A steering error cost George Washington its third straight men's varsity eight victory, allowing Georgetown to win the 13th annual Cadle Cup Regatta yesterday at Thompson Boat Center.

Virginia, which had beaten both GW and Georgetown this year in men's varsity eights, did not participate because of a conflict with final examinations.

George Washington was disqualified for crossing the finish line several yards outside a marker buoy, which could have resulted in the Colonials rowing a shorter course.

"The boat failed to finish within its lane when it missed that marker," said race judge Howard Wilkins, father of Colonials Coach Paul Wilkins. "Georgetown protested and the course rules were specific about finishing inside those buoys."

Paul Wilkins accepted the disqualification philosophically.

"If I had been the judge, I would have made the same call," said Wilkins, whose crew finished in 5 minutes 43.1 seconds, two seats ahead of Georgetown. "It's a shame, but our crew doesn't feel that it lost to Georgetown."

The controversy marred the best of the day's 16 races, one in which the Hoyas and Colonials rowed stroke for stroke for more than 1,000 meters. Georgetown pulled nearly a length ahead after 500 meters, but dead (no current) water near Roosevelt Island in the Hoyas' lane and a furious George Washington sprint enabled the Colonials to surge ahead on the final stroke of the race.

Georgetown won 12 races to retain the Cadle Cup, but no team scores were kept since most races had be run in several flights. This was necessary since Key Bridge construction barges left only one arch available to race through.

Georgetown women's crews won their varsity, junior and novice eight races. The Hoyas also won the men's varsity four, novice heavyweight eight and novice lightweight eight races.

Georgetown's novice lightweight eight crew is unbeaten this spring.

Next weekend, George Washington may be able to reverse its Cadle Cup loss when it travels, along with Georgetown, to the Dad Vail Invitational Regatta in Philadelphia.