As we predicted last Fall, Steve Gladstone appears to have had an immediate and powerful effect on the Yale program, and now the Bulldogs will look to be duking it out with Harvard, Princeton, Boston University, Wisconsin and Brown in the Grand Final at Eastern Sprints next month. In the Yale dual with Brown, just over two weeks ago, the Yale Varsity 8 was very strong at base cadence, understroked Brown for most of the race, and simply failed to execute a sprint -- something that, as Gladstone indicated after the racing was done, and Yale had won in every other boat category outside of the 1st Frosh (just 1.2 seconds behind Brown), they had not yet worked on at that time. For video footage of the 1V race between Yale and Brown, click here. Noticeable in the video is the distinctive Gladstone blade placement -- the Yale V8 does a very nice job of getting locked on quite early. Another Gladstone trademark -- apparently 50% of the Varsity 8 lineup has changed this week; the squad is deeper and seems to be more competitive top to bottom.
Last weekend, Yale faced Dartmouth for the 'Olympic Axe' in Derby, while Brown raced Harvard in Boston. Yale swept all events to win the Axe. Brown raced very well against Harvard, with their Varsity 8 finishing roughly 2.5 seconds back on the Crimson, though their other crews had a difficult day on the Charles. Looking at the 1V times, that puts Yale, without a sprint, 3 seconds back on the Harvard Varsity 8, which has looked very quick thus far this year (some have gone so far as to say they will be giving Cal and Washington a run for their money at the IRA this June). While it's certainly not a fool-proof measure of speed, comparative times can give us some insight into the Yale's progress to date, and, in case you've forgotten, the Yale Varsity 8 finished 5th in the Petite Final at Sprints last year. They went on to place 5th in the Petite again last year at the IRA (though, between the two Championships, they had a better finish at the Harvard-Yale Regatta, finishing 4 seconds behind the Crimson in the traditional 4 mile race). Brown (just 0.4 seconds ahead of Yale two weeks ago) took the bronze in the Varsity 8 at Sprints in 2010, and 5th in the Grand at the 2010 IRA. Dartmouth with 5th in the Grand last year at Sprints, and 2nd in the Petite Final at the 2010 IRA.
Harvard looks to be the class of the East this year, with BU a definite contender (having beaten Brown already -- Tom Bohrer is on the right track with that squad), Wisconsin potentially strong (though difficult to say after very little time on the water), Princeton solid, with Brown, Columbia, and Yale in the mix. Navy had a good performance, but not a real test, against a mixed Oxford boat that hasn't been training for 2,000 meter racing, but people seem very excited about that. Also, I have trouble understanding how Cornell is consistently being ranked ahead of Yale on the Rowing Illustrated boards, given the large margins of defeat for the entire Cornell squad (including a 17 second loss in the Varsity 8) when they faced Harvard on April 2nd. From the results against a solid Brown squad, and Dartmouth, it appears that with just over a month to go before Sprints, Gladstone and Scrogin have the Bulldogs on the right track both to make the Grand this year at Sprints, and to make it interesting.
In light of all of the above, we are picking Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Brown, BU, and Wisconsin to make the Grand Final at Sprints, with Columbia a potential substitute depending on how they perform on race day.