Gil Talbot

The months of May and June were kind to all three Yale rowing teams, as the men’s and women’s lightweight programs both captured top-10 national finishes while the Bulldog heavyweights three-peated as IRA National Champions.

Ninth-ranked women’s crew finished third in all NCAA races during the Ivy League Championships and in eighth place overall at the NCAA Rowing Championships. Meanwhile, the fourth-ranked lightweights rowed to a first-place finish to capture the Jope Cup at EARC Sprints and earned fifth place at the IRA National Championships. No. 1 ranked men’s heavyweight took gold in five of the six varsity events at the Eastern Sprints and Rowe Cup before following it up with a third consecutive national championship victory via a dominating performance at the IRA National Championship in Sacramento.

“All the boats performed their best races of the year – that was gratifying,” heavyweight crew head coach Steve Gladstone said. “The three-peat for the national title felt awfully good. This is an exceptional crew… One of the most distinguished crews I’ve ever coached. Consistently throughout the season, consistent speed and impeccable execution on game day. Impeccable and really dominant.”

Women’s crew put up a poster-worthy performance at the Ivy League Championships. Each of the five crews finished with a medal, and Yale ended the weekend with a third-place finish in overall team points for both the Ivy Title and for the NCAA automatic qualifier. The second varsity four and third varsity eight squads each snagged second-place finishes, while the first and second varsity eights along with the first varsity four all placed third behind No. 6 Princeton and No. 9 Brown.

The Elis didn’t earn an automatic qualifying bid for the NCAA Rowing Championships, but their strong showcases secured them an at-large selection for the biggest rowing event of the year.

“At the beginning of this season, we knew it would be a challenge to get back to NCAA’s,” women’s head coach Will Porter said. “As the season progressed and our first year students started to come on we began to realize we were back on track. I am proud of the year, the effort and the teamwork, but I am not satisfied.”

While storms delayed the beginning of the event, Yale remained unfazed. All three Eli ensembles – the first and second varsity eights as well as the varsity four – escaped Friday unscathed behind a trio of top-three finishes to secure a slot in the Saturday semifinals. A day later, the three Yale boats once again advanced to earn a spot in the petite finals.

The first varsity eight squad finished in eighth place on championship Sunday, one slot above its seeding heading into the weekend and just a smidgen behind petite finals victor No. 6 Princeton; the second varsity eight slotted in at 10th, while the varsity four wound up in 11th.

“YWC took a big step forward in our team culture,” Porter said. “Our seniors brought this team together and established a strong, positive culture. I am excited about next year. We return a core group that has the chance to do well. They have to do the work to get the bread.”

The lightweight blues brought their best to the Eastern Sprints in Worcester. Yale quenched its thirst for a cup on the Quinsigamond, as the team held off the No. 6 Quakers to claim the Jope Cup. The first, second, and third varsity eights all received silver medals by the end of the regatta. Yale finished with 34 team points overall, enough to nudge out Penn by two points and win the event. The Jope Cup now returns to Gilder Boathouse for the first time since 2016; this marks the fourth time the Bulldogs have hoisted the cup in the last eight years.

Yale brought three crews to the IRA National Championships: the first varsity eight, the first varsity four with coxswain and the first varsity four without a coxswain. The Elis posted productive results on the first day of racing, clinching a grand finals berth for the varsity eight and petite finals slots for both varsity four boats. After a Saturday of rest, Yale netted a fifth-place finish in the varsity eight final alongside a first-place consummation in the coxed four and a third-place standing in the non-coxed four, earning the blues a fifth-place national finish.

Heavyweight crew dominated its opponents at both the Eastern Sprints and the IRA National Championship. The Bulldog first, third, fourth, and fifth varsity eight squads all clinched first place in the EARC Sprints. The first varsity eight clinched a victory by a wallopping 5.712 seconds while the fifth varsity eight sunk second-place Navy by a gargantuan 10.152-second margin in the largest finals race time differential of the day. The Elis engulfed their opponents to earn the Rowe Cup and a fifth straight victory at Eastern Sprints.

Riding high, Yale rolled into the IRA National Championships in California with little on its mind other than a third straight national title. And three-peat it did, as all three Bulldog boats medaled for the first time in the program’s long and storied history.

On the first day, Yale lived up to its high expectations by winning the first and third varsity eight heats and finishing as runner-up in the second varsity eight heat, where the squad finished behind No. 3 California. Each team earned a spot in the Saturday semifinals, where the results were identical; the blues finished first in both the first and third varsity eight semifinals, while the second varsity eight ended up slotting in at a respectable second behind No. 2 Harvard.

“The second and third teams did exceedingly well,” Gladstone said. “The commitment to doing exceptional work runs deep in the program – it’s not simply in the top eight or the top sixteen. There’s a commitment to getting work done so that they can compete successfully, and that ran deep this year. The results were even stronger than last year.”

Sunday saw the Elis pull off an unprecedented feat as all three boats medaled for the first time in school history. The first varsity eight earned gold while the second varsity eight took bronze behind the aforementioned Crimson and Cal boats. The third varsity eight ended up with a silver after finishing just behind No. 1 Washington.

This is Gladstone’s 14th national title as a coach and the third consecutive national championship for Yale heavyweight rowing. Gladstone was also named the Ivy League Coach of the Year for the fourth time in the last five seasons.

“When you’re coaching, you’re coaching day by day, very much in the moment,” Gladstone said. “You have a sense of the capability of the group, but you don’t know for sure until they race. As the season went on, the consistency of their racing was very, very impressive.”

Overall, this season has been an unbridled success for the teams. The women’s team peaked as high as fifth in the nation, while the lightweights reclaimed the Jope Cup en route to an fifth-place finish in the national championship; the heavyweight team clinched its third consecutive national title. No other crew program in the country boasts three teams as simultaneously successful as these squads.

Heavyweight crew takes on third-ranked Harvard in The Race, America’s oldest collegiate sporting event, on the Thames River in New London on Saturday, June eighth.

Bentley Long | bentley.long@yale.edu