NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The Yale lightweight crew team will begin its spring season on Saturday, Apr. 3, with its annual race against Navy, for the Johnson Cup. For the Bulldogs, the race will mark the beginning of a three-month stretch of racing events that will culminate with the IRA National Regatta in early June. The lightweights will look to recreate and surpass the successes of the past two seasons, when they finished in third and second place nationally.
The Bulldogs will be building on their successes and lessons from the fall season, during which they competed in the Head of the Housatonic, the Head of the Charles and the Princeton Chase. The Yale varsity eights took fourth, sixth and fourth place in these regattas, respectively. Meanwhile in the varsity fours for the three races, the Elis took third, first and fourth places respectively. The Yale freshman eight took third in the Head of the Housatonic and fifth in the Princeton Chase. The Yale freshmen also raced in the Green Monster, on the Connecticut River in Hanover, N.H.
Although their results would indicate that the Bulldogs had an up and down fall season, the significance of these results should not be overstated. The Elis approach the fall races with the goal of experimenting with different boats, tuning up, improving and learning enough to take with them into winter training.
Said head coach Andrew Card of the fall season: "It was fun at the time, but to look back at those results with anything more than nostalgia is a fool's errand. What I do remember best from the fall was the good rowing we did after the competitive season ended. November is a great time to do some rowing on the Housatonic, and we did some interesting things on the water that set us up well for our indoor training."
Thus, the Elis have spent the past couple of months since the fall season ended working hard, in an effort to come out strong for the spring races. During the cold winter months, the team spent a lot of time working in Tank A in Payne Whitney Gymnasium. Finally, in the last couple of weeks, during spring break, the weather has given the Elis a chance to get back on the water and row in the Housatonic.
"The training has been intense and balanced," said coach Card. "There has been quite some demand placed on the guys, and they have responded as required. Because of this, the time seems to have flown by; at the same time, improvements are coming not dramatically, but at a pace that would indicate deep learning. Mastery is the goal, and we have some ways to go. For those willing to put in the time, though, incremental is exciting."
"Spring break is a great time to watch the freshmen finally come into their own," coach Card continued. "While they are not quite Y150 yet, as they have neither weighed in nor raced a 2k for shirts for Yale, they have been quick to absorb the positive Y150 ethos that we insist every athlete share. While we aren't perfect, the expectations for this season and for their career are established. It's taken a lot of hard work and catch-up on the freshmen's part to get to this point in the year, and it often goes unrecognized when everyone around them is also working hard. It is important that they know what is expected of them, and it's then their choice to abide by and live up to those expectations. So far, they've done that."
Coach Card further commented on the wonderful work done by freshman coach Colin Farrell, whom he called a "tremendous addition to the coaching team." Coach Card further praised the leadership of senior captain Brendan McCook, and the coxswain corps, led senior Stephen Dobeck and junior Erin Anderson.
Though still on their learning curve, the Bulldogs are now excited to see some live competition, starting with the Johnson Cup against Navy. Held on Lake Carnegie, in Princeton, N.J., the Johnson Cup represents a fierce rivalry between the two crews. Navy and Yale are perennially two of the best lightweight crews in the country and the April 3rd race will be an exciting kickoff for the season. The Johnson Cup race has existed for six years and the two crews have split the series. However, the Bulldogs have won two in a row and three of the last four races, so they will look to bring that momentum to this year's race.
Y150 will then continue its season with the Joy Cup against MIT and Georgetown on Apr. 10, the Dodge Cup against Columbia and Penn on Apr. 17, a dual-race against perennial powerhouse Cornell on Apr. 18, the Durand Cup against Dartmouth on Apr. 24, and the Goldthwait and Vogel Cups against Harvard and Princeton on May 1. Following a two-week break, the Bulldogs will then race in the EARC sprints, which serve as the de facto Ivy League Championship. Finally, the Elis will conclude their season with the IRA National Regatta on Jun. 3-5. Should the lightweights take first place in either the Eastern Sprints or the IRA Regatta, they will then have the privilege of representing the United States at the Henley Royal Regatta in England.
Last season, the Bulldogs won the Johnson Cup, the Joy Cup, the Dodge Cup and the Durand Cup. In their dual-race, the lightweights also defeated then-defending champion Cornell in three of five races, including the varsity eight. Yale then won the Vogel Cup for overall points, but lost the Goldthwait Cup after coming in third in the varsity eights. In the Eastern Sprints, the Yale varsity eight boat took fifth place, the junior varsity boat won the gold, and the freshman eight took third place. In finishing after Princeton and Harvard, the varsity eight's performance gave the Bulldogs third place in the Ivy League. Finally, in the IRA Regatta, the Y150 pulled off a remarkable turnaround to take silver in the varsity eight. They finished behind Princeton, but ahead of Harvard, Georgetown and Navy, who had all been ranked ahead of the Bulldogs for the majority of the season.
Last season's story further underscores the volatility of the relative standings of the top lightweight crews. In recent years, Yale in particular has made a habit of making great strides during the season, then coming together at the right time to make big runs at the national championship. The Bulldogs will look to repeat that storyline this season.
With this volatility in mind, in looking ahead to the season and the team's expectations, coach Card quoted Bill Parcells in saying, "Expect nothing. Do something."
Report By Arsi Sefaj '11, Yale Sports Publicity