With 2012's racing among the EARC Lightweights happening at ferocious speeds yet again and more than a handful of races coming down to the proverbial wire, competition in the EARC seems to be less about straight-up winning and more about surviving to fight again. row2k posed the question to EARC coaches, "is the level of speed in the league a blessing or a curse?" and the answer, almost unanimously, was "both."
"I think this will be a common answer," said Princeton's Marty Crotty. "The blessing is that it is a privilege to have such hard fought competition every weekend. It brings the best out of our guys win or lose, and enhances their development and steepens the learning curve of the younger guys. It also keeps everyone focused and on point throughout each week. Every practice has a purpose and each stroke is important."
"Who wouldn't want to be a part of this league for that reason?" added Yale's Andy Card. "It's too bad we can't have more racing. I think there should be more racing weekends, and/or more double-headers. The best thing would be more teams."
Of course, there is the downside. "The curse is that in some years you may have to hand your shirts over a few times despite losing by narrow margins," continued Crotty. "It's a tall task keeping your group confident in the process of getting faster when the results may dictate something else. But, with Sprints at the end of each year, there is always a chance to make everything right on the right day."
Which brings us to the coming Sunday: coming off an undefeated regular season and a one-length win at HYP, the Harvard Lightweight V8 is the favorite going into the Eastern Sprints. Dartmouth, ranked no. 2 in the final poll, ran the table as well, losing only to Harvard during the season.
"I think the Harvard and Dartmouth V8's have done an admirable job of separating themselves from the rest of the league, based on their regular season results," said Columbia's Scott Alwin. "But there is a great pack of crews right after them, and the great thing about the competitive level in our league is that any of those crews can rise up on Sunday."
At the head of that "great pack of crews" in the V8 we find Georgetown, who has raced a tough and successful regular season, including two wins over Princeton. Princeton, in turn, is at #4 in the polls, ahead of an ambiguous Yale at #5 (Yale has a win over Georgetown to their credit, but faded to third at HYP to conclude the regular season). Cornell, Columbia and Navy (who have come on strong late in the year) round out the list of potential Grand finalists.
"The Crimson are the ones to beat, but many other teams have something to prove or redeem so look for very competitive, go for broke heats and finals," said Cornell's Chris Kerber.
In the lightweight JV, the story is completely different; the Yale JV is at the top of the heap on the strength of an undefeated regular season and a whopping nine-second win at HYP. Their closest competitors are Cornell, whose only loss is to Yale this season. And with the respective Yale & Cornell V8s running in the middle of their pack, you wonder if those crews will experience some tinkering this week.
A strong Navy crew, Dartmouth, Princeton and the Columbia JV make up the remainder of the top six seeds, with Harvard, who have had an uncharacteristically down year in the event, at number seven.
The Freshman eights will once again see screaming competition at Sprints in 2012. At the Harvard-Yale-Princeton race, all three freshman crews at the regatta entered undefeated, and something had to give (and did) in a big way: Yale turned the tables on Harvard with a late move, while the Princeton frosh, arguably the favorites found themselves left well behind. Those three crews make up the top seeds at Sprints.
Also not out of it: the Cornell frosh, who were within six seats of Yale midseason, while the Navy frosh will look to have a perfect race in the hope of getting into the medal picture.
In the lower boat finals, there is further lightweight action; the 2F Lights will see Harvard, Navy, Princeton, Dartmouth and MIT race for honors, while the 3Vs from Cornell, Navy, Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Dartmouth will go six-wide for the Sprints title.