After finishing eighth at nationals, Yale women’s crew is set to launch for the first time this year on Saturday, March 16 at the Oak Ridge Cardinal Invitational in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The reigning national champions, Yale men’s heavyweight crew as well as men’s lightweight crew both push off on March 30, with the former competing for the Albert Cup against Brown and the latter fighting for the Eads Johnson Cup against Navy.

Yale women’s crew was recently voted as the seventh best squad in the nation in the most recent USRowing & Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association preseason poll. Men’s heavyweight enters the season atop USRowing’s heavyweight men’s varsity 8 poll, receiving 11 out of 12 votes for first; the second-ranked University of Washington unit received the only other first place vote. While the men’s lightweight team did not receive a slot in the first rankings of the year, the team still finished last season ranked seventh in the nation and maintain high expectations for this spring.

“The first race of the season is always a bit tricky, especially when it is difficult to get on the water here to practice,” Yale women’s crew head coach Will Porter said. “The cold weather has made it difficult to get up to speed. In years like this, we just have to jump in and throw it out there. We will get better over the course of the season.”

The break will present an immediate challenge for women’s crew; the Oak Ridge Cardinal Invitational playing field is thick with quality competitors. The Elis face Indiana, Minnesota, Virginia and Wisconsin, who were all ranked in the top 20 of last season’s final USRowing & CRCA Coaches’ Poll.

Over the entirety of its upcoming season, Yale women’s crew will challenge nine other opponents who finished last year ranked in the top-20 national poll.

“Every team at the Cardinal Invitational is fully funded with scholarships,” Porter said. “I expect them all to be good. Yale will be the only non-scholarship school in the contest.”

March 30 brings a trio of regattas for Yale’s crew competitors. Men’s lightweight crew first takes on Navy in a duel for the Ead Johnston Cup in Princeton, New Jersey. The Elis have won the last seven Ead Johnston Cup matchups against the service academy. Still, Navy finished two slots above Yale at the season’s end.

Men’s heavyweight crew tangos with Brown on the same date when the two Ivy rowing behemoths clash on the Seekonk River in Providence, Rhode Island. Yale has dominated the Albert Cup regattas in recent years, winning the last five contests. Despite Brown’s preseason ranking of fourth in the nation and its sixth-ranked finish last season, Yale retains its status as a heavy favorite headed into the weekend.

The day holds one more event for Yale crew. The women’s crew platoon will compete in the Ivy-Big Ten Double Dual against Michigan, Michigan State and Indiana. Michigan and Indiana have both been ranked in various preseason polls, reaching as high as sixth and 14th, respectively.

Each of the three squads hold high expectations for the season ahead. For men’s heavyweight crew, the Bulldogs will be aiming for another national championship. The team has won all of its cup meets over the last five seasons, all of its officially decided meetings against Harvard for the last four and all of its appearances at the EARC Sprints for the last three.

For men’s lightweight crew, the team continues to show promise but has a recent history of falling just shy of a championship marker. It was just two years ago that the Elis were ranked No. 2 in the nation.

Women’s crew looks well-positioned to dominate the Ancient Eight yet again. However, the biggest question for the team is if it has the ability to challenge powerhouses such as Washington and Berkeley on the national stage.

“[We] have won all of our cup races for the last five years,” heavyweight crew head coach Steve Gladstone said. “Our goal is to keep the volume of work at high levels in the early part of the season so that we are able to peak at the end; we have two-a-day [practices] starting this Sunday in preparation.”

Heavyweight men’s crew team’s biggest competitions of the year are the EARC Sprints in Worcester, Massachusetts, on May 19; the IRA National Championships from May 31 to June 2 in Sacramento, California; and the Yale–Harvard Regatta to round up the season on June 8 in New London, Connecticut.

The lightweight men face their most critical challenges in the Goldthwait & Vogel Cup triangular regatta against Harvard and Princeton on April 27 at Princeton, New Jersey; the EARC Sprints in Worcester, Massachusetts, on May 19; and the IRA National Championship in Folsom, California, on June 2.

The women’s crew squad has one of its most important regattas on April 27, when the team faces Harvard-Radcliffe and Northeastern in Boston. Then, the team turns to the Ivy League Championships on May 19 at Princeton, New Jersey, followed by the NCAA Championships from May 31 through June 2 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Bentley Long | bentley.long@yale.edu .