GALES FERRY, Conn. – They are the school’s first heavyweight champion at the Head of the Charles. They earned the program’s first-ever San Diego Crew Classic title. The Yale first varsity boat, which captured its second straight Eastern Sprints Championship two weeks ago, is preparing to race for the only trophy that eluded it last year. The No. 1 ranked Bulldogs are on Lake Mercer in West Windsor, N.J. June 3-5 hoping to bring home the national championship, a.k.a. the Intercollegiate Rowing Association’s Varsity Challenge Cup.
The undefeated Elis, coming off the decisive grand final victory on Lake Quinsigamond on May 15, repeated as Sprints champion for the first time since 1981-82.
The rowers are currently on the Thames River in Gales Ferry, Conn., training for the national championships and will stay in place – other than five days in New Jersey – through the June 12 Yale-Harvard Regatta.
“We will get a solid week of training twice a day before heading to Mercer Lake,” said Chris Carothers, the most prolific coxswain in Yale rowing history. “The whole squad is approaching every practice with the mindset of sharpening their tools and working their craft to make their respective shell the fastest it can be. There’s one goal in mind, and that’s winning the next two races: the National Championship and the Yale-Harvard Race.”
The Eli oarsmen, who have been staying at the Yale compound on the Thames (site of the Yale-Harvard Regatta) since May 24, head to West Windsor on Tuesday for practice and then three days of racing from Richard Coffee County Park.
“The preparation for the IRAs has been going very well. We were able to practice efficiently during the days of graduation and have gained speed since the Eastern Sprints,” said Yale captain Hubert Trzybinski, a two-time world champion from Germany. “It is good to get off campus and have a different environment. The Ferry allows us to completely focus on rowing while having a great time as a team. Over the next few days, we will refine our strokes and work on the little details in order to be as fast as possible at nationals.
Friday heats at IRAs for the varsity eight heavyweights run from 8:30 to 9 a.m. The semifinals are Saturday from 9:30 to 10 a.m., while Sunday’s heavyweight varsity eight grand final is slated as the 27th and final race of the day on Mercer Lake at 12:10 p.m.
The Bulldogs missed the opportunity to take the Varsity Challenge Cup a year ago because they finished fourth in the day 2 semifinal. Yale missed qualifying for the grand final by two-hundredths of a second, taking fourth with a 5:36.520, less than a seat-length behind Northeastern (5:36.500).
“Last year’s semifinal was a teaching moment, and we are all gearing up to do what we do best, execute our own race plan,” said Carothers, who has led the first varsity to consecutive undefeated regular seasons and EARC titles and victories at Henley, San Diego and on the Charles.
The Blue, looking for its second national championship and first since 1982, has to learn from that 2015 semifinal mistake in order to post its credentials for being the most prolific boat in school history.
“Last year’s IRAs was disappointing for us, especially because we did not realize our full potential and had a jinxed race. However, something like this happens and is part of sports. Luckily, we were able to overcome the race and have been able to deliver good races since then,” said Trzybinski, who has helped pull Carothers through all those first-place finishes.