For the third year in a row, a Yale crew won an event at the Head of the Charles Regatta. This weekend, a lightweight Bulldog crew topped the podium and set a course record in Men’s Lightweight Fours on Sunday to round out three years of stellar performances by Yale crews, beginning with a 2015 heavyweight win and followed by a 2016 victory for the Bulldog women.
The Eli lightweights entered two boats in the two-day regatta, one each in the Lightweight Four and Lightweight Eight events. The Four opened racing Sunday afternoon by storming down the course and never looking back, edging out an experienced and heavily favored boat from Oxford Brookes by a half second to clinch the victory and set a new course record of 15:42.932. The previous record-holding time of 15:49.64 stood for more than a decade, since it was set by a boat from the New York Athletic Club in 2003.
Yale lightweight crew has a storied past in the Fours at the Head of the Charles. In 2010, Eli lightweight boats finished in first and second. At that moment, that top finish was also the Bulldogs’ second win in three years.
“Our coxswains nail the course in the four,” lightweight head coach Andy Card said. “They like the challenge of all those bridges, since we don’t have any bridges or severe turns on the Housatonic.”
With the exception of the Oxford Brookes boat, no other fours posed realistic challenges to the Bulldogs. The third-place finisher in the event was a Columbia boat in 15:52.49, ten seconds off Yale’s winning time, followed closely by a Cornell crew. The remaining Ivy boats’ times fell off significantly after Cornell. Dartmouth and Penn clocked times 30 and 33 seconds slower than the Bulldogs, respectively, and ancient rival Harvard finished a distant minute and 15 seconds behind the Elis.
In the Men’s Lightweight Eights later that afternoon, the Elis finished in fourth with a time of 14:11.065, behind boats from Princeton, Cornell and Harvard. Princeton raced to a win with a time of 13:49.679.
As with the other fall regattas in which Yale competes, the style of head racing — in which boats race for time instead of directly against each other — means that the results are not necessarily a good predictor of spring performance. Instead, the fall races provide opportunities to compete, experiment and enjoy rowing without the demands of in-season racing.
“All the fall races are first and foremost experiences to be enjoyed,” Card said. “We are just trying to find out the character and personality of our team this year, and fall racing helps mold us into a more cohesive and focused squad. We put guys in seats that they might not have rowed in before … or to try a new strategy and rigging. It’s all experimental, and when you run experiments, the scientist is happy no matter the result; it’s all actionable information.”
The lightweights will race in their final regatta of the fall this weekend at the Princeton Chase.
The Bulldog heavyweights entered two boats of eight in the Men’s Championship Eights on Sunday and improved on their fourth-place finish a year ago, despite a last-minute change in plans.
The Eli heavyweights’ first varsity boat finished with a time of 15:30.510 to place third in the Championship Eights and record the second-best collegiate finish, three seconds behind the victorious California crew and less than four tenths of a second off a boat from the Sudbury Rowing Club. The Bulldogs triumphed over boats from, among others, last year’s second runner-up Harvard and last year’s winner Washington. Yale’s second boat finished 18th with a time of 14:08.535.
Yale’s performance this weekend is a testament to the solid foundation the team rests on. In the week leading up to the Head of the Charles, several of the team’s oarsmen were ill or otherwise unable to row as anticipated. Notably, Charlie Elwes ’19 had been out for the week and Sholto Carnegie ’18 punctured his foot on the decking of the boathouse in practice, forcing head coach Stephen Gladstone to make late revisions to the lineup. However, since the team does little to no speed work in preparation for fall regattas, the last-minute changes did not throw the heavyweights off course.
“The lineup that we raced today had its first workout together yesterday,” Gladstone said. “But, we certainly wouldn’t spend more than three workouts in any given lineup at this time of year. So that being said, we are really pleased at our base speed. It’s a testament to the level that our guys are at and have achieved over the last couple of years.”
The heavyweights will not race in next weekend’s Princeton Chase, traditionally the team’s third and final race of the fall. Instead, Gladstone is optimistic and looking to build on a strong fall to create a solid base for the spring. With just 20 water practices left before the spring, the team will focus on building a broader aerobic base and developing younger members.
“We’ll be looking carefully at some of the younger people on the squad, some of the first-year students, and putting them in key positions in the boat,” Gladstone said. “They’re going to have to be very responsive to the movements of the boat. Having a strong day [like] what the guys did today reinforces the protocol that we use. It’s like getting an indicator grade: ‘This is solid, we’re doing well.’”
The Eli women entered three boats in the two-day competition, fielding their first and second varsity eights in the Women’s Championship Eights on Sunday and their third varsity crew in the Women’s Club Eights on Saturday. All three Bulldog eights finished among the top three collegiate boats at their respective levels, displaying admirable depth up and down the roster.
Last year, the Bulldog women recorded a memorable victory in the Championship Eights. The first varsity boat captured the title of fastest collegiate crew and finished third overall, behind only a pair of boats containing Olympic rowers.
Fall regattas are all in the style of head racing, meaning boats start one at a time. By virtue of their victory at the Head of the Charles last year, the Eli women started first in this year’s race. The first varsity boat clocked in with a time of 15:23.480, placing seventh overall. The squad recorded the third-fastest collegiate time, behind Washington and Stanford, and was the fastest Ivy crew.
The Elis’ second varsity boat also raced in the Championship Eight, and finished 15th overall with a time of 15:39.932. The second varsity boat’s strong performance was also the fastest finish by a collegiate 2V crew.
The day before, the Bulldog women’s third varsity crew rowed in Saturday’s Women’s Club Eights and recorded a second-place finish, behind only a Radcliffe boat, with a time of 16:40.376.
“We rowed really well today as a team,” women’s head coach Will Porter said. “We had a lot of fun, raced well and the team has a great energy. When you have a team that enjoys being together, it shows.”
Porter highlighted autumn head-racing as an opportunity to race and have fun that does not take away from the normal fall-training cycle. Although the results from the Head of the Charles and the Head of the Housatonic two weekends ago are promising, Porter’s emphasis for the team going forward is focused on building the team and preparing for the spring season.
Like the heavyweight men, the Bulldog women plan to skip the Princeton Chase next week. The Head of the Charles was the team’s second and final fall race for the year, before the Elis’ attention shifts to the spring — crew’s official season.
“Our next step is to let the dust settle for the fall and have a good winter,” Porter said. “We want to be healthy, fit and ready to go for the spring.”
The Eli women will next race at the beginning of the spring season at the Cardinal Invitational in March.
Angela Xiao | email@example.com