MEN’S CREW: Bulldogs achieve high recognition, national titles this summer
Courtesy of Yale Athletics
That late spring and summer, the Yale men’s heavyweight and lightweight teams ended their seasons with a slew of national titles, recognition and trophies.
In their final race of the season at Gilder, the No. 2 heavyweight crew attempted to crown the spring by winning a seventh straight Carnegie Cup and continuing the Varsity Eight’s winning streak, but a steering error resulted in the boat’s disqualification and loss of the cup to Princeton. Nonetheless, the crew marched on to championships where several boats won gold and national titles. The Race, Harvard’s annual battle, culminated in a historic battle. The light crew had similar success. After winning their last race of the regular season, the No. 1 crew won the Eastern Sprints – and became Ivy League Champions – but finished fourth in the IRAs.
“I feel like the success of any boat comes from the whole crew,” wrote heavyweight rower Fergus Hamilton ’23. “We wouldn’t have done so well if everyone hadn’t put in so much effort throughout the year. I think as a senior I’m always very proud of the effort we’ve all put in. Winning races is fun, but it’s better to do it with people you know have worked as hard as you have.”
At the Eastern Sprints in May, the heavyweights won gold in the first, second, and third major varsity finals and won the Rowe Cup for the fourth straight year. Despite an injury in the Varsity Eight, the crew continued their sixth-year winning streak and were later named EARC Crew of the Year in June. Fifth varsity came third, and fourth and sixth varsity fourth.
The team continued to assert their dominance in June during the IRA National Championships in New Jersey. Second and third varsity took gold, while varsity eight took home silver after losing to California, who won by two seconds. Nonetheless, the crew won the Ten Eyck Memorial Trophy for overall dominance and became the first school other than California or Washington to win the title since 2005.
“That’s the strongest [group] I’ve been training since I’ve been with Cal,” said heavyweight head coach Steve Gladstone, who previously coached at the University of California, Berkeley with Yale Athletics. “It speaks to the intelligence and dedication of the guys from top to bottom is a dream.”
A week later, the crew returned to the Gales Ferry Boathouse in New London to prepare for the 155th Yale-Harvard Regatta, returning after a three-year hiatus.
The race culminated in an overall victory for the Bulldogs, who swept the river for the first time in 26 years. At the first event of the weekend, the fourth university set the tone with a win in just under six seconds. The first Uni to cross the finish line 25 seconds before the Crimson broke the upstream record. The second team, which ended the season unbeaten, fell behind early in the race. After catching the Crimson about a third of the way down, he never looked back and crossed the finish line 15 seconds ahead of his opponent. The third varsity – also undefeated – beat the Crimson by five seconds.
The rock at Barlett’s Cove – painted in the winning crew’s colors – has remained blue and white since 2015.
“Yale-Harvard is very important to us emotionally,” said Nick Rusher ’23. “Everyone hopes to win a national championship, but it means nothing if you don’t win the Yale-Harvard race this year.”
Abroad, the heavyweight crew represented the Bulldogs at the Henley Royal Regatta. The No. 2 team was represented at the last Henley in 2019 with 11 rowers. The eight, drawn from the top three college boats of the spring season, including a coxswain from the women’s team, had four days to practice before the race. The crew advanced to the semifinals where they fell to Leander, who won by two lengths.
Esha Bhattacharya ’24, who piloted the Henley Eight, described the experience as “a taste of rowing’s historic culture” which she says is lost in most modern day regattas, particularly those in the US. Bhattacharya emphasized how different Henley is from other competitions. At Yale she can approach her races with an understanding of the crews she faces, but in England the crew encountered unfamiliar waters, boats and a longer race.
One notable difference Bhattacharya pointed out was the proximity of the spectators to the circuit. During her rowing career in America’s colleges, she couldn’t remember a time when she clearly heard the crowd cheering, she said. But at Henley, the cheers were loud and clear, giving the crew a “boost.”
After the off-season concluded, some heavyweight crew members went to national training camps. For example, Rusher, who raced in the Varsity Eight, trained in California and Croatia before making the US team, which will compete at the World Rowing Championships in the Czech Republic this September.
“I wasn’t expecting to make the team at all, but it just happened,” Rusher told the News. “Now I have the chance to compete for a medal at the World Championships, which has always been a dream of mine. My parents met in the national team and my sister recently raced in Tokyo, so doing what my family did was a dream of mine.”
In May, the lightweight first varsity won the Eastern Sprints after an unbeaten season and won Yale’s first Wright Cup, fifth Jope Cup in the last 10 years, and first Ivy League championship since 2016.
In the remaining events, the second varsity finished fifth, falling behind Princeton. The third Uni finished third – four seconds behind winner Columbia. Both fourth and fifth varsity took second place, behind Navy and Cornell, respectively. The Coxed Four took third place, falling to Cornell and Columbia.
“I’m really proud of every boy and girl on this team,” senior captain Geoff Skelly ’22 told Yale Athletics. “Anything can happen on sprint day and everything was right for us today. We love rowing and racing together.”
Despite their previous success, the first varsity finished fourth at the IRA National Championship, where Columbia took home the national title. Similarly, the second varsity placed fourth in their grand finals, finishing three seconds behind Columbia. The Coxed Four won the small final but finished seventh in the final.
“We tried, but the boat speed wasn’t there,” track and field head coach Andy Card told Yale Athletics. “…What this varsity has achieved throughout the year has been extraordinary. While this day hurts us a little, it was a great day for the league as parity is what makes easy rowing so incredible.”
The top two lightweight boats sailed across 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 fell in a close race against Washington, where the Elis fell a half-length behind.
The heavyweight and lightweight crews will hit the water next month at the Head of the Housatonic on October 8th.