MEN’S CREW: Bulldogs attain high recognition, national titles this summer
Both the lightweight and heavyweight crew varsity eights were named EARC Crew of the Year at the end of the spring
Courtesy of Yale Athletics
This late spring and summer, the Yale men’s heavyweight and lightweight crews capped off their seasons with a slew of national titles, recognitions and trophies.
In its last race of the season at Gilder, the No. 2 heavyweight crew sought to culminate the spring by winning a seventh-straight Carnegie Cup and continuing the varsity eight’s winning streak, but a steering error led to the boat’s disqualification and loss of the cup to Princeton. Nevertheless, the crew marched on to championships, where several boats captured gold and national titles. The Race, the annual bout with Harvard, culminated in a historic sweep. The lightweight crew encountered similar success. After sweeping its last race of the regular season, the No. 1 crew won the Eastern Sprints — becoming Ivy League Champions — but finished fourth at the IRAs.
“I feel that the success of each boat comes from the whole squad,” heavyweight rower Fergus Hamilton ’23 wrote. “We wouldn’t have done as well if it wasn’t for all the effort put in throughout the year by each individual. I think as a senior that’s something I’m always really proud of, the effort that we all put in. Winning races is fun but it’s better to do it with guys you know have worked just as hard as you.”
At the Eastern Sprints in May, the heavyweights captured gold in the first, second and third varsity grand finals, capturing the Rowe Cup a fourth straight time. Despite an injury in the varsity eight, the crew continued its winning streak into a sixth year and was later titled the EARC Crew of the Year in June. The fifth varsity came in third and the fourth and sixth varsity finished fourth.
The team continued to assert its dominance in June during the IRA National Championships in New Jersey. The second and third varsity captured gold, while the varsity eight took home silver after falling to California, who won with a two-second lead. Nonetheless, the crew won the Ten Eyck Memorial Trophy for overall supremacy and became the first school other than California or Washington to win the title since 2005.
“It’s the strongest [group] I’ve coached since I’ve been at Cal,” said heavyweight head coach Steve Gladstone, who previously coached at University of California, Berkeley, to Yale Athletics.“It speaks to the intelligence and devotion to guys from top to bottom, which is a dream.”
A week later, the crew returned to Gales Ferry Boathouse in New London in preparation for the 155th Yale-Harvard Regatta which returned after a three-year hiatus.
The Race culminated in an all-round victory for the Bulldogs, who swept the river for the first time in 26 years. In the first event of the weekend, the fourth varsity set the tone with a near six-second victory. The first varsity, which crossed the finish line 25 seconds ahead of the Crimson, broke the upstream record. The second varsity, which completed the season undefeated, fell behind at the beginning of the race. After catching up to the Crimson about a third of the way through, it never looked back and crossed the finish with 15 seconds on the opponent. The third varsity — also undefeated — beat the Crimson by five seconds.
The rock at Barlett’s Cove — painted in the colors of the winning crew — has remained blue and white since 2015.
“Yale-Harvard is emotionally really important to us,” Nick Rusher ’23 said. “Everybody hopes to win a national championship, but it means nothing if you don’t win the Yale-Harvard Race that year.”
Abroad, the heavyweight crew represented the Bulldogs at the Henley Royal Regatta. The No. 2 crew was represented by 11 rowers in the last Henley in 2019. The eight, drawn from the spring season’s top three varsity boats and including a coxswain from the women’s team, had four days to train before the race. The crew advanced to the semifinals where they fell to Leander, which won by two lengths.
Esha Bhattacharya ’24, who coxed the Henley eight, described the experience as a “taste of the historic culture of rowing” which she noted is lost in most modern regattas, especially those in the U.S. Bhattacharya highlighted how different Henley was from other competitions. At Yale, she can approach her races with previous knowledge of the crews she faces, but in England, the crew encountered unfamiliar waters, boats and a longer race.
A notable difference Bhattacharya pointed out was the proximity of the spectators to the race course. During her American collegiate rowing career, she could not recall a time when she could clearly hear the cheering from the crowd, she said. But at Henley, the cheers were loud and clear, and provided the crew with a “boost.”
After concluding the offseason, some heavyweight crew members went on to national training camps. For instance, Rusher, who raced in the varsity eight, trained in California and Croatia before making it on to the U.S. team, which will compete at the World Rowing Championships in the Czech Republic this September.
“I wasn’t really expecting to make the team at all, but things just worked out,” Rusher told the News. “Now I have a chance to compete for a medal at the World Championships which has always been a dream of mine. My parents met on the national team and my sister recently raced in Tokyo so it’s been a dream of mine to do what my family has done.”
In May, the lightweight first varsity won the Eastern Sprints after an undefeated season, capturing Yale’s first Wright Cup, the fifth Jope Cup in the last 10 years and the first Ivy League Championship since 2016.
In the remaining events, the second varsity came in fifth place falling behind Princeton. The third varsity finished third — four seconds behind winner Columbia. Both the fourth and fifth varsity medaled in second place, coming behind Navy and Cornell, respectively. The coxed four came in third place, falling to Cornell and Columbia.
“I’m really proud of every guy and girl on this team,” senior captain Geoff Skelly ’22 said to Yale Athletics. “Anything can happen on Sprints day, and things fell in the right place for us today. We love to row and race together.”
Despite their previous success, the first varsity placed fourth at the IRA National Championship, where Columbia took home the national title. Similarly, the second varsity came in fourth in its grand final coming in three seconds behind Columbia. The coxed four won in the petite final but finished seventh in the final event.
“We gave the effort, but the boat speed wasn’t there,” lightweight head coach Andy Card said to Yale Athletics. “… What this varsity eight has accomplished all year has been exceptional. While this one stings a bit for us, it was a great day for the league, as the parity makes lightweight rowing so incredible.”
The top two lightweight boats raced on the other side of the pond at the Henley Royal Regatta, where the first varsity defeated Santa Clara and advanced to day two while the second varsity fell to DSRV Laga. Unfortunately, the first varsity went on to fall to Washington in a close race where the Elis lagged half a length behind.
The heavyweight and lightweight crews will take to the water next month at the Head of the Housatonic on Oct. 8.