Photograph: Werner Schmidt

Monday, September 30, 2013

More on 'Shaved' Blades

HTBS has received two e-mails related to the entry about Ran Laurie’s ‘narrow blade’ that was posted on Friday 27 September. In one e-mail rowing historian Bill Lanouette, who recently wrote on HTBS about Thomas Eakins’s ‘newly’ discovered rowing painting, writes:

That’s a fascinating exchange about English strokes using narrow blades. As a stroke myself I would have loved to use such an oar, but in the 1960s at least, when I rowed in England, all blades were the same size. And, honestly, as a stroke I’m glad they were because you couldn’t feel the poise and power of the crew – and know what pace to set – if you weren’t just as exhausted as the other guys.

The second e-mail came from another rowing historian, Tom Weil, who on this matter writes:

As Guy Nickalls [seen in the photograph] was casting about to improve his 1921 Yale crew, which he had termed ‘gutless’, he saw the performance of one J. Freeman, who had just stroked Yale’s very first 150 lb. crew to victory in the American Henley on the Schuylkill. He put the lightweight Freeman into the stroke seat of the New London crew, and equipped him with a shaved blade. Nickalls was fired by the Yale Committee because of his unfortunate comment, but his parting contribution to the Yale varsity, wielding his shaved oar, led the ‘gutless’ crew to victory over Harvard.

There is an interesting photograph showing Guy Nickalls and freshman coach Giannini at Yale’s training quarters at Gales Ferry on 10 June, 1915 (© Bettmann/CORBIS), here.

Are there any more ideas out there about a stroke’s narrow or ‘shaved’ blade? If so, please send it to: gbuckhorn – at –

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Cricket Bats and Vampire Dolphins

Watermen’s Hall at 16 St - Mary - at - Hill, London EC3. Picture: Steve Cadman.

Tim Koch writes:

Bernard Hempseed’s recent piece for HTBS on the variations in the deceptions of the arms of the Company of Watermen and Lightermen of the River Thames prompted me to look at the images that I have in my archive. My findings confirmed that, even with a limited search, there are indeed some weird and wonderful versions of the Watermen’s heraldic device.

The present Watermen’s Hall dates from 1780. Its exterior sports a fairly simplified version of the arms. Unlike with some depictions, the oars do look like what they are trying to represent and the boat is a reasonable delineation of a waterman’s wherry. The sculptor has not attempted a ‘heraldic’ depiction of water but has gone for a ‘realistic’ image. Also, while most of us think of dolphins as rather gentle creatures, these marine mammals look ready to attack anyone who comes too close.

John Redmond (right) Master of the Watermen’s Company, 2012 – 2013, and one of his Wardens. They stand below another version of the Company’s Arms, this one displayed above the fireplace in the Court Room of Watermen’s Hall. There is a small picture of the arms and the fire surrounded here. This is a very pleasing example – with the possible exception of the blank space above the boat (which Bernard describes as a ‘bit of a no-no in heraldry’).

John Redmond is wearing the Livery Collar of the Master of the Watermen’s Company. The overall effect is of a splendid gold and enamel badge of office but when looked at in detail it reveals what appears to be a pair of crossed cricket bats, a couple of angry dolphins baring fangs and an arm holding something that could be anything but an oar.

The version of the arms printed on this invitation to the Doggett’s Coat and Badge is used in most of the current publications produced by the Watermen’s Company. Both the single and the crossed oars do not look as though they would be much help in propelling a boat along, the dolphins have clearly come from a castle in Transylvania and the knight’s helmet seems to have morphed into a large angry bird.

Ultimately of course, none of this is important. Heraldic devices emerged long before the precise corporate logo and company trademark. They are a reminder of a time before widespread literacy, when pictures were the best way to convey information and to show the authority under which a body acted. Exact consistency was not important. The reasons for vampire dolphins, however, may remain a mystery.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Reality of Art

The Reality of Art

Eakins' scullers I paint
on my visual cortex,
on the too crowed river
of my visual cortex.
There is a peacefulness
in the paint he uses,
peacefulness mixed into the various
shades of colors he paints,
a peacefulness painted vibrant.

Eakins' scullers anchor
his painted rivers.
They act as connectors
between rivers and skies.
They hold together
the trees clouding green
the banks of the rivers, the bridges,
trestled and arched.  In fact,
the way in whick the scullers
hold their oars appear arced,

to complement the arcing
bridges.  A quiet vibration
is painted beneath the visible
skin of the scullers, a palpable
energy beneath the still
canvas, my visual cortex
senses and sets
into intellectual motion.
I shrug the painted oars
through the painted rivers.

Philip Kuepper
(27 July, 2013)

Friday, September 27, 2013

Ran Laurie – The Man with the Narrow Blade?

Ran Laurie stroking the 1936 Cambridge crew. Jack Wilson in 7-seat and Noel Duckworth coxing.

After my review of Daniel James Brown’s brilliant book The Boys in the Boat (on HTBS on 19 August), he and I have had some fruitful e-mail exchanges about rowing, a sort of continuing ‘discussion’ that, in a way, started when we first met at one of his book signings in Connecticut in June. One of the things that we have chatted about is the stroke’s ‘narrow-blade-question’. In his book, Brown writes,

In the British boat, Ran Laurie dug furiously at the water. He was still relatively fresh. He wanted to do more. But like many British strokes in those days, he was wielding an oar with a smaller, narrower blade than the rest of his crew – the idea being that the stroke’s job was to set the pace, not to power the boat. With the small blade, he avoided the risk of burning himself out and losing his form. (p. 312)

I have a hard time believing that Ran Laurie, one of the great Cambridge strokes before the Second World War, had a smaller, narrower blade than the rest of his crew in an important race like the Olympic final, which I mentioned in my review on 19 August. I also contacted some of my rowing history colleague, who, like me, had never heard of such a thing (this, of course, does not mean that it did not exist!).

William George Ranald ‘Ran’ Mundell Laurie

Then, the other day I received an e-mail from Brown where he told me that, while he is now preparing the paperback edition of The Boys in the Boat which is coming out next year, he had found the source for Ran Laurie’s ‘narrow blade’: Stanley Pocock’s book “Way Enough!” – Recollections of a Life in Rowing (2000). In his autobiography, George Pocock’s son, Stan, writes,

Speaking of different-sized blades and the effect of wind on the load reminds me of an incident at the Berlin Olympics. In those days, it was not uncommon for a coach to reduce the size of the stroke man’s blade to make sure he didn’t row himself out – the rest of the crew could provide the horsepower; the stroke’s job was to set the pace. In the first heat, the British pushed the Americans to a new Olympic record in a following wind. On the day of the Finals there was a head wind blowing, and the Americans, in winning, left the Brits (who had made it through the repêchage) far behind. Afterward, their stroke [Ran Laurie] told Dad [George Pocock] that he had not been able to pull hard enough to row himself out. The lighter water caused by the head wind had rendered his small blade too small. (p. 77)

So there it is, in black and white – well, I’ll be damned!

But, then again, I am still a little skeptical. Although, if it is correct what Stan Pocock writes, it was probably the coach that decided that the British stroke in the eight should row with a narrow blade, not Laurie himself, but I am incredibly surprised that a coach would tell an oarsman on that level that he should save himself and let the rest of the crew deliver the power in the boat. I believe that I have read most of what there is to read about this exceptional oarsman, and Laurie does not seem to have been a man who was cutting corner in his rowing career. He was a very powerful oarsman. About Ran Laurie, his son Hugh writes:

I remembered rowing a pair with my father. I was a teenager in full-time training, six foot three and fourteen stone, he was GP in his mid-fifties who did a spot of gardening, and I had to go like hell to keep the boat straight. The power, and the will, was almost frightening. He simply never paddled light. He would jump off that stretcher as if he meant to break it.
(p. 79 in Battle of the Blues: The Oxford & Cambridge Boat Race from 1829, ed. Christopher Dodd & John Marks; 2004)

Ran Laurie and Jack Wilson after they crossed the finish line as Olympic champions in the pair in 1948 on the Henley course.

It is said that Ran Laurie always believed that if his great friend and rowing partner, Jack Wilson, whom he had rowed with at Cambridge, had been a member of the 1936 British Olympic eight, Great Britain would have taken the gold medal. Unfortunately, Wilson had already left England for his new job in Sudan Political Service when it was time for the Olympic rowing.

After coming home to England from the Berlin Games, Noel Duckworth, the cox of the British eight, wrote a critical account in The Cambridge Review:

The crew which was chosen was at best a patched-up affair. The crew lacked life, dash and determination because it had spent all its enthusiasm and energies previously at Henley. If only a crew had been chosen a good time before the Games and had used Henley as a canter preliminary to hard racing, England would have won. But as it was, against the quasi-professional continental crews this thin, emaciated, time-worn crew stood no chance.
(From Michael Smyth’s Canon Noel Duckworth: An Extraordinary Life; 2012, p. 23)

Duckworth should know these things. He had coxed three winning Cambridge crews against Oxford in the Boat Race, all three years with Ran Laurie (and Jack Wilson) in the boat, in 1934, 1935 and 1936. Laurie also took the 1934 Grand Challenge Cup at Henley in the colours of Leander (with Duckworth as coxswain) by stroking his crew in a new record time in their first heat, overpowering London Rowing Club at 6 min. 45 sec. Next day, Leander knocked off another second by defeating Thames Rowing Club. In the final, Leander had no problems beating Princeton University, winning in 6 min. 45 sec.

Laurie did not row for Leander at the 1935 Henley Regatta. Instead, he stroked his college, Selwyn College, in their attempt to take the Ladies’ Challenge Cup. In the first round, they beat St. Edmund Hall, Oxford, but lost in the second round to Radley College. He also rowed with Jack Wilson in the Silver Goblets that year. They won their first heat, but withdrew after that. Wilson, however, took a cup at Henley that year, as he was in the Pembroke College crew which took the Grand.

In 1936, Laurie was back in a Leander crew again, when he stroked the Leander eight for the Grand. In the crew was also: bow A.D. Kingsford, 2. F.M.G. Stammens, 3. M.P. Lonnon, 4. T.G. Askwith, 5. J.C. Cheery, 6. J.M. Couchman, 7. D.J. Wilson [this is not Jack Wilson!] and cox D.R. Rose. They lost in the final, on 4 July, 1936, to an excellent crew from Ruder Club, Zürich, Switzerland. Despite the British eight's loss at Henley, the crew was picked to represent Great Britain at the Olympic rowing regatta thirty-nine days later, however, with some changes in the crew. Instead of Stammens and Wilson, Desmond Kingsford and Hugh Mason were picked to row in the Olympic eight. (Mason had rowed in the winning Cambridge boat earlier that spring). Duckworth took the cox place instead of Rose for the Olympics.

Here is a short clip of the Cambridge crew training for the 1936 Boat Race.

Back to the ‘narrow-blade-question’ – was this, then, a 1930s English habit? No, it seems not to have been. According to Brown again, it was also used by Harvard. In an unsigned article that Brown has found, and kindly shared with me, in The Harvard Crimson of 15 June, 1929, the Crimson stroke James Lawrence used a narrow blade, as Brown writes in his e-mail, ‘in order to conserve energy’:

The selection of Lawrence has raised high hopes among many of the Crimson followers since his previous record as stroke of the Junior Varsity crew indicates that at least he will be able to display the endurance necessary to handle the raise of heat at the end of the race. While not pulling as strong an oar as other oarsmen who have been previously tried out this season in the stroke seat, the favor of a narrow oar, such as was employed by John Watts '28 last year, may remedy the situation and allow him the reserve necessary for the final effort.

(To read the entire article, please click here.)

I do have a better understanding for a narrower stroke blade in this case, simply because the battle between the varsity crews of Harvard and Yale is a four-mile race (6,437 metres), not 1.9812-metre race – according to the official report of the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, 6,500 feet was the ‘regulation length’. This has, as we know, been changed to 2,000-metre which is the distance at the Olympic rowing these days.

I do not think that the last thing has been written here on HTBS about the 1920s and 1930s use of narrow-blade for a crew’s stroke. I welcome more information about this practice, so please contact us if you have any ideas or more sources on this ~ thank you.

Thanks to Daniel James Brown for sharing his find about Ran Laurie's narrow blade and the article in The Harvard Crimson.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Happy Arthur’s Day & the Discovery of Guinness’s lost Ad Campaigns

HTBS’s own Irishman, Greg Denieffe, writes,

It is not all going according to plan for this year’s Arthur's Day which falls on 26 September. This is the fifth occasion that the day has been celebrated since been first organised in 2009 to promote the 250th anniversary of the Dublin brewing company. However, leaving aside the controversy which you can read about here, there is always something for us rowing-heads to like about the advertising campaigns run by the company over the years.

HTBS posted a few examples on 22 March, 2010, and of course Rupert Guinness crops up in articles on a regular basis.

Above is an example from the 1973 programme for Dublin Metropolitan Regatta (my first Metro). The strange thing about this is that the coxswain is not drinking a manly pint but is enjoying what in Ireland is called a ‘glass’ and in England ‘a half’ and even that appears to be in a lady’s glass.

A far rarer advertisement comes from 1950 for a campaign that was never used.

This from David Hughes, who has written a book called Gilroy was good for Guinness:

This small poster is intended as a flyer for my new book Gilroy was good for Guinness which contains hundreds of never seen before original artwork images of Guinness adverts.

Since the early 20th century, Guinness advertising has been famous around the world for its distinctive imagery, humour and impact.

For over 30 years the creative force behind many of the most iconic and beloved campaigns were the artist John Gilroy. Mysteriously, in 1971 much of his work disappeared from the archive of S H Benson’s advertising agency. Now, through his investigation on both sides of the Atlantic, former Guinness brewer David Hughes has unearthed a vast portfolio of Gilroy’s previously unseen and unpublished canvases.

Three hundred posters, many featuring classic cars, new zoo animals, American views, Russian and German that were never commercially published – have now come to light.

This book explores the disappearance and reappearance of these extraordinary canvases, presents them in full colour, and tells the story of Gilroy, the man behind the advertising legacy.

Thanks to David HTBS can celebrate Arthur’s Day in style with a poster that Tom Weil might approve of!

A Rowing Coat of Arms

Photograph from the website of The Company of Watermen & Lightermen of the River Thames.

Rowing historian Bernard Hempseed writes from New Zealand,

I was reading a heraldry book published in 1842 and came across the following item. From the watermen developed the professional rowing of the 19th century.

“The Watermen’s Company of London, whose business it is to row their boats on the river Thames, may be supposed very ancient; but it was not incorporated until the reign of Queen Mary in 1556. The lightermen, who are employed amongst the shipping, were afterwards united to the company.

Their arms, barry wavy argent and azure, a boat or; on a chief of the second, a pair of oars saltierways of the third, between two cushions of the first, are supported by two dolphins proper; the crest is a hand holding an oar and their motto is Jussu superiorum, being ever at the command of their superiors”

Then follows a black and white drawing of the arms (above). The heraldic description of the arms is called a blazon and the language is fairly obscure so here is a translation.

Firstly the shield is described. Barry means horizontal bars (six if not otherwise stated) across the shield but wavy means they are like sine waves. The bars are alternatively coloured silver or white (argent) and blue (azure.) to represent water. Then the item on the shield is noted, in this case a boat and also its colour which is gold or yellow (or.)

A chief is a horizontal band across the top of the shield and its colour is the second mentioned, in this case blue. On the chief are a pair of oars crossed (saltierways) and their colour is the third mentioned, vis gold. These oars are between two cushions coloured the first colour mentioned, vis white. The cushions are supposed to represent what a passenger would sit on while being transported in a boat. The supporters are a dolphin on either side of the shield and their colour is supposed to be as they are in nature (proper.)

The crest is the part above the shield and consists of a hand holding an oar. Normally the colours of these objects would be also noted in the blazon. Crests rest on a twisted two-coloured piece of material usually being of the primary shield colours.

Hunting around on the net, I found a coloured version which has a few differences from the illustration in the book but is more or less the same. Different heraldic artists will draw a coat of arms in a slightly different style while retaining the salient points.

However, I don’t think the coloured drawing is all that good as there is a large blank space above the boat which is a bit of a no-no in heraldry. Also the artist has clothed the arm which is not in the blazon and it is pretty poor looking oar. The colour of the boat is wrong too. The crossed oars look like rolls of paper.

The motto has also been put into English. Mottos do not normally form part of the blazon and may be changed at will. The dolphins are described in the blazon as natural coloured (greyish?) but the artist has rendered them in the heraldic colours of white and gold which is maybe better. They also have a grander look than the 1842 version. When the blazon was written perhaps little was known about dolphins and heraldically they may always have been drawn in similar colours. They are also standing, if that is the right word, on waves. Supporters have to stand on something even if it is only the motto scroll.

The helmet and the mantling do not constitute part of the blazon of the arms and the 1842 drawing omits them entirely. Their depiction is at the whim of the artist.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Three Haiku on Rowing

Three Haiku on Rowing


Real English summer:
Henley Royal Regatta –
Pimm’s Cup in the shade

An autumn head race –
young girls in a coxless four
faces of pure joy

Eight on the river
from astern a summer wind
swing, hear the boat sing


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Another Eakins Rower

Thomas Eakins’s Wrestlers (1899) at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

Rowing historian William Lanouette is now editing the manuscript for his forthcoming book, Racing to Oblivion, about the Biglin brothers, Thomas Eakins and the rise and ruin of professional rowing. Doing research for his book, Bill came across a painting with a remarkable “missing” link to the sport of rowing. Bill writes,

Thomas Eakins (1844-1916) made his many rowing images between 1871, with Max Schmitt in a Single Scull, and 1874, with Oarsmen on the Schuylkill depicting a four that included Schmitt. In between, he created many sketches and pictures of the professionals John and Barney Biglin in a pair, and of John in a single. But art historians have said that his last rowing picture was that of the four on the Schuylkill.

And yet, Eakins still had rowing on his mind after 1874. A preliminary sketch for his most famous portrait, The Gross Clinic (1875), showing Dr. Samuel D. Gross in an operating theatre at Philadelphia’s Jefferson Medical College, had been worked over an image of yet another rower.

At the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) recently, I discovered an 1899 Eakins oil painting depicting wrestlers (see on top) clenched on a mat. But there in the background, filling fully a sixth of the canvas, was yet another rower! Not on water, but pulling a primitive erg that gained its resistance from ropes and pulleys hoisting suspended metal weights.

Although not set on water, this may be Eakins’s last rowing picture.

Bill Lanouette’s book Racing to Oblivion will be published by Harvard University Press in 2014.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Puffin’s Redemption: The Journey across the Atlantic

Graham Walters and Puffin

On Saturday, 28 September, do not miss what promises to be a thrilling talk at the River & Rowing Museum in Henley-on-Thames, England. Graham Walters will be telling the story of an incredible journey across the Atlantic in the fifteen-foot Puffin, successfully completing an ill-fated voyage that began 30 years earlier when the two-man crew, David Johnstone and John Hoare, disappeared after 106 days at sea in an attempt to row across the Atlantic. Puffin is now on display outside the River & Rowing Museum.

Walters’s talk, which is called “Puffin’s Redemption: The Journey across the Atlantic”, is between 11.30 a.m. and ca. 12.30 p.m. (coffee from 11 a.m.) and the ticket price is £7.

River & Rowing Museum • Mill Meadows • Henley-on-Thames, RG9 1BF
For more information call 01491 415600 or visit
To get a pamphlet on the museum’s activities until December 2013, click here (PDF).

In October 1966, the headlines in newspapers around the world told the tragic story how Puffin was found upside down in the mid-Atlantic with no trace of the crew, David Johnstone and John Hoare. There has since been much speculation about the reasons for this tragedy. In 1968, The Penance Way: The Mystery of Puffin’s Atlantic Voyage by Merton Naydler was published. The author based his book on a first-hand account, a 35,000-word journal written by Johnstone, who was a journalist who got the idea to row across the Atlantic from west to east. Johnstone’s day-to-day log book was found by divers and, as the front flap of the book reads, ‘it depicts heroism of a high order and may come to be acknowledged as one of the most moving and vivid documents of personal experience and high endeavour ever written.’

To read more about David Johnstone and John Hoare’s ill-fated voyage, click here.
To buy a second-hand/antiquarian copy of The Penance Way, click here.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Time to Nominate for the 2013 World Rowing Awards

The World Rowing Federation (FISA) has announced that public nominations are now open for the 2013 World Rowing Awards. In a press release FISA’s website writes,

This is a chance for the general public to have their say in who they believe had an outstanding performance in rowing in 2013 and who they would like nominate for the 2013 World Rowing Awards.

Nominations can be made in the following award categories:

World Rowing Coach of the Year
World Rowing Male Rower or Crew of the Year
World Rowing Female Rower or Crew of the Year
World Rowing Para-Rower or Para-Rowing Crew of the Year
World Rowing Distinguished Service to Rowing Medal

One nomination can be submitted for each award category.

Once all of the nominations have been received the next stage will be a review by the FISA Council who will select the finalists. After that the finalists will be reviewed by FISA’s Executive Committee who will select the winners in the four categories.

The 2012 winners were:

World Rowing Female Crew of the Year
: Anna Watkins and Katherine Grainger (GBR) – Women’s Double Sculls (LW2x)
World Rowing Male Crew of the Year: James Thompson, Matthew Brittain, John Smith and Sizwe Lawrence Ndlovu (RSA) – Lightweight Men’s Four (LM4-)
World Rowing Para-Rower of the Year: Huang Cheng (CHN) – AS Men’s Single Sculls (ASM1x)
World Rowing Coach of the Year: Dick Tonks (NZL)
World Rowing Distinguished Service to Rowing Medal: Di Ellis (GBR)

To view all winners to date, please click here.

Nominations should be submitted by 30 September, 2013, at midnight CET, here.

The award winners will be publicly announced and the winners presented with their awards at the 2013 World Rowing Coaches Conference Gala Dinner on 8 November, 2013, in Tallinn, Estonia.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Row Correctly on the Erg

I am now regularly back on the erg to minimize the 'bathing ring' I have around my waist (where did it come from?). I normally do these workouts at the local YMCA which recently got brand new rowing machines. I am not at all an expert on rowing on the erg, but it hurts to see my fellow, non-rowers at the Y massacre themselves and the rowing machines by going back and forth just pulling and pulling on the handle, with their knees bent or straight at the wrong time in the rowing cycle. I want to call out: 'Hold on, Sir/Madam, but please stop before you really hurt yourself' - but, of course, I say nothing.

Above is a great step-by-step rowing the erg video with coach Lubo Kisiov of Thames Rowing Club which will help both beginners and more advanced rowers to row correctly on the erg. Good luck!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Need to Row

The Need to Row

He quite simply could not
stay on land
with the sheet of azure
spread before him,
the land too solid
for his flesh,
the fish in him drawing him
toward water.

He would do the next best thing
to walking on the water.
He would be
in his scull,
only the thin skin of his scull
between his skin and the skin
of the river.  He would render
impotent the Hamlet in him,
render potent the Jesus.

He would not procrastinate, but do.
He would row.

Philip Kuepper
(3 July, 2013)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Boathouse Row - 100 Years Ago!

See how the Boathouse Row in Philadelphia is turning more than 100 years old in 14 seconds - click here (and then on the 'play button'). Thanks to Mrs. B., who finds these odd things....

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

2013 Coastweeks Regatta - In Pictures

A happy sculler from Blood Street Sculls, Old Lyme, Connecticut, approaching the dock.

Last Sunday, 15 September, the 22nd Annual Coastweeks Regatta was held at Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut. It was a beautiful sunny day and the conditions on the Mystic River was ideal for racing. The Coastweeks is one of the earliest head races of the rowing season in New England and attracts local rowers, but also rowers from the whole region. Young and old, they all come for a fun regatta. You will find the results here.

Following is a picture cavalcade from the regatta:

As any other 'local' regatta, it is mostly parents, siblings, friends and fellow rowers that make up the audience.

What is a rowing regatta without a jazz band?

One of the organisers, Ed Monahan, is taking a short break.

Cool rowing boots!

Coastweeks Regatta is an event for everyone, old rowers, young rowers, women, men, girls, boys and dogs.

One of the local high schools, the Stonington High School, with its successful Stonington crew, had a food tent.

With races for rowers with all kind of skill levels, including beginners and recreational rowers, comes also different type of boats.

One way to rest the oars and sculls. The red blades of course belong to the Blood Street Sculls.

 Regatta General Pete Tebeau was constantly on the move.

The Finish Line. As usual the Coastweeks Regatta used the program from the company Ronin Racing.

Truly a regatta for all ages. A Master sculler is getting a little help to get out of her beautiful wooden scull.

Two Master rowers after their race in the pairs.

A young lady also getting ready to dock after her race.

Some young gentlemen are aiming for the dock.

The cox waiting to give the orders to her crew to paddle in to the dock.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Clever Cox - A Memoir

Stephen Hawking coxing.

Tim Koch writes from London,

HTBS has previously written about Stephen Hawking's involvement with rowing while an undergraduate at University College, Oxford and its importance in his personal development before being diagnosed with a form of motor neuron disease. He has recently published his autobiography entitled, inevitably perhaps, My Brief History (Bantam Press, 2013). The publishers tell us:

For the first time, Stephen Hawking turns his gaze inward for a revealing look at his own life and intellectual evolution. My Brief History recounts Stephen Hawking’s improbable journey, from his post-war London boyhood to his years of international acclaim and celebrity. Illustrated with rarely seen photographs, this concise, witty and candid account introduces readers to the inquisitive schoolboy whose classmates nicknamed him ‘Einstein’; the jokester who once placed a bet with a colleague over the existence of a black hole; and the young husband and father striving to gain a foothold in the world of academia.

Hawking and the University College Oxford Boat Club.

The book's cover shows a splendid picture of the members of University College Boat Club doing the sort of things that students do when you point a camera at them. Hawking is shown at the centre of the action. His website has an extract from Chapter 3 of My Brief History entitled ‘Oxford’. It contains a short, self-deprecating account of his coxing career plus some wonderful high resolution photographs (click on the screen icon to enlarge). Page 32 has the famous picture of Hawking coxing ‘the rugby boat’ in his boater and blazer. The next page has a study entitled ‘the Boat Club at rest’ showing some serious looking young men in suits and ties on the college barge displaying a recently acquired trophy. However, it is the pictures on pages 34 and 35 taken in 1961 or 1962 entitled ‘the Boat Club at play’ that are the real joy. They show what in those more innocent times may have been called ‘gay young undergraduates’ striking various poses. Some hold that ‘the 60s’ began in 1963, ‘between the end of the Chatterley ban and the Beatles’ first LP’ and certainly most of the young oarsmen pictured look as though they could have come from the 1940s or 1950s – though there is some evidence of the influence of the ‘beat generation’ on one or two of them.

The University College Boat Club was founded in 1827 and its website has a very good history section compiled by the College Archivist, Dr Robin Darwall-Smith. It has some wonderful pictures (again click on the screen icon to enlarge) starting in with the Torpids First Eight of 1862. Despite the seemingly odd mixture of top hats, boaters and bowlers, there are none of the undergraduate affectations displayed by Hawking’s later group. The archive pictures conclude with ULBC’s most famous cox (though possibly least distinguished boat) ninety-nine years later. Time is, indeed, brief.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Footnote: A HTBS Top Six!

Today it happened again (for the second time in the history of HTBS), a little 'unique' event: for six days all six of HTBS's contributors had a blog entry posted. Today Louis Petrin of Australia had a post (see below), yesterday HTBS's own Rowing Poet Laureate Philip Kuepper graced these pages with a new poem, the day before that Hélène Rémond of France wrote about a Belgian rowing club's anniversary, and the day before that Irishman Greg Denieffe wrote about an interesting footnote of the 1936 Olympic Games, on last Tuesday Tim Koch gave a report about this year's GRR, and yours truly had a short piece about the most famous professional oarsmen, Ned Hanlan, on Monday. A week with what we call a HTBS Top Six!

Rowing to Government

Parliament House in Canberra, Australia.

HTBS’s contributor Louis Petrin in Australia writes,

Last week Australia saw a change of government. Why mention this in HTBS? Well the number of government leaders who had rowed is impressive – of the 28 Prime Ministers of Australia, seven were rowers! That is an amazing 25%.

Can any other country in the world claim their leaders to be rowers?

Here is a list of the rowers:

Edmund Barton – Protectionist Party – rowed in 2 seat for Sydney University at the very first inter-university boat race in Melbourne in December 1870 and won by Melbourne Uni. Barton was also a foundation member of the Sydney Rowing Club and our 1st Prime Minister in 1901.
Chris Watson – Labor Party – born in Chile (only Australian Prime Minister to be born outside of Australia, or the British Isles) he was Federal Labor's first leader and the 3rd Prime Minister, had little schooling but rowed in the 1890s like many workers did at the time.

Stanley Bruce – Nationalist Party – Captain Melbourne Grammar School Rowing & First VIII. Bruce also rowed and coached at Trinity Hall, Cambridge University. Australia’s 8th Prime Minister.

John Grey Gorton – Liberal Party – schoolboy at Shore (where he shared a dorm with Errol Flynn), then went to Brasenose College, Oxford University in October 1932 where he ‘majored in rowing’. The country’s 19th Prime Minister.

William McMahon – Liberal Party – Sydney Grammar 1st VIII in 1926; the 20th Prime Minister.

Gough Whitlam – Labor Party – St. Paul’s College and won a Blue at Sydney Uni 1938; the 21st Prime Minister.

Tony Abbott – Liberal Party – member of the winning 2nd VIII at the GPS Regattas in 1974 and 1975. Australia’s 28th and the current Prime Minister.