PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The Yale heavyweight crew team returned home from its first outing of the spring season with some shirts on Saturday. Three of Yale's crews – the fourth, third and second varsity – won handily against Ivy League rivals Brown. The Bears won the freshman and varsity eight events but not without a fight as both of these Yale crews held the lead at some point in the race. Brown was quick off the line across the board but likewise all of Yale's crews showed they had the base speed to walk right through their opponents. Against an incoming tide and in a heavy crosswind, Brown claimed the freshman eight by 1.02 seconds. The afternoon ended with the Brown varsity eight crossing the line just ahead of Yale to beat the Bulldog varsity by only 0.43 seconds.
Racing convened at 1:15 p.m. so that crews could row when the afternoon's temperature was at its highest, though by not racing during the morning calm a brutal crosswind was blowing from starboard side at the start of the fourth varsity race. Finding its alignment quicker, the Brown fourth varsity was quick off the starting line but Yale kept in contact with them. The Bulldogs made a move with 500 meters down and continued to walk through the Bears in the second 500. With less than a thousand meters to go Yale was bow-stern on Brown and would hold this position through the finish. The final times were Yale 6:33.31, Brown 6:36.52.
The third varsity took the fourth varsity's finish and built on it substantially. The story was the same at the start: the Bulldogs held strong at about two or three seats down by time the Brown crew had their shift. At the 750 mark Yale had two seats. The margin grew to four seats at the halfway point and a full length with 500 meters to go. With a comfortable lead the third varsity sprinted to the line to cross with a length and a half of open water over Brown. Yale's time was 6:24.29, well ahead of Brown's 6:32.37.
"The first sprint race of the season always feels fast, and this was no exception," said sophomore Don Leatherwood, six seat of the Yale third varsity crew. "We built momentum from stroke one and we continued to push even after we broke open."
The third race of the afternoon was the freshman eight. The Bears picked up their first win here, clocking in just over a second faster than the Bulldogs. Moving through their starting sequence, the Bulldogs shifted to an ambitious rating to put their bow in front one seat. Brown had a big move in the middle and Yale countered with its own move halfway through Brown's call. Ultimately the rating proved too bold and the Bulldogs paid for it in the third 500, at which point Brown broke clear water on the Bulldogs. Yale built up the power again in the final stretch to walk back on Brown, but Brown stayed out in front to cross the finish line in 6:12.76 to Yale's 6:13.78.
Yale was back at it in the second varsity. The Bulldogs dominated the better part of the race, but again ceded two seats at the start. At the shift Brown had a slight advantage but Yale stepped out with a big move through the 1000-meter mark.
"I'm proud of how we raced today," said senior coxswain Francesca Yi. "Brown jumped out in the first thirty strokes but we stayed confident and kept completely focused on our own strokes."
Heading into the last 500 Yale was three-quarters of a length up and by the time the crew passed Narragansett Boathouse the margin was pushing a length of open water. The final times were Yale 6:03.23, Brown 6:07.56.
"The seniors in this boat did an incredible job establishing rhythm and once we did that, we all felt the boat just pick up and move really well," Yi said. "The most exciting part about today is that this is just the start. We still have a lot of speed to gain."
Around the time the varsity eights were pulling into the stake boats, the incoming tide on the Seekonk River had become a slack tide, setting both crews up to post some sub-6 minute times. In the closest race of the day the Bears took three to four seats on the Bulldog varsity off the start, but the Bulldogs pulled them back in before the first 500 was through.
The two crews matched each other stroke for stroke. Yale would step out and take a seat, and Brown would respond with an effort but just enough to pull even, never really putting themselves ahead. Eventually Yale began to build a slight lead and with 500 meters left in the race Yale had upwards of three seats. The Bulldogs held this margin into the last 200 but with a sprint the Bears managed to pull it up even.
In what was nearly a dead heat, Yale clocked in at 5:45.97. Brown's time was 5:45.54, a mere 0.43 seconds faster.
Compared to last year's results, where the Bulldogs won the third varsity and freshman eights, Saturday's races can definitely be seen as an improvement. The squad picked up a win in the 2V, and the 1V closed the gap from a 1.8 second loss to a 0.4 second loss. The Bulldogs will race Brown again in a month and a half at the Eastern Sprints, and until then they have their work cut out for them.
The Bulldogs are off next weekend but then host the Dartmouth Big Green at home on April 9.
Report filed by Yale Sports Publicity