Photograph: Werner Schmidt

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Rowing Lapages

HTBS's Tim Koch writes from London: The BBC Radio station that covers the county of Shropshire recently ran a story about three
-generations of the Lapage family and their involvement with rowing. Read it here.

Grandfather Michael, aged 87, won a silver rowing for Britain in the 
eights at the 1948 Olympic Regatta held at Henley. He and his family had never seen film of the 
event so the BBC tracked down an old newsreel and put it onto YouTube for them. You can watch it here….

The 1948 Games were known as the ‘Austerity Olympics’ as they were held only three years after the
 end of the 1939-1945 War when conditions in Britain were in many ways worse than during the 
conflict. The country was nearly bankrupt and everything had to go for export. Michael told the BBC 
that this was one reason that the well-fed Americans beat them: “They had more meat then we did. We were still on rations.”

This may have had something to do with it but, looking at the footage, the confident low rating start of the US team suggests that they were in control of the race from the beginning.

 The British rowers were not exactly over cosseted. They did not have the sides of Texan beef that 
the Americans brought over with them, but they did have their butter ration doubled from two to four
 ounces (60 grams to 120 grams) a week. They had to supply their own kit but they were given a scarf,
 a blazer badge, and a pair of underpants. ‘Austerity’ seems an understatement!

Lapage’s crew was essentially the 1948 Cambridge Boat Race crew. They had set a new course record, 
breaking the eighteen-minute barrier for the first time on the Putney to Mortlake race. The practice
 of sending the currently most successful club crew to represent Britain at the Olympics continued
 until the 1972 Games when something resembling a ‘national squad’ was established.

The 1948 London Games were a triumph. They cost £73,000 / $117,000 to stage (about £20m / $33m in
 today’s money) and made a profit of £20,000 / $32,000 after tax. London 2012 may cost more.

Michael’s son, Philip, is a rowing coach at Shrewsbury School and his sons, Sam and Patrick, aim to 
row at the 2016 Olympic Regatta. Sam, who is still at school, recently rowed at the ‘Coupe de la
 Jeunesse’ (the Junior European Rowing Championships) while older brother Patrick, 21 (on the right), stroked the GB 
men’s eight to third place at the 2011 Under-23 World Championships. He also came third in the coxed 
four in the 2010 Under-23s. Patrick is currently a Junior (Third Year) at Harvard where he strokes
t he Varsity Eight. He won the Ladies Plate at Henley in 2010 with the Crimsons. His impressive 
Harvard Crew record is here.

I suspect we will hear a lot about the rowing Lapages in the future 
and that more underpants will be coming their way.

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