March 26, 2009

Yale to Kick Off Spring Season

March 26, 2009

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Yale's spring racing season officially kicks off on Mar. 28 when the Bulldogs face Ivy League rivals Brown in Providence, R.I. This first race marks the end of winter training and the beginning of five weeks of cup races in preparation for Eastern Sprints on May 10th. The Bulldogs, returning from nearly two weeks of training in North Carolina, are confident that the time and energy they have put in over the past months will pay off.

Captain Andrew Collard leads the Bulldogs in their 2009 sprint season. "Spring break was really productive, I think we made some good progress in Lake Lure," said Collard. "The season ahead is exciting, it's my last season so I want to work my hardest to make it a good one."

Last year's encounter with Brown at the Gilder Boathouse gave the team mixed results in its season opener. Yale's freshman boats were victorious while its three varsity boats fell to the Ivy League rivals. The class of 2011, now members of the varsity squad, will no doubt be playing a key role this season as the varsity squad looks to take back cups and win duals lost in the preceding campaign.

Of the upcoming Brown race, Collard noted, "It's good to race such a tough opponent early in the season. Brown will be a good test of our speed."

Following Brown, the Bulldogs' varsity eight will head to San Diego, Calif., to race in the 36th San Diego Crew Classic on April 4 and 5. The result will serve as an early indicator of the team's standing against crews it does not race until Sprints or IRAs including Washington, Cal, Stanford and archrival Harvard. Last year's appearance at the Classic was a first in recent memory for the varsity eight.

On day one of the 2008 Classic, Yale raced to a strong second-place finish in the qualifying heats. The Bulldogs came in just .31 seconds behind powerhouse Cal. In third place and .47 seconds behind Yale, came Northeastern. Ivy League rivals Princeton and Penn came in fourth and fifth, respectively. Yale's varsity closed out its three-day trip to San Diego with a tough seventh-place finish in an extremely competitive grand final. It was a disappointing finish for the Bulldogs, who after the previous day's performance seemed well poised for a top-three finish. This year's regatta offers the Bulldogs a second chance they will gladly take.

The Bulldogs will then return home to the Gilder Boathouse for their only home race of the season. Yale faces Dartmouth in defense of the Olympic Axe on April 11. Yale cruised to easy wins over Dartmouth at last year's meeting. The Yale varsity eight won by more than 15 seconds to ensure that the Olympic Axe stays at Gilder Boathouse for another year. The Bulldogs look to extend that stay for another year.

Then, on April 18, Yale will head down to Orchard Beach, N.Y., to face Columbia and Penn in search of the Blackwell Cup. At last year's regatta, the Bulldogs won three out of four races at the Gilder Boathouse, but fell in the varsity eight to hand over the Blackwell Cup to the Lions for the first time in sixty-seven years. That day, the Columbia varsity crept back on Yale in the last 250 meters to win the varsity race and Blackwell Cup by 1.2 seconds. This year's varsity will no doubt have that race in the back of their minds when they line up again this year.

The Bulldogs' toughest test of the cup season will come in Ithaca on April 25 when Yale will challenge Princeton and Cornell for the Carnegie Cup. The Carnegie Cup is Yale's last dual race until the Yale-Harvard Regatta on June 13. Last year, Yale returned the Carnegie Cup to Princeton after holding it for the previous year. The top two varsity boats finished in third place. The third varsity and first freshman eights both saw second-place finishes. It was the first freshman eight's first loss of the season. Only the second freshman eight saw first place.

After the Carnegie Cup and three weeks of training and preparation, the Bulldogs will line up at Eastern Sprints on May 10. Eastern Sprints serves as a de facto Ivy League Championship and helps build momentum for the three-day IRA Regatta that begins on June 4th. Last year, the varsity and freshman boats took fourth, the second and third varsity came in eighth and the second freshman boat took third.

At IRAs, Yale will face top teams from throughout the nation in what has become collegiate rowing's national championship. A week later, the Bulldogs end their season by facing Harvard in the 144 installment of the Yale-Harvard Regatta, America's oldest collegiate athletic competition.

Race Schedule
Varsity race 10:00 AM
JV race 10:20 AM
Frosh race 10:40 AM

Report filed by Dominique Fenton '10, Yale Sports Publicity