Courtesy of Ron Laurence

Crews from around the world, rowing fans and passersby alike gathered along Boston’s banks to bear witness to the finale of the fall crew season: the Head of the Charles Regatta. All three of Yale’s teams gave impressive displays out on the cold water this weekend –– a positive sign for the more important, more competitive and more memorable spring season.

Heavyweight

Last year’s defending national champions picked up right where they left off. The varsity eight finished second in the Men’s Championship Eights overall, grabbing first place among the collegiate teams. The Bulldogs crossed the line just under three seconds behind USRowing but a sound 14.5 seconds ahead of third place, Brown. Harvard was the third best collegiate team with fifth place, almost 21 seconds behind the Elis. Last year’s west coast powerhouses of Cal and Washington finished eighth and ninth overall, respectively.

“What it shows is that we have a good base speed,” head coach Steve Gladstone said. “That’s critical. It’s always a good sign –– we saw that last year as well. We’ll continue to refine what we do technically and expand the endurance of the group to prepare for the spring season.”

The second eights came in 17th position overall, just over half a second behind Harvard’s second boat. The Bulldog’s seconds were the third-best collegiate B boat –– Northeastern’s finished 13th overall.

Under Gladstone’s tenure, the Elis have won back-to-back IRA National Championships and four consecutive EARC Sprints. Gladstone’s 13 IRA championship wins put him one behind Cornell’s Charles Courtney (1901–15) for the most varsity eight titles in collegiate rowing. Gladstone, who received individual Ivy and EARC coach of the year awards, will look to continue the dynasty he has built since coming to the Gilder Boathouse in 2010.

With the Bulldogs well versed in the art of winning and a coach who has seen it all, the Head of Charles performance seems like the perfect way to end the fall season and start the ever-approaching spring campaign.

Women’s

At the Head of Charles, the women’s varsity eight boat came in at sixth place (fourth place in the collegiate standings) –– only a second and a half behind Ivy rival Princeton. Defending national champions Cal finished in fourth, 20 seconds ahead of the Bulldogs. Stanford put in a dominant showing –– taking second place overall and first place amongst collegiate teams. The Bulldogs’ second eights came in 18th out of 27, ahead of Duke’s first eight by an assured margin of just over seven and a half seconds.

The Bulldogs have had a strong fall season, winning the Head of the Housatonic as well as finishing in the higher echelons of Sunday’s race. These results are promising for a team that is looking to build on their eighth place overall finish in last May’s national championships.

The Elis rivalry against Princeton is set for another interesting year. Yale finished a solitary point ahead of the Tigers in Sarasota at the national championships to top the Ivy schools. However, coach Will Porter and his team must not get complacent –– the 1.5 second Princeton lead in the Head of the Charles shows that the Tigers are prepared for a spring duel.

Lightweight

In what was the Elis’ lone fall season clash against other EARC programs, Y150’s four boats all put in strong and confident showings out on the water at the Head of Charles. The top varsity eight boat finished third behind the dominant Cornell and Princeton boats –– almost seven seconds off second place. Nevertheless, the crew crossed the line 18 seconds ahead of fourth-placed Navy. The second eight finished seventh, miles ahead of the second-best B boat, and a 10th of a second off Harvard’s varsity eight.

The first fours finished in fourth place, behind Georgetown, Cornell and Penn.

Last fall, the lightweight team set a new course record with a time of 15:42.932. They surpassed the previous record set by New York Athletic club in 2003.

“All the fall races are first and foremost experiences to be enjoyed,” head coach Card told the News last fall. “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.”

After last year’s decent showing at the IRA National Championships, where Yale’s varsity eight finished sixth and varsity four finished eighth, Card and his crew should aim to build on this year’s showing: The difference between the Bulldogs and the best of the best is small.

Bill Gallagher | william.gallagher@yale.edu .