Oct. 24, 2006
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - The Head of the Charles Regatta brought the usual fanfare and colorful visitors to MIT's home course. What was different about this year's race was the great racing conditions and a stronger MIT Lightweight squad. Going into the race the team was prepared for the opportunity to showcase newfound depth and speed.
Sunday morning racing brought a newcomer to the Youth Eight event - the Tech Lightweights. Last week's gold medal winners at the NH Championships were ready to test their mettle at a much larger, deeper and faster event. The Frosh Lights did not disappoint. Starting 60th out of 79, the Frosh Lights settled into a great rhythm and buckled down as they began passing their closest competitors. Showing the poise of a much more experienced squad, the team raced aggressively and cleanly posting a time of 16:39.557 - good enough to raise them nearly 20 positions to 41st. It's unclear how many other collegiate lightweight eights entered the race, but suffice it to say that the MIT Frosh Lights are gaining valuable race experience and building a solid foundation for strong future performances.
Sunday afternoon it was the Varsity's turn. Going into the race, the team had a score to settle - since 2001 the team has not finished better than 2nd to last in the Lightweight Eights race. Competition is stiff in this event because it combines the best international and collegiate crews into a race that is generally 20-25 boats deep. While unstated, the team was keen to prove that MIT Lightweight Crew is stronger than ever.
Posting competitive times in the first third of the race, the Engineers hopes for a strong finish were snuffed by a visiting crew that couldn't handle the steering challenges of the course. At the legendary Weeks footbridge, the visiting coxswain cut the turn too sharply causing her stern to swing wide through the bridge. MIT coxswain Maria Telleria did a great job at giving her crew every chance to get through the bridge cleanly but was obstructed and had to stop the surging Engineers who were close to passing the errant crew. Her decision to stop enabled the team to avoid the traditional "pile up" reserved for less seasoned drivers and give her squad every chance to make up needed time to finish well. The remainder of the race was executed well but the damage had been done. In the end, the Engineers posted a stronger finish than years past - 23rd of 26 - ahead of Dartmouth, Northwestern and Don Rowing Club from Canada - but the improved result is not much consolation for a team that deserved better on this day.
Next up for the Lights is the Princeton Chase. The team is looking forward to better racing against our EARC competitors and another chance to get our racing shells up to racing speed.