather was terrific as it usually is, and I think the whole team had a positive experience going down the track. Our approach was positive, and we wanted to leave the race course a little wiser than when we arrived.”
The fall crew season focuses more on building endurance, gaining speed and focusing on technique. The style of racing during the fall is called head racing, and takes place in a time-trial format, where the boats race against the clock, rather than directly against each other. Head racing also does not separate out the lightweight rowers from the heavyweights in the men’s races.
Back on the water after losing a heartbreaking national championship race to University of California, Berkeley in June, the Eli heavyweights posted the fastest time of the day across all divisions. Their first varsity eight boat cruised to victory in the nearly three-mile race with a time of 12:17.8. The winning time beat second-place Brown by almost 16 seconds, representing many lengths of open water, while Harvard’s best boat managed a distant third.
Yale’s second varsity eight secured a fifth-place finish, eight seconds behind the top two Harvard boats, which came in separated by less than a second. Another Bulldog crew grabbed 11th place in the race, clocking in at just over 13 minutes.
“The great team dynamic and energy that every guy brings to the practice each and every day to keep it fun are crucial for our team’s performance,” heavyweight oarsman Bojan Dosljak ’19 said. “Trusting that every single guy on your team has your back and is giving it his all is the key ingredient for success.”
The Yale lightweight crews also competed on the water this weekend, adding the extra spice of a challenge rowing against heavier opposition. The Elis, coming off their eighth Eastern Association of Rowing Colleges lightweight title a season ago, started their 2016–17 campaign with similar speed.
The Elis reached sixth place in the Men’s Eight with a time of 12:52, behind five heavyweight boats from Yale, Brown and Harvard. The Bulldog lightweight boats also finished in 13th, 16th and 17th places, defeating every boat from Columbia, Marist and Fairfield.
In the Men’s Collegiate Four, the Bulldogs took silver, clocking in at 13:56.5 behind a Crimson quartet that stormed to a resounding 14-second margin of victory. Another Eli boat swept in for the bronze at 14:28.2, five seconds ahead of Harvard’s second crew. A third Bulldog boat finished in fifth with a time of 14:35.7. To cap off the day, the Eli lightweight crews also topped the Men’s Open Four race.
“Getting back on the water is phenomenal,” lightweight captain Noah Baily ’17 said. “Our team lives to compete, and we’ve been eager to do so ever since we returned to campus in August. On Saturday, we got to do exactly that, and our crews from top to bottom performed excellently.”
The Yale women put in a strong day on the water, notching three of the top seven finishes in the Women’s Eight and a golden performance in the Women’s Four. Coming off their 14th NCAA Championship appearance in the last 15 years, the Bulldogs got off to a dynamic start in the new season.
The best Yale finish in the Women’s Eight came in second at 14:03.1, just ahead of the bronze-toting Eli crew that finished in 14:07.4. Neither boat proved to be able to topple the victorious Bears, who breezed to a 13:54.6 final time. In the Women’s Four, the Bulldogs powered their way to victory; their 15:24.1 time beat the runner-up crew from Northeastern by a commanding 12 seconds.
“Yesterday’s results showed us that we have a lot of depth on our team,” captain Kate O’Brien ’17 said. “We can work with different combinations over the coming weeks and months to find some boats that can really move.”
All three Bulldog teams have next weekend off before shipping up to Boston for the Head of the Charles Regatta, the largest two-day regatta in the world.