Photograph: Werner Schmidt

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Fritz Hagerman Wins the 2013 Jack Kelly Award

Dr. Fritz Hagerman. Photo: USRowing
On 29 October U.S.Rowing announced the winner of this year’s Jack Kelly Award: Dr. Fritz Hagerman. Sadly, the following day, 30 October, Dr. Hagerman passed away. Read his obituary here. On the 29th USRowing wrote,

Not long after the United States men’s eight qualified for the final spot in the London Olympic Games, men’s coach Mike Teti called on an old friend to come in and help him figure out how he could make his team go faster. This expert on rowers was not there to tell Teti how his crew was rowing or what kind of changes they could make in the boat to improve. But he could tell Teti a few things about his athletes – like how much lactic acid they produced during a piece, what their body fat percentages were, the rates at which they consumed oxygen and what they could do to get better before Olympic competition.

It’s the kind of information that Teti has been getting from Dr. Fritz Hagerman for every U.S. team Teti has coached, or has ever been on. Hagerman, an emeritus professor of physiology in the department of biomedical sciences at the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine at Ohio University, has worked with the U.S. National Team since 1972 and crunched the same kinds of numbers through ten Olympic Games.

For his work and commitment to rowing, Hagerman has been awarded the 2013 Jack Kelly Award, given annually to recognize superior achievements in rowing, service to amateur athletics and success in a chosen profession and honors a person who serves as an inspiration to American rowers. Hagerman will be [would have been] honored at the 2013 Golden Oars Awards Dinner on 20 November in New York City.

“I’m very, very impressed,” Hagerman said. “Considering I’ve never taken a stroke, I’m pleased and honored to be named among all the others that have come before me. [The dinner] will be a good time for me to see old friends. This is exciting.”

For Teti, it is also exciting. Over the years, he has been pricked, biopsied and measured by Hagerman “more than anyone else” and had him do the same for his athletes. The results have helped Teti develop training plans suited to the athletes.

“We would test about three times,” Teti said. “The first test would generally be in the late fall and by the results of that, we would gauge the training up through the winter and the early spring. We would test again in the spring, and then we would always do another test in the summer once the team was selected with six weeks to go. And the thing that was great about Fritz, for me, was a lot of that information I really didn’t understand and Fritz was able to put it in layman’s terms and sort of explain it to me in basics. Like, we need to add another aerobic threshold workout or we should do a little bit more transportation work.”

Their bond grew so much from their time together that Hagerman served as a groomsman in Teti’s wedding in 2001.

“I love the guy,” Teti said. “He cares. Fritz cares. He’s passionate and he cares. He cares about those guys and he cares about all those athletes.”

One moment in particular stands out for Teti that demonstrates Hagerman’s passion for what he does. Teti’s men’s eight had won the world championship in 1997 and 1998, and had made the final again in 1999. Teti had some concerns about the race and he asked Hagerman to speak to the team before they raced.

“So Fritz gave them this pre-race talk before the final. We got out to a lead, but the outside lanes were sort of favored, so the British went through us in the middle of the race and then in the end we had this furious sprint and came back through them. I’m watching the race on the big screen in the press tent. We won, and I’m running out of the tent cheering and I see this guy running towards me. It’s Fritz, and there is all this white stuff hanging out of his ears,” Teti said.

“He gives me this hug and he’s crying. Tears are streaming down his face. He gave these guys this pre-race talk and he was so nervous, he went up into a bathroom. He didn’t want to hear the race. He couldn’t watch it. So he shoved toilet paper in his ears so he couldn’t hear. When they won, he comes down and he sees that they won, and he had tears streaming down his face. That shows someone that cares. He loves those guys. They love him. He’s straight up with them. He gives useful information,” Teti said. “He’s one of those guys that I wish I could be like. I don’t know how he can be so upbeat, so positive and always be right.”

Hagerman said his work in rowing began in the 1960s in New Zealand when he was teaching medical school there. New Zealand rowing asked him to help them “develop a team concept,” for selection and training of their athletes. He tested their athletes to determine their capabilities for physical performance, measuring oxygen consumption and the level of lactate each rower produced during various workouts. The information was used not only to help select the best possible athletes, but to help the coaches develop training plans based on the results.

“I didn’t know anything about rowing, nothing,” Hagerman said. “We started putting things together and it seemed to have worked.” While Hagerman formally began working with the U.S. National Team leading up to the 1972 Olympic Games, Teti said he was involved in testing for the Penn coxed four that competed in the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.  Since 1972, Hagerman has tested the majority of the U.S. athletes who have rowed at the world championships and Olympic Games.

“Over the past 40 years, there is not a national team or Olympic team that Fritz has not helped. U.S. coaches and athletes have come and gone since 1972, but Fritz has been a constant. Fritz’s passion for and dedication to USRowing, its athletes and coaches is unparalleled,” said Curtis Jordan, USRowing High Performance Director.

The award is named after Jack Kelly, a four-time Olympian (bronze in the single sculls in 1956) from Philadelphia, who was the son of John B. Kelly, Sr., an Olympic champion in the single sculls in 1920 and two-time champion in the double sculls in 1920 and 1924 (both times with his cousin, Paul Costello). In 1920, Kelly Sr., was denied to enter the Diamond Challenge Sculls, the single sculls event at Henley Royal Regatta, because of two reasons: he had worked as a brick-layer and the Henley Stewards had put a ban on rowers from Vesper Boat Club since they had “misbehaved” at an earlier regatta. His son, Kelly, Jr., entered the Diamonds in 1946, 1947 and 1949, winning the Cup in 1947 and 1949.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Making Row Locks

After a nearly five-year restoration, Mystic Seaport re-launched its crown jewel, the whaleship Charles W. Morgan on 21 July, 2013. When she has been fitted-out and re-rigged, the Morgan will go on a ceremonial 38th Voyage beginning in mid-May 2014 from Mystic to New London, Connecticut, where the crew is going to be trained before heading up the New England coast visiting some of the ports the Morgan went to during her whaling heyday. Ten organisations have built whaleboats for the whaleship - read a great article by the Morgan historian Matthew Stackpole about building these boats here (you will come to an electronic version of the Mystic Seaport Magazine, Stackpole's article starts on page 10).

The staff at the Museum's Shipsmith Shop (an original shipsmith shop which opened in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1882, and later was moved to Mystic Seaport) is working on making row locks - or, if you so like, oarlocks - for the whaleboats. On top is a wonderful video from the Museum's Film and Video Department on how to make row locks the old-fashioned way - enjoy!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Meeting Sarah Trowbridge

Last Saturday, Sarah Trowbridge, a 2012 U.S. Olympian who competed in the women's double sculls, gave a talk at the La Grua Center in Stonington, Connecticut. Sarah, who went to high school in Guilford, Connecticut, began to row her senior year at The Blood Street Sculls (Old Lyme) after having tried every other sport there is, more or less. Wanting to continue to row, she picked a college with a great rowing programme, University of Michigan. After graduating, she moved to Washington D.C., joined the Potomac Boat Club and started to practise hard to be able to go to Princeton, where the women's national team is training. 

With her 5’8”, Sarah might not have been among the first ones to be selected for the women's eight, and when she got picked it was for the sculling boats. Her first great victory came in the double sculls at the 2007 Pan American Games, where she also took a silver in the quadruple sculls. The following year, she raced in the four and took a silver both in the senior and junior world championships.

Sarah was happy to talk and share her story with the more than 100 people gathered in the big room at the La Grua Center. Her story invited us to laugh as it was a good tale she was telling, but there were also unhappy and difficult moments when she did not get elected at first, and at one point she more or less invited herself to Princeton when it seemed the coach "forgot" to invite her. Between 2007 and 2012, she made six national teams, the highlight being the 2012 London Games, where she and Margot Shumway placed sixth in the final of the double sculls. You will find her other results here. Currently, Sarah is acting as assistant coach at Yale.

Unfortunately, there was no time for HTBS to chat with Sarah after the talk, but when asked to comment about the women's Scullers Super Eight, who had won at HOCR a week ago, Sarah thought it was an amazing achievement that was the real buzz in Boston after the regatta.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Coxswain’s Tale

Tools of the Trade – the blades of the Scullers Super Eight © Shimano Rowing Dynamics

HTBS’s Greg Denieffe got an interview with Jack Carlson, who coxed the winning women’s eight, the Scullers Super Eight, at HOCR a week ago. Greg writes:

Jack Carlson has certainly had an annus mirabilis in 2013. A winner at this year’s Henley Royal Regatta and Canadian Henley Regatta, he was instrumental in bringing together a ‘Super 8’ made up of some of the world’s fastest women scullers to compete at last week’s Head of the Charles Regatta (HOCR). Racing as Cambridge Boat Club in the Women’s Championship Eights, they started behind the USA national crew and rowed a remarkably well passed race to snatch victory by 1.2 seconds.

At last year’s HOCR, Jack coxed a GBR/NZL composite eight that included Rebecca Scown. It was his first time coxing women and although they were beaten by the United States squad and by the ‘Great Eight’, he caught the CCB (Cosmopolitan Composite Bug!). In a jolly mood on finals day at this year’s Henley Royal Regatta, he and Rebecca, Emma Twigg and a few of the GBR girls started chatting about doing a similar crew for this year’s race on the Charles River and perhaps Mirka Knapkova, who had just won the Princess Royal Challenge Cup and was the reigning Olympic single sculls champion, would be minded to join the crew. He started raising money and getting sponsors on board only to discover that the British girls couldn’t commit to the race since it clashed with British National Championships which were been held on the same weekend.

As of then, there wouldn’t be a ‘Great Eight’ for this year’s race in Boston, he and the girls decided to try and attract some of the other top women scullers, including a couple from the 2012 ‘Great Eight’. Gevvie Stone, the former American single sculler, was a big help with this. The crew was able to take the Great Eight’s bow number from last year’s 2nd place finish and started directly behind the current USA squad boat. According to Jack, it was a lot of work to organize and he gives major credit to Gevvie and a number of families from the Boston rowing community for getting the crew to the starting line. Gevvie’s father, Gregg Stone, served as coach and Resolute, Shimano, Concept2, Hodinkee and the HOCR sponsored the crew.

So, what is it like to take part in a high profile event like the HOCR with a scratch crew and take home the top prize? I was lucky enough to catch up with Jack, coxswain of the crew, a week before the race and he agreed to tell HTBS readers how the race went. I believe Jack’s coxing was crucial to Cambridge’s win and afterwards he had a lot to tell.

Cambridge Boat Club – racing to victory at this year’s HOCR © Jack Carlson

Jack says,

We beat the reigning world champions, the US women’s eight, which ran full training and selection before the Head of the Charles, by one second. We were behind at every single timing checkpoint until the finish line, including Cambridge Boat Club, where we were 0.3 seconds down. Half of our crew had raced in the small boats events the previous day, and we had had only two and a half training sessions together.

The crowds in the enclosures around Cambridge Boat Club and on Eliot Bridge actually thought we were getting demolished by the USA crew because there was about 30 seconds of clear water between us and them. But that was part of the strategy: I waited and stalled and waited and stalled at the start (getting some abuse from the starting officials, of course), to make sure we had a clear run the whole way, and to give the U.S. Rowing girls a false sense of security.

The corners were really key in the race. We decided to put Emma Twigg in the bow-seat, although she is, of course, very strong. She and Inge Janssen cranked us around the Weeks Turn and the Big Turn, and with the Resolute rudder we were able to take these all pretty tight. The U.S. crew was in their Empacher, and I could see them ahead of us taking all the turns wide and losing ground. You can see this on the video [see below].

The high mileage that the small boat rowers do was really important. The crew just had better endurance. This is why we could go from five seconds down at 1,000m, four seconds down at the next timing point, to winning in the last few hundred meters.

U.S. W1x, Elle Logan, who had been in the American eight  for the past two Olympics, was so fired up to beat the US crew. I can’t really describe it. She was sending me text messages every 15 minutes to say how fired up she was. And she was – we went out at a 36, and, although the rating came down a little bit during the race, it was always pretty lively. We sprinted at a 38 or so.

I thought that the U.S. had probably just barely beaten us when we crossed the finish line. I could tell after the first mile that they had definitely moved away from us, and I could also tell that we would move back a little on the turns. But at the end of the race, it was really hard to say who had come out better, and I thought they had probably gotten it. But we all put a smile on and thought, well, it was a good race anyway. Then when we landed, Mirka got a text from her coach saying we had lost by 0.3 seconds. We all thought, well, that’s still pretty good considering half our crew had raced yesterday, and we’d only had 2½ training sessions together. Then another message came through, saying that actually 0.3 seconds behind was our margin at Cambridge Boat Club (the last timing point before the finish), and that by the finish line itself, we were up by 1.2 seconds! We didn’t want to celebrate until we knew for sure. Then I got a phone call from the regatta director, Fred Schoch, saying that we should get ourselves over to the prize tent straight away because we had won. And that was a great feeling!

The spoils of Victory – 2013 Women’s Championship Eights Winners © Jack Carlson

The crew was as follows:
Mirka Knapkova (Czech Republic), reigning Olympic Champion in the W1x
Elle Logan (USA), current U.S. single sculler and two-time Olympic Champion in the W8+
Rebecca Scown (New Zealand), former World Champion and Olympic bronze medallist in the W2-
Kayla Pratt (New Zealand), U23 World Champion, 2013 World Cup silver medallist in the W2-   
Emma Twigg (New Zealand),  multiple World Cup gold medallist in the W1x, two-time Olympian and silver medal in the W1x at the 2013 World Championships   
Donata Vištartaitė (Lithuania), 2102 and 2013 U23 and European Champion and reigning 2013 World Champion in the W2x   
Inge Janssen (Netherlands), bronze medal in women’s single sculls at 2013 European Championships. Finished eighth in the women’s double sculls at the 2012 Olympics   
Magdalena Lobnig (Austria), U23 World Champion in the women’s double sculls in 2012
Jack Carlson (USA), coxswain who won the Britannia Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta and was a triple winner at Canadian Henley Regatta in 2013. Carlson coxed the U.S. lightweight eight at the 2011 World Championships.

The HOCR website has a report on the race called Great Eight Scullers Prevail and you can watch a video of the race below:

Friday, October 25, 2013

A Part of the History of Rowing

A Part of the History of Rowing

They were early rowers,
the Vikings, oaring their way
out of the north,
many-manned, ferocious,
forcing their culture
on people as far south
as the Mediterranean;

rowers who set in motion
the cataclysmic evolution
of civilization as we live it
today; rowers whose oars
needled the waters
treading the Dark Age
with the necessary

light of realization, a conquering light,
melding the disparate
cultures they found
into one,
the needles of their oars knitting
a tapestry out of water,
a tapestry of which the scenes
are ever-changing.

Philip Kuepper
(29 August, 2013)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Daniel James Brown: "Rowing is Beautiful..."

By now HTBS has had several blog posts about Daniel James Brown's book The Boys in the Boat, which - if you have missed it - is a great read. Above is a very interesting video clip from a book shop event in Washington DC where Brown is telling the story how he came to write the book. He is also reading from his book which is followed by questions from the audience. If you have not yet read The Boys in the Boat you will after having watched this video...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

HOCR & British Championships - Results

This past weekend offered some exiting races in two major rowing events on both sides of the Atlantic. On the Charles in Boston, the 49th Head of the Charles River was rowed with both of the victories in the men's and women's eights going to overseas crews. Find all the results here.

On the other side of the pond, the British Rowing Championships for Seniors were held at the National Water Sports Centre in Holme Pierpoint (Nottingham). Leander took seven of the eight gold medals. Find the results here.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Wingfields: Champions of the Thames 2013

An impromptu pre-race gathering of Wingfields Champions from each of the last six decades outside London Rowing Club. From left to right: Bill Barry (1963-66), Alan Campbell (2006, 09, 10, 12, 13), Guy Pooley (1991, 92), Wade Hall-Craggs (1993), Graeme Mulcahy (1976) and Chris Baillieu (1981-84). Mulcahy was this year’s umpire.

Here is Tim Koch’s report from this year’s Wingfield Sculls:

The 173rd Wingfield Sculls and the 7th Women’s Wingfields (previewed by HTBS here) took place on Putney to Mortlake course on 8 October in deference to the founder’s wishes that the prize silver sculls be held ‘by the best’ and that the event should continue ‘for ever’.

In the men’s race, Jamie Kirkwood of Leander drew the Surrey station. The 24-year-old lightweight spent much of 2012 recovering from glandular fever. At the 2013 World Rowing Championships he was 8th in the lightweight single and in the World Cup he was 5th in Sydney, 7th at Dorney and 4th in Lucerne.

Jonny Walton of Leander drew the Middlesex station. During the 2013 World Cup season he was 4th in the single in Sydney and 7th at Dorney. At Lucerne he was 4th in the quad.

Alan Campbell of Tideway Scullers got the centre station. He is Britain’s best heavyweight sculler in many years, a fact proven by his bronze in the single at the London Olympics. A four-times Wingfields Champion, Campbell is a great advocate for the race. His race biography says that ‘he sees the Wingfields as a test of his strength, determination and watermanship which 2000m racing lakes cannot provide’.

Campbell tries a new hat. A boater?

Going off at around 40, Campbell took a very early lead and within the first minute he was able to move into the Surrey station while Kirkwood sculled very wide of the other two, missing the fastest water. Campbell passed Thames Rowing Club two to three lengths up on Kirkwood who was under a length up on Walton. Along Putney Embankment the leader pulled way from the others and gained a three to four length lead. Between the Black Buoy and Harrods, Walton, despite a higher rate and better water, battled to move up on Kirkwood but managed to move into second place in the fifth minute.

At Hammersmith Bridge, Campbell leads followed by Walton and then Kirkwood.

Going through Hammersmith Bridge, Alan Campbell led Jonny Walton by four lengths and Walton in turn led Jamie Kirkwood by the same distance. These positions were maintained until just before Chiswick Steps when Kirkwood fell back and Campbell increased his lead.

At Chiswick. The launches to the left of the umpire’s boat carry the ‘steerers’ for each competitor (though some scullers seem to forget that they are there).

Between Barnes and the finish at Chiswick Bridge the scullers were fairly widely spaced out across the river, Kirkwood often in the slower water.

Going through Barnes Bridge – less than four minutes to the finish.

At the finish at the finish downstream of Chiswick Bridge, the times were Campbell 21.15, Walton 21.32 and Kirkwood 21.44. It was Campbell’s fifth Wingfields win.

The Finish.

Kirkwood recovers.

There was an impressive six entries in the women’s race. Counting from Surrey, the stations were taken by:

Louisa Reeve (Leander). The only sweep rower and a veteran of the last two Olympic games.
Imogen Walsh (London). ‘Imo’ was 4th in the lightweight double at the 2013 Worlds and won gold in the lightweight quad at the 2011 Worlds.
Beth Rodford (Gloucester). Wingfields Champion last year, Beth won gold in the quad in the 2010 Worlds.
Francis Houghton (Leander). A competitor in the last four Olympics, Francis won silver in the quad in the 2004 and 2008 Games.
Vicky Thornley (Leander). Vicky was 7th in the single at the 2013 Worlds and in this year’s World Cup was 4th at Dorney and 10th in Lucerne.
Vicki Meyer-Laker (Leander). Racing in the double scull in 2013, Vicki was 4th at the Worlds and won Gold at Dorney in the World Cup.

The competitors in the women’s race, left to right: Beth Rodford, Imogen Walsh, Vicky Thornley, Louisa Reeve, Vicki Meyer-Laker and Francis Houghton. A clue as to the winner – she is the one whose feet do not properly reach the floor.

Racing six abreast on a river that was not closed to other users had the potential for problems especially as the scullers were widely spread across the river at the start. While this may have initially made the umpire’s life a little easier, it disadvantaged Houghton, Thornley and Meyer-Laker on Middlesex who were in the slower water (though Houghton and Thornley made the move to Surrey very soon off the start). By the end of Putney Embankment only Reeve and Meyer-Laker were on their original stations and Meyer-Laker led with Thornley second, Walsh third, Houghton fourth, Reeve fifth and Rodford sixth.

Entering Barn Elms reach, left to right: Reeve, Houghton, Thornley, Rodford, Walsh and Meyer-Laker.

In the next two minutes along Barn Elms reach, Houghton and Thornley swapped their second and fourth places. The following two minutes took the scullers to the Harrods buoy by which time Meyer-Laker had lost the lead and dropped to fourth place making the leading pack Houghton followed by Walsh, Thornley and then Meyer-Laker. By Harrod’s Wall, Walsh had overtaken Houghton for first place. In less then two minutes the now second place Houghton was out of the race when her stroke side blade clipped the buoy 300m downstream of Hammersmith Bridge and she overturned.

Houghton has buoy trouble.

The first three positions going through the bridge were to remain unchanged for the rest of the race, that is Walsh in front, several lengths ahead of Thornley who was several lengths ahead of Meyer-Laker.

And then there were five. Going through Hammersmith Bridge, Walsh is followed by Thornley, Meyer-Laker, Reeve and then Rodford.

On the big Hammersmith bend, Reeve and Rodford did not help themselves by staying in the slow water over to Surrey. At Barnes Bridge the leaders remained unchanged with Rodford now fourth and Reeve fifth and all the boats were well strung out with clear water between each.

At the finish.

The final times were Imogen Walsh 21.44, Vicky Thornley 21.53, Victoria Meyer-Laker 21.57, Beth Rodford 22.01, Louisa Reeve 22.09 and a wet Francis Houghton 26.32. It was a splendid win for the lightweight Walsh against considerably taller and heavier opposition (she is 162 cm/5 ft 4 ins tall and weighs 57 k/125 lbs). She wrote on Twitter:

Holy shmoly. I just won Wingfields! Very surprised, very happy, and feeling a little bit sick...

Later she added: Thanks everyone for your messages! Had to get up twice last night to eat something... Defiantly worked hard yesterday!

The 2013 Champion Imogen Walsh at the finish –  ‘surprised, happy and a little bit sick...’

Both Walsh and Campbell steered the best course in their respective races. This was not the deciding factor in either win this year but it is an annual frustration to me that so many top competitors do not know how get the best out of the Championship Course. This frustration is compounded by the fact that in the Wingfields it is perfectly legal to have ‘steerers’ signalling to their competitor from a following launch.

This year’s entry (especially in the Women’s Wingfields) illustrates the increasing strength of British sculling, a discipline that the country has not excelled in for many years. However, the true mark of improvement will come when the outcome of both events is not decided by Hammersmith and the race is fought through to the finish at Mortlake.

Champions of the Thames: Walsh and Campbell.

My apologies for taking so long to post this. Sometimes life gets in the way of blogging. T.K.

Wingfields Postscript
The British Rowing Facebook page has some nice pictures of this year’s Wingfield Sculls taken from their headquarters at 6 Lower Mall overlooking Hammersmith Bridge. The best photograph is reproduced below and shows Imogen Walsh going under the bridge.

Imogen Walsh at Hammersmith Bridge. Picture: British Rowing.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

2013 Rowing History Forum: Not just for Nerds...

Henley’s River and Rowing Museum (RRM). The Times newspaper recently put it on its list of the top fifty museums in the world.

Last Saturday, 12 October, the Rowing History Forum was held at the River and Rowing Museum in Henley-on-Thames. Here is HTBS’s Tim Koch’s report:

For many people the prospect of spending the day at something entitled ‘The Rowing History Forum’ holds about as much appeal as a 5k ergo test. However, those who attended the fourth such event at the River and Rowing Museum on 12 October had no regrets. They were entertained and informed by tales of things such as the largest oared vessel ever built or of cheating death on the high seas. Add to these stories of bloody blazers, a levitating sculler and Dutch foetuses and there was something for everyone.

Professor Boris Rankov, six times Boat Race winner and professor of Roman history, spoke eloquently on rowing galleys in the ancient world. The unpredictable winds of the Mediterranean resulted in the development of rowing rather than sailing boats for both trade and war. Originating with craft having a single tier of 25 rowers on each side, one man to an oar, from 600 BC a second and later a third level of oars were added to increase power. As it was impracticable to add a fourth level, from 500 BC extra men were added to each blade and within 200 years there were oars manned by eight people, some pushing and some pulling. By 200 BC, Ptolemy IV of Egypt had built a galley of 137 metres / 450 feet in length. Its longest oars were 19 metres / 62 feet and it was rowed by 4,000 oarsmen (though, not surprisingly, it moved ‘precariously and with difficulty’).

Professor Boris Rankov with the museum’s mock-up of a section of a trireme (from the Latin meaning ‘three banks of oars’).

Doggett’s Coat and Badge winner Bobby Prentice enthralled the audience with an account of how he and another Doggett’s man, Colin Briggs, fought for survival when their boat overturned during the infamous 2005 Atlantic Rowing Race. Even Bobby’s humorous and self-deprecating style could not disguise the fact that it was a story that could easily have ended in tragedy.

The River and Rowing Museum curators gave the Forum an update on some recent acquisitions and projects in progress. Chris Dodd reported on an unpublished manuscript written by Julius Beresford which may give new information on his famous fall out with coach Steve Fairbairn. Chris also talked about a possible ‘e-book’ on Tyne rowing. Eloise Chapman showed the recently donated archive of Lucy Pocock (of the famous rowing and boat building family) who was a women’s sculling champion before the 1914 – 1918 War and later went to the United States where she briefly coached women’s rowing at the University of Washington.

Lucy Pocock pictured in a silver frame that she won as a prize at Henley Town and Visitor’s Regatta in 1906.

Eloise also spoke of the British Rowing / Amateur Rowing Association film collection recently given to the museum. It is hoped that it would be available online sometime in the future. Suzie Tilbury displayed an 1844 rowing vest, perhaps the oldest one known, and a Henley prize from 1848, a model wherry in silver. Delightfully, it was won by a local man and it has stayed in Henley ever since.

The silver wherry won by Henry Sergeant in 1848 for the event run between 1845 and 1850 for ‘amateur scullers residing within twelve miles of Henley on Thames’.

Peter Mallory is both a rowing and an art historian and so was well qualified to talk on the recent River and Rowing Museum acquisition, the 19th-century portrait of Newcastle sculler Edward Hawks. Peter showed the historical processes which resulted in this work by very cleverly juxtaposing classic paintings with the Hawks and other rowing pictures. He then spoke on the social and economic story behind its commission and execution. Possibly, the painting was a ‘vanity project’ by Hawks, who may have hoped to sell prints of it. The painter himself had no pretensions at great art. Among other things, the body proportions are wrong, the boat is depicted in a very crude way and the figure appears to be hovering above the ground. Strangely, it is still a delightful picture.

Edward Hawks, sculler (left) and Peter Mallory, art and rowing historian (right).

A glimpse into the fascinating history of Dutch student rowing was given by Rob Van Mesdag. Before the 1939 – 1945 War, Dutch freshmen had to become what were called ‘foetuses’ and undergo harsh initiations before joining student boat clubs. The big event in Dutch student rowing then and now is the regatta known as ‘The Varsity’, founded in 1878. It is an event full of tradition such as the members of the winning university swimming out to the victorious boat and (according to this) throwing coxswains at frozen chickens. Post Varsity celebrations are famously drunken affairs and there seems to be a large amount of nudity. A more explicit picture is here but I am pleased to see that these chaps follow Henley rules and keep their ties on. Click on these thumbnails for more health and safety violations.

Algemene Rotterdamse Studenten Roeivereniging (‘Skadi’) wins the 124th Varsity in 2007. Picture: P. Kemps.

A meticulously researched work by Ian Volans was entitled ‘What was it about Victorian Oarsmen? Rowers who helped to shape other sports’. In particular, EC Morley of London RC and HT Steward of Leander were among the seven founders of soccer’s Football Association and JG Chambers of CUBC and Leander formulated boxing’s ‘Queensbury Rules’.

A tantalising preview of his forthcoming book on rowing blazers was given by Jack Carlson. The lavishly illustrated publication will show the great, the good and the ordinary of the rowing world resplendent in the blazers of their club or country, all pictured by a top fashion photographer. Jack also debunked some ‘blazer myths’ including the one that the scarlet blazer of St John’s College, Oxford, commemorates an oarsman killed when St John’s attached a sword to their bow at a bump race.

Jack Carlson in front of the museum’s current exhibition of rowing blazers.

To summarise a presentation by Terry Morahan is a difficult task as he always seems to have several highly involved researches into rowing history going on at once. However, this year two of them seem to have reached very satisfactory conclusions. With Leander founded in 1818, it is usually thought that the world’s second oldest public rowing club is Der Hamburger und Germania Ruder Club (1836), but Terry claims it is in fact the (Royal) Northern Yacht Club which was established in Belfast in 1824 and today is based on the Clyde in Scotland. Records show that a race ‘for four oared gigs the property of members of the club’ was held in 1825. For his next trick, Terry produced ‘the oldest rowing blazer in the world’. It was the Eton School rowing jacket worn by General Sir George Higginson (1826 – 1927) in 1844. Much to the surprise and delight of all present, Terry then presented it to the River and Rowing Museum. It was a rather nice end to a most enjoyable day and thanks are due to all the speakers, the RRM, the Friends of Rowing History and American Friends of the RRM.

Terry Morahan (left) presents ‘the oldest rowing blazer in the world’ to Chris Dodd of the River and Rowing Museum.

Friday, October 18, 2013

HTBS Tie On!

According to some sources, like this one, it is Tie Day today. Therefore, for those of you brave few, put on your HTBS tie, despite that it is Friday today, which in America is the 'dress-down' day of the work week. If you wonder, there is also a Bow Tie Day, which was in August.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Morning Row

Morning Row

The shadow of a lone swan
fell across the bow
of the scull, so close
had the swan come
to the rower about to set off,
so close the rower could reach
and touch the shadow.
He felt the heartbeat
of the shadow pulse
against the tip of his fingers.

Philip Kuepper
(28 August, 2013)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The 2013 Red Bull XRow

Above is a trailer from the 2013 Red BullXRow. Not a race for softies…

On Saturday, 5 October, the annual Red Bull XRow, called the cruellest rowing race in the world, was held in Switzerland. Crews from around the world raced across lakes and land starting in Zug and finishing in Lucerne. After the crews, racing in eights, have rowed across Lake Zug, they picked up their boats and carried them over land to the shores of Lake Lucern, where they put them in to row the final leg. That is altogether 19 km of rowing and 7 km of cross-country running – at the highest speedy possible!

The home favourite team ‘Swiss Selection’ won in a time of 2:09:30. The German team ‘Light Bulls’ came in second, only 35 seconds behind.

The top five teams:
Swiss Selection (SUI): 02:09:30
Light Bulls (GER): +00:00:35
International Light Bulls (ITA/NED): +00:01:35
Team Croatia (CRO): +00:02:53
Germania – All Stars (GER): +00:03:52

Monday, October 14, 2013

Time for Megan's LIST

The LIST maker. Photo: USRowing.
The U.S. two-time Olympian Megan Kalmoe is known in the social media world for her list, or as it is called, The List. On this list, Top 20 Hottest Male Rowing Athletes of the Year, she ranks twenty male rowers (no, there are no male rowing historians among them...!) just because they are pretty much all-around awesome. She is doing this in a funny and charming way (no, it's not sexist at all, so don't even think about whining about it boys; leave the griping to the boys who did not make the list...).

Megan posted The LIST earlier today, and I was happy to read that a fellow Scandinavian oarsman was No. 1 on the list. Now you are, of course, anxious to read it yourself, so you will find it here.

Q&A with Katherine Grainger

The London Evening Standard might not be your daily read – for certain it is not anything we read first thing in the morning here at HTBS – but we are willing to do an exception as the paper has interviewed famous Katherine Grainger, who recently published her book Dreams Do Come True. In this Q&A, Grainger for example answers the questions: ‘Have you finally completed your PhD in homicide? And which gave you greater satisfaction, that or the gold?’ (As we didn’t know the answer already…!) Read the Q&A here.

Katherine Grainger will be speaking at the London Sports Writing Festival at Lord’s between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday, October 19. For more information and tickets log on to and @lswf2013

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Altered Soul of the Rower

The Altered Soul of the Rower

Beyond Far Island he found
he had rowed into a web
of air and spirits
the Great Spider had woven
the width of the ocean.

He felt begin the devouring
of who he was, the devouring
that would change him
beyond all recognition.
And to think

he had only set out
for his morning row.

Philip Kuepper
(29 August, 2013)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Villanelle on Rowing

A Villanelle on Rowing*

When the sun rises, oarsmen work their blades,
There’s no better way to start a new day;
Bodies swinging, while ducks rest in the shades.

Each rower’s oar makes a ring that soon fades,
The narrow shell moves quickly on its way,
When the sun rises, oarsmen work their blades

The green trees at shore form scenic arcades –
A crew of nine young men, busy at play;
Bodies swinging, while ducks rest in the shades.

Forgotten are last night’s busty barmaids
And your noisy mates at an eve so gay,
When the sun rises, oarsmen work their blades,

Gone are last night’s clamour pub charades;
In the boat, mind’s set, there’s nothing to say,
Bodies swinging, while ducks rest in the shades

Pull, pull, long outings are painful crusades;
All are at their best, or there’s hell to pay
When the sun rises, oarsmen work their blades,
Bodies swinging, while ducks rest in the shades.

(8 October, 2013)

* With apologies to Dylan Thomas!

See also Paradelle.

Friday, October 11, 2013

More on Lowry's Rowing Paintings

About Chris Dodd’s writing from 9 October on L. S. Lowry’s rowing paintings, and Tim Koch’s take in an earlier entry posted today, Greg Denieffe writes:

I have been interested in the Lowry rowing drawings/paintings for some time now. I have prints of bits and pieces that I found over the years and unbelievable as it seems, I was able to find them the day before  yesterday – well all bar one (which from memory, I thought varied a bit from the two pencil drawings below).

I think the Bonhams’ catalogue for the May 2013 sale clarifies some dates and titles:

The present lot is almost certainly the most fully realised pencil drawing by L.S. Lowry of the Agecroft Regatta; at least one other example is known to exist, along with a later and very impressive, large oil painting, The Regatta (1949).

I think this is the one sold by Bonhams in May 2013 which is Agecroft Regatta signed and dated ‘L S Lowry 1942’ (lower right).

This could be the other pencil drawing also called Agecroft Regatta signed and dated ‘L S Lowry 1948’ (lower right).

This is the large oil painting referred to in the Bonhams’ catalogue as a later and very impressive, large oil painting, The Regatta (1949). (This is a scan of the print I have, as I cannot find a copy online).

Another Lowry, Crime Lake, showing pleasure boats on Crime Lake, Oldham, Greater Manchester. The name ‘crime’ is a local word for meadow rather than anything untoward.

I love Lowry’s work and I am a sucker for Brian and Michael’s matchstalk song.

Matchstick (Oars)men

Self-portrait by Lowry.
Tim Koch writes:

Chris Dodd’s recent piece on L.S. Lowry – “Lowry’s Grim Fairy Tale” on HTBS on 9 October –  notes that the Salford artist depicted a sculler in the detail of his painting Industrial Landscape 1950 and also some gentle leisure boating in a work entitled The Pond. There are, however, some other artworks by Lowry that are of even more interest to HTBS readers.

In 1942 or 1948 (depending on your source), he produced a painting entitled Agecroft Regatta showing two coxed fours racing on the River Irwell at Kersal Cell which is 2.5 miles / 4 km north-west of Manchester City Centre. In November 1997, it was sold to a private buyer for £350,000 / $558,400. Lowry also made two 10 inch by 15 inch sketches of the event, both very similar. One was sold in June 2011 for £68,000 / $108,500 and the other in May 2013 for £175,000 / $277,600 (a return of over 150% in two years for the earlier buyer).

One of Lowry’s sketches for Agecroft Regatta (from, here) The old Agecroft Rowing Club boathouse can be seen on the left with the flag flying. A club history is on the Agecroft website.

While it is a slightly more gentle scene than the artist’s usual depiction of harsh industrial life, I have found evidence that Lowry actually made the picture a little more ‘grim’ than he need have done. The website Kersalflats is dedicated to documenting the history of the area of Lower Kersal and in particular the public housing that was built there in the 1960s by the local government. Our interest lies in this page. It has a splendid collection of archive photographs of Agecroft Regatta, many from the 1950s, about ten years after Lowry made his sketches. Three of them are reproduced below as I think that they illustrate the fact that the old site of Agecroft Regatta was more attractive than that depicted by the great man.

Lowry was clearly standing to the left of this picture, looking right. The boathouse with its balcony and flag are quite clear. The house with the pitched roof to the right of the rowing club and the marquee next to that are also plain.

This picture is dated 1953, not many years after Lowry’s drawings. It does not suggest to me that (as the southern English sometimes say) ‘it's grim up north'’.

1953 again. On the left of this picture is the boathouse, the building with the pitched roof and the marquee that Lowry depicted. However, he chose to omit the delightful scene on the right – a verdant riverbank, lush fields, half-timbered buildings and rolling hills. Clearly, these were not ‘Lowryesk’ subjects.

Of course, to criticise art for not being ‘photographically accurate’ is crass. L.S. Lowry's ‘inaccuracies’ were what made him a great artist (and, perhaps, an even greater investment).

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Legendary Casey Brothers

Greg Denieffe writes,

According to W. B. Yeats, Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone* but I’m not so sure after reading reports of a new book called The Legendary Casey Brothers.

In an updated edition of a book originally published in the USA about the Casey family from Sneem, County Kerry, author Jim Hudson tells the story of seven brothers who rowed successfully at home on the Lakes of Killarney, and in both London and Boston as well as becoming folk heroes in the world of professional wrestling.

The publisher Collins Press has this to say about the book:

In 1982 the seven Casey brothers were inducted into the Irish Sports Hall of Fame, the only family ever to receive that honour. The brothers, from Sneem in County Kerry, starred as Olympic-class oarsmen, Tug-of-War champions, professional wrestlers and boxers and won fame throughout the sporting world. Steve, known as ‘Crusher’ Casey, became the supreme wrestler in the world and for a decade no one could match him. When he turned to boxing, the great Joe Louis refused to go into the ring with him. In 1983 at a family reunion in Sneem, five brothers, all in their seventies, climbed into the four-oar boat they used to win championships in the 1930s. Although they had not rowed together in fifty years, they still moved with their former natural unity. Sports people from Kerry have achieved fame in many fields but the success of the Caseys surely outshines all.

The list of Casey sporting achievements is many and varied:

·    Paddy Casey was successful in the Salter Cup races at Killarney Regatta and was undefeated light and heavyweight wrestling champion of Ireland and also won many long-distance cycling races in Ireland
·    Dan Casey was a contractor, coxswain of the Salter Cup crews, champion oarsman, and a tug-of-war champion
·    Jack Casey remained in Ireland, married and took up farming and fishing. A superb oarsman in his own right, he helped the Caseys win the Salter Cup at the Killarney Regatta
·    Tom Casey was also in the Salter Cup winning crews and became British amateur wrestling champion in 1937 after only nine days’ training before moving to Boston and joining Riverside Boat Club. In 1940, he won the Casey Codman Challenge on the Charles River
·    Jim Casey was also successful in the Salter Cup races, went to Boston and joined his brothers in Riverside Boat Club and won the Canadian and South American wrestling titles
·    Mick Casey in a career that lasted over twenty years, had 200 wrestling bouts
·    And, of course, probably the greatest of them all, Steve ‘Crusher’ Casey became the supreme wrestler in the world and he retired undefeated as world wrestling champion. But before that he led the Sneem crew to their three successive Salter Cup victories, thereby winning the cup outright; he rowed successfully in London.

The Caseys, from left: Tom, Paddy, Jim, Steve. Front: Dan (Cox)

The Irish Times recently reviewed the book in an article called "The Dream Team from Sneem". In the book you can read about their early life in Kerry rowing traditional boats and winning the coveted Salters Cup at Killarney Regatta three times in 1930, 1931 and 1933 (no regatta in 1932); their move to London and their successes there with Ace Rowing Club and their bid to row at the 1936 Olympic Games (* see opening paragraph above!) which was foiled owing to their earnings from professional wrestling.

Tom, Jim and Steve Casey (l. to r.) on the Charles River, Boston, Massachusetts.
Tom, Jim and Steve moved to Boston and rowed for Riverside Boat Club. From A Brief History of Riverside Boat Club:

Among the club’s more colorful oarsmen was Steve “Crusher” Casey. An immigrant from Skibbereen, County Kerry, a professional wrestler and boxer, and a Boston icon, Steve and two of his seven brothers raced victoriously for Riverside throughout the 1930’s and 40’s [sic]. In testimony to his popularity on both sides of the Atlantic, his statue stands today in his hometown, while in this country his bars, Casey’s on Huntington Avenue near Boston Symphony Hall and Casey’s Too in Hull, were favorite watering holes for locals, Irish immigrants and rowers alike.

The Irish Times article comments on their time in Boston:

Four years afterward (1940), three of the brothers went some way to proving their point, when they challenged all-comers to a single skulls (sic) race on Boston’s Charles River. Only one of America’s best rowers, Russell Codman, was brave enough to accept. Watched by a quarter-million spectators, he was beaten into fourth place.

The Dorchester Reporter has more details on the challenge issued by the Casey brothers and the race with Codman.

The original book by Jim Hudson was published privately in the USA in 1990 and was called The Legend of the Caseys (The Toughest Family on Earth!).

For the new edition of the book, Radio Kerry presenter and former GAA referee Weeshie Fogarty and Kerry-based videographer Christy Riordan travelled to Texas to meet with Myrtle Casey, Jim Casey’s wife.

Here is Killarney Advertiser journalist Éamonn Fitzgerald’s preview of The Legendary Casey Brothers, to be launched in Sneem by Olympic Gold medallist Ronnie Delany on 18 October:

“They're all gone now, and there isn't anything more the sea can do to me”; these were the immortal lines from Maurya, (the spelling used by Synge) the mother in Synge’s Riders to the Sea, as she was ‘caoining’ the death of her sons. This quotation surfaced when I read a new book from The Collins Press, The Legendary Casey Brothers. Written some years ago about the legendary seven Casey brothers from Sneem, it will be launched in The Sneem Hotel by Olympic gold medallist Ronnie Delany on October 18.

Written by Jim Hudson some years ago it is based on interviews with Jim Casey and his wife Myrtle in Texas telling the story of the seven legendary world champion brothers from Sneem. The author is now deceased [sic ~ see Comment No. 1 below!] and so is Jim Casey, but his wife, 92 year old Myrtle is coming out of a nursing home and travelling to Sneem for the launch. When Myrtle was on holidays in Sneem some years ago she was put in touch with Radio Kerry’s Weeshie Fogarty and Christy Riordan. She wanted the Casey brothers’ story to be published so she invited Weeshie and Christy to her home in Texas in 2008 and gave them access to all the memorabilia and documents, including the unpublished book. This duo proved the catalyst for the publication and Collins Press took up the challenge. Christy Riordan has also produced an excellent DVD on The Casey brothers of Sneem.

You can look inside the book here and check out the DVD and watch a seven minute trailer here.

The Casey family sporting prowess continues through the generations: 

Paddy’s son, Patrick Casey, was a member of the Vesta Rowing Club in London and was a member of their Britannia Challenge Cup winning crew at the 1981 Henley Royal Regatta;

Jack’s son, Noel, was a successful rower and coach with Vesta Rowing Club, but is best remembered for his time with Thames Rowing Club; particularly coaching amongst others, his daughters Bernadette and Caroline to many national successes and to seventh place for Great Britain at the World Rowing Championships held in Munich in 1981. He also coached the Great Britain women’s eight to a fifth place finish at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. 

Bernadette Casey Carroll now lives in Baltimore, Maryland, and her children Jack and Victoria are according to The Kerryman deeply involved in sports including rowing and have competed in England at a very high level.

‘Romantification’ aside, I’m looking forward to reading the book and learning more about this extraordinary family.

 The DVD The Casey Brothers.