Taking advantage of optimal conditions in Shelton, Conn., the Radcliffe heavyweight and lightweight crews rowed to a strong start to their fall seasons at the Head of the Housatonic regatta on Saturday.
Both Black and White squads posted wins, with heavyweight crews recording two first-place finishes and the lightweight team also claiming a victory of its own.
“[The Head of the Housatonic] comes at a good time,” said Radcliffe heavyweight coach Liz O’Leary. “We’re five weeks into school, five weeks into our training, and the Head of the Charles is two weeks away, so this is a tune-up race of sorts.”
The heavyweight team entered two boats in the fours race, three boats in the collegiate eights race, and one boat in the novice race, while the lightweights raced two boats in the doubles, two in the fours, and two in the eights.
None of the rowers had raced the Housatonic River before, adding what Radcliffe rowers cited as an additional challenge.
“It was one of the more difficult courses as an away competitor because there really aren’t any landmarks [on the Housatonic], so you don’t really know where you are all the time,” said heavyweight co-captain Mary Maginnis. “It’s more difficult mentally as a rower, because you don’t know how much longer the race is going to be at any point. So that was one of our goals, to break the race up to know where we were, [and] it worked.”
The Radcliffe lightweight crews got the rare opportunity to row alongside the heavyweights in the regatta, which did not have separate races for the two divisions.
“It was our first race of the season so there was a lot to be learned from it, and hopefully we’ll gain a lot of speed by the Head of the Charles,” lightweight co-captain Veronique Irwin said. “It was a good first experience to get back in the boat and start racing again and figure out where we all are.”
The regatta also allowed the Black and White to measure up against some of its Ivy competitors for the first time this year.
“Yale was there in full force, and Brown was there for the first time, and they’re certainly competitors of ours,” O’Leary said. “It was great to go up against some fast boats and figure out that we’re in the mix, that we’re doing a good job, and that we’re on the right track.”
The Radcliffe heavyweight 1V fours started the day with a decisive victory over three Yale crews, rowing the 2.7 mile course in 16:28.24, more than 45 seconds in front of the second-place Bulldog boat. The second Black and White heavyweight crew rowed into 10th place, clocking in at 18:36.06.
The novice women’s eights race also claimed victory, as the Black and White boat cruised past second-place Massachusetts by nearly half a minute with a time of 16:12.20.
“Probably the highlight of the day was our novice eight that won their race,” O’Leary said. “It’s always very exciting to win the first race that you have.”
In the collegiate eights race, Yale, rowing one of its home courses, edged out a Radcliffe crew to take the victory with a time of 15:14.19. The top Black and White heavyweight boat finished 10 seconds behind the Bulldogs to grab second with a time of 15:24.31. The other two Radcliffe boats finished in fifth and 10th, respectively.
The Black and White lightweights had a dominating showing in the doubles sculling race, taking first and second. The top crew posted a time of 17:48.21, while the second boat finished the race in 18:27.60, over a minute faster than any of the other crews in the race.
“Sculling isn’t something that we focus on, so for us to place first and second in that [event] was really exciting,” Irwin said.
In the fours, two Radcliffe lightweight crews held their own against the heavyweights, showing strong fifth-place and ninth-place finishes. The Black and White sent two lightweight crews to the collegiate eights race, where they had a solid outing as well, finishing in eighth and 15th out of the 22 crews.
“The four [race] was great because it showed the depth of our team, especially because we were able to beat a few of the heavyweight boats,” Irwin said. “In the eight, that was also a good showing of our depth since it’s a heavyweight event.”