March 27, 2009

Lightweights To Kick Off Spring Season With Johnson Cup

March 27, 2009

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - On Saturday, the Yale lightweight crew team will head to Princeton to race against Navy for the Johnson Cup. Navy is continually one of the best crews in the league and a rival of the Bulldogs, so the Y150 squad will look to start out strong with a victory. The race will take place on Lake Carnegie and it will mark the beginning of the spring season for the lightweights.

This year will be the sixth since the inception of the Johnson Cup series against Navy. The Bulldogs have brought home the Johnson Cup in two of its existing five years, including two of the last three. Last year, the Yale first varsity boat beat the Navy first varsity crew by a margin of 5.7 seconds with a time of 6:23.50 to bring home the cup. The Yale first freshman and third varsity boats were also successful, while the second varsity and second freshman boats fell to Navy.

This season, the Y150 squad has benefited from the addition of Patrick Tynan to the coaching staff. In Aug. of 2008, Tynan was named the freshman coach for the lightweights to replace Joseph Fallon, and has been described by team members as an invaluable addition to the team.

The lightweights concluded their fall racing schedule with a victory in the Princeton Three-Mile Chase regatta, also held at Lake Carnegie. The Bulldogs sent a full squad to the regatta, including four varsity eights, one freshman eight, three fours and four pairs. The men's lightweight eight and the men's open pair both brought home victories for the Y150 squad.

Previously, the Bulldogs took first place in the lightweight four and eighth place in the lightweight eight at the 44th annual Head of the Charles Regatta. The lightweight four's victory marked the first time in over 20 years that the event was won by a university, as opposed to a club team.

Looking back on the fall season, captain Daniel Ensslen noted that, "This past fall we produced some great results, finding some success at all levels of our team at the Head of the Charles and the Princeton Chase."

After the Johnson Cup race, the lightweights will compete for the Joy Cup on April 4th, on their home course at the Gilder Boathouse in Derby, Conn., with races against MIT and Georgetown. Last year, the Bulldogs handily won the Joy Cup, defeating MIT and Georgetown in all four races. The first varsity boat took first place, finishing 9.97 seconds ahead of Georgetown and 16.56 seconds ahead of MIT. In the junior varsity race, the second varsity boat and the third varsity boat came in first and second place respectively, with Georgetown taking third place. Meanwhile, the first freshman boat easily defeated Georgetown by 12.20 seconds and MIT by 28.77 seconds.

The day following the Joy Cup race, the lightweights will travel to Ithaca, N.Y. for a dual race against rival and perennial powerhouse Cornell. At last year's race, the Bulldogs bested Cornell in four of five races, including a win in the first varsity race by a margin of 6.2 seconds. However, the Y150 squad was unable to repeat its success against Cornell later in the season, as the first varsity boat fell to the Big Red both in the Eastern Sprints and the IRA National Championship.

Following the race against Cornell, the lightweights will race Columbia and Penn for the Dodge Cup on April 11 and Dartmouth for the Durand Cup on April 18. Last year, the Bulldogs won both cups, sweeping all three races against Columbia and Penn for the Dodge Cup, as well as all four races against Dartmouth for the Durand Cup. Exceptionally, Yale has only lost the Dodge Cup twice since 1978.

The lightweights will then host the Goldthwait Cup against rivals Harvard and Princeton, on April 25 at the Gilder Boathouse. The Y150 squad won the Goldthwait Cup last year, winning three out of five races. However, the first varsity boat did lose to Princeton by 2.8 seconds for its first loss of the 2007-2008 season. The fierce rivalry with Princeton continued later in the season with the Yale first varsity boat losing to Princeton at the Eastern Sprints but beating the Tigers at the IRAs.

The Goldthwait Cup is the last dual race for the Y150 squad, and following the event, the lightweights will take several weeks to prepare for the Eastern Sprints. The Eastern Sprints serves as a de facto Ivy League Championship, and this year it will take place on May 5, in Worcester, Mass. Though the Eastern Sprints includes teams from throughout the region, including non-Ivy League universities, the placement of each Ivy's first varsity boat at the Eastern Sprints determines the final Ivy League standings. At last year's event, the Bulldogs came in third overall, losing to Cornell by 4.42 seconds and Princeton by 1.71 seconds.

Finally, the Y150 squad will conclude its season with the IRA National Championship on June 7, in Camden, N.J. At last year's IRA Regatta, the Yale first varsity boat finished third (5:41.203) behind Cornell (5:39.184) and Navy (5:40.782). However, the team did beat rival Princeton by seven-tenths of a second.

Certainly the team to beat in the last couple of years has been Cornell, as its varsity eight boat has been national champion for the past three years in a row. Of the combined six Eastern Sprints and IRA Regatta races in those three years, Cornell has won five of them. This string of victories is of note especially because the winners of the Eastern Sprints and the IRA Regatta qualify to represent the United States at the Henley Royal Regatta in England, and thus Cornell has been the sole US representative in recent years.

However, the Bulldogs have reason for optimism. Having beaten Cornell during the regular season last year, the Y150 squad is hopeful about its chances of repeating that result this year. Moreover, the team is in a great position as it incorporates two very strong freshman classes into the varsity program. For the past two years, the Yale first freshman boats have won gold at the Eastern Sprints, and the lightweights hope to transfer that success to the varsity boats.

Looking forward to the spring season, Ensslen says, "We have been working hard to integrate two very successful freshman classes into the varsity program and have been producing some very exciting results so far at our boathouse. Currently our focus at practice has been to continue the development of an incredibly aggressive ethos for Y150 in 2009 and we are all excited to see where this will take us this spring."

Schedule for Saturday
1:30 PM -- Second Freshman
1:50 PM -- Third Varsity
2:10 PM -- First Freshman
2:30 PM -- Second Varsity
2:50 PM -- First Varsity

More information about the Y150 squad can be found at the Official Yale Crew Website, here.

Report Filed by Arsi Sefaj '11, Yale Sports Publicity