The Yale men’s lightweight crew raced to two successful finishes at the Head of the Charles in Boston, while the heavyweight team failed to reach the high bar it set a year ago.
The Eli lightweight teams returned to New Haven with two excellent results, finishing second in the Lightweight Fours and fourth in the Lightweight Eights. Meanwhile, the heavyweight team slumped to a fourth-place finish in the Championship Eight and dropped to 12th in the Championship Four.
“The Head of the Charles is an interesting beast,” lightweight captain Noah Baily ’17 said. “It is the largest regatta in the world, a celebration of rowing and the crowds bring an indescribable energy. The conditions are always tough with strong winds from variable directions, [and] the course also has a number of sharp turns. I am extremely proud of how the team attacked their races today, and am excited to see what we can do next weekend at Princeton Chase.”
The Eli lightweight four cruised to the best result among collegiate boats at 18:05.7, finishing a whopping 13 seconds ahead of third-placed Columbia’s 18:18.3. The only boat to edge out the Bulldogs was the New York Athletic Club. The AC four just crept under the 18-minute mark, with a final time of 17:59.7. The splits display an identical eight-second gap between the top two boats at all three checkpoints, with a closing burst from the Elis bringing them within the final margin, but not enough to speed them to victory. Columbia, Georgetown and Cornell all finished within 20 seconds of Yale, but the remaining collegiate fours were all left in the dust and finished above the 19-minute mark.
The Yale lightweight eight rowed across the line in third place, with a raw time eight-tenths of a second ahead of Princeton’s 15:51.5. However, the Bulldogs were assessed a five-second penalty, and the error dropped them to fourth with a time of 15:55.7. The Eli’s raw score put them nine seconds behind the golden Western Ontario crew at 15:41.4. The Bulldog boat caught a crab — an errant stroke that traps the blade underwater and forces the boat to come to a complete stop to readjust the oar — that accounts for most of the deficit. Aside from a couple of errors that slightly marred the three-mile race, the Yale lightweights put in an excellent shift on the water.
“We’re a fun team that loves racing with each other,” head coach Andy Card said. “If the Charles were a baseball game, we had great pitching, hit the ball well with power and scored double-digit runs. We also had too many errors, and that cost us the game.”
Eric Esposito ’17 also snagged a silver finish in the Club Single sculling race for the second consecutive year.
Success proved more elusive for the heavyweight crew. Last year, the Elis powered to victory in the Championship Eights. Facing a strong roster of crews, some of whom they will not see again until the National Championships in June, the Bulldogs ended up in fourth at 15:03.1. The University of Washington, sixth a year ago, won the regatta with a dominant 14:40.8 performance, while the University of California, Berkeley and Harvard replicated their second- and third-place finishes respectively. The Eli crew rowed well, but struggled to navigate the unique features of the regatta. Unlike the standard straight-shot 2000-meter races the team will row in the spring, the Head of the Charles features many twists and turns and six bridges that condense the racecourse at certain points. At the halfway point, the Bulldogs only lay eight seconds behind the Huskies, but faded as the race drove towards its conclusion.
“The team was a little disappointed with today’s result,” heavyweight captain Robert Hurn ’17 said. “We rowed well but had some steering issues that resulted in a finish that was not indicative of our true speed. We will take this as a motivator going into the long winter training period.”
In the heavyweight fours, Yale finished 12th, a slight drop-off from its ninth-place mark a year ago. The Elis finished in 17:55.1, over a minute behind the leaders.
Similar to some other races, the winning crew was not collegiate, but instead came from a USTC-Princeton crew composed of four Olympians that finished in 16:41.9. The highest-ranking collegiate crew came from UC Berkeley, which snagged the bronze. The Golden Bears clocked in at 17:05.6.
“In college athletics, everyone dreams of being a national champion,” heavyweight assistant coach Michael Gennaro said. “If you don’t have those dreams, you shouldn’t be involved in college athletics. Our guys learned today that if we want to be national champions this year, we won’t be getting an early lead off the start and cruising our way to victory. We learned today from racing the top crews in the country [that] there’s going to be a fight [and] we’re going to have to earn it.”
The lightweight team will next race in the Princeton Chase on Sunday.