Photograph: Werner Schmidt

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Henley Royal Regatta Starts Today!

Henley Royal Regatta begins today. I was going to post a link of a list with the crews that have qualified but unfortunately I am getting a 'file error'. Go to the regatta's web site and try yourselves, it might have been fixed by the time you have a go. Click here.

Monday, June 28, 2010

On Practice Wherries

A friend of mine, Bill, sent me an e-mail regarding yesterday’s entry. Bill also visited the WoodenBoat Show at Mystic Seaport Museum and he mentions how much he enjoyed the show again this year. Bill writes “As usual, I got sidetracked talking with all sorts of vendors, including Steve Ferlauto and now I’m toying with the idea of building a practice wherry to add to my fleet of small boats.” Bill continues “Steve Ferlauto had a practice wherry on display that looked to me like a much more attractive alternative to the Aldens for beginners as well as a boat that would enjoy being out in open water. He said that it was a prototype […]. I’m thinking that the Seaport must have some practice wherries in its collection that have been measured and documented. Do you know?”

I agree with Bill about Steve’s beautiful wherry (see above), it is a much more appealing boat than the Aldens. To be really honest, I have always felt that sculling in an Alden was like sculling in a tub.

Regarding Bill’s question if the Seaport has any practice wherries in its collection, I am aware of a couple. To be on the safe side I had a look in Mystic Seaport Watercraft Catalogue by Maynard Bray, Benjamin Fuller, and Peter Vermilya. On pages 260-263 you will find the following wherries:

Union Boat Club Practice Wherry (ca. 1920) 19’ 6” x 2’ 1”
Accession No. 1985.17.1

Pocock Practice Wherry (1960s?) 21’ 5” x 2’ 2”
Accession No. 1999.19.1

2 Union Boat Club Cruising Sculls (ca. 1920) 23’ 0” x 2’ 7”
Accession No. 1985.17.2 & No. 1985.17.3

Practice Wherry (?) 22’ 2” x 2’ 3”
Accession No. 1972.1112

Practice Wherry by Williams (ca. 1934) 20’ 0” x 2’ 0”
Accession No. 1975.313

Williams Wherry (1932) 17’ 0” x 2’ 0”
Accession No. 2000.136.3

More information on these wherries may be obtained by calling the museum’s Collection & Research Center, 860-572-5367 (Thursdays & Fridays only), or by sending an e-mail to: collections@mysticseaport.

Bill, good luck building your own practice wherry!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Among Traditionalists And Inventors

Although The WoodenBoat Show, for the fourth year running at Mystic Seaport Museum, maybe was not really as big as the three previous years, it was a great show. I was working there for the two first out of the three days and as I was terribly busy, I did not manage to take a good look at what the vendors had to offer. Well today, on my day off, I went back to take some photographs that I would like to share with you.

I met Steve Ferlauto, whom I talked to at last year’s show. Steve is running the River School Boats and this year he had his latest built boat on display, a mix of old and new – old as it is built out of wood, and new that it has ‘wingriggers’ (see above). He is eager to know how this recreational shell is going to be received. Will the wooden ‘traditionalists‘ whine about the wingriggers, and will the carbon fiber scullers complain about the wood?

Steve also had a beautiful old single on display by boatbuilder Vincent Radley & Sons (see above) who built boats on the river Lea in east London starting during the 19th century. It has probably been restored on a couple of occasions, with a sliding seat, ‘new’ clogs, etc. – a beautiful craftsman work, indeed.

Another exhibitor’s watercraft also caught my eye, Andrew Meigs’s Dancing Dragon, which was launched earlier this month! Andrew, who is an old oarsman, became tired always facing backwards, he said, so he came up with this propeller-driven, scull-less, faceforward ‘cycle-boat’. Being conservative when it comes to my sculling and rowing, I truly thought this was a fun-looking boat, which I would not mind at all to go for an outing in!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

10 Top Events For Rowers At WBS

As I have mentioned before, The 19th Annual WoodenBoat Show will start tomorrow, Friday 25 June and run for three days, 25-27 June, at Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, Connecticut. The museum and the show will be open between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. More information can be found by clicking here.

Allow me to pick out ten events, vendors, and places that you rowers should go to if you are visiting the WoodenBoat Show this weekend:

Time 9:00-5:00, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.
Location: G.W. Blunt White Building (No. 54)

#2 Mystic Seaport’s Boat and Engine Collection – see the National Rowing Foundation’s wonderful collection of racing shells.
Time 2:30-4:30, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.
Location: Rossi Mill Loading Dock

#3 Paddle and Oar Making.
Time: 2:30, Sunday.
Location: Paint Shed, Shipyard

#4 Mystic Seaport Museum Bookstore – great selection on rowing books.
Time: 9:00-6:00, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.
Location: Opposite the Museum’s Main Gate

#5 Rowboat Rentals – get out on the Mystic River.
Time: 10-4:30, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.
Location: Boathouse (No. 13)

#6 Adirondack Guide Boat – vendor.
Time: 9:00-5:00, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.
Location: Tent A.

#7 Connecticut River Books – vendor, good selection of old, used books on rowing.
Time: 9:00-5:00, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.
Location: Tent B.

Time: 9:00-5:00, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.
Location: Village Green Exhibits.

#9 WoodenBoat Store – vendor, has published some books on rowing.
Time: 9:00-5:00, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.
Location: Tent A.

#10 From ‘Whale Ho’ To ‘Find Out’ Whaleboat Demonstration.
Time: 11:00 a.m., Friday, Saturday, Sunday.
Location: Middle Wharf (No. 27), if rain, Whaleboat Shed (No. 34)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

For Henley

"For Henley.
The Protector Protected"

[From Punch 29 June 1927]

Let's hope Henley gets good boating weather this year!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Top Entries At This Year's Henley Royal

In a press release published some days ago, the Stewards of the Henley Royal Regatta, which begins on 30 June, announced that this year’s regatta not only has many entries for the different Cups, but also high quality entries. The press release states that “The total entry of 505 crews (468 in 2009) includes 116 overseas crews (93 in 2009) from 20 different nations. Great Britain, New Zealand and Canada have entered the majority of their crews preparing for the World Championships in New Zealand later this year and there are strong entries from the U.S.A., France, Holland, Germany and Italy.”

I am happy to see that Lassi Karonen, Brudpiga Roddklubb of Sweden is going to have a go at The Diamond Challenge Sculls.

Read the Press Release. Read the List of Entries.

Monday, June 21, 2010

World Cup Rowing In Munich

Yesterday was the second round of FISA World Cup rowing, now in Munich, Germany. On FISA's web site you will find all the finals on video. Go to World Rowing Live by clicking here.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Royal Wedding

Yesterday, the whole of Sweden celebrated together with the Royal Family when Crown Princess Victoria married Daniel Westling, who now became Prince Daniel. My main interest in this festivity was the couple’s transport by the Royal Barge Vasaorden from the Stockholm Cathedral to the Castle. Vasaorden, which has nine pairs of oars, was built in 1923 and is a replica of an older Royal Barge that was destroyed in a fire in 1921. Vasaorden, which is built almost entirely of Swedish oak, is very heavy to row and difficult to steer. This was shown the other week when sailors from the Swedish Navy were out training in her. The officer in charge of the steering made a slight mistake in maneuvering the craft and she ran into another boat. No one was hurt but she needed a little paint work before she could be used yesterday.

Yesterday was 34 years ago, exactly on the date, that Princess Victoria’s parents got married. They, now King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia, were also rowed up to the Castle in Vasaorden. For that occasion, in 1976, I organised a celebratory telegram that was sent to the King and Queen from ‘the oarsmen of the Malmö Roddklubb’ – honestly, we were only boys, but a very nice thank you note was sent from the Castle. The note is now in the club’s archives somewhere…

Saturday, June 19, 2010

La Régate On DVD

Earlier today, Hélène Rémond of France left a comment about the rowing movie La Régate. She writes "I have just learnt a DVD will be available in September. And for readers living in Switzerland... La Régate will be shown in the cinemas on July 7th."

Great news Hélène. Thank you for sharing it with the readers of this blog!

Friday, June 18, 2010

The 19th Annual Wooden Boat Show

A week from today, Friday 25 June, the 19th annual WoodenBoat Show will begin at Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut. It will be the third year in a row this three-day show is being held at the Mystic Seaport, and it is a must-go-to-event if you are interested in new or old wooden boats. It is as it says on the museum’s web site: “In addition to beautiful boats in the water, visitors can enjoy browsing through tents and extensive land exhibits which include boat builders, sail makers, marine adhesive and coatings companies, boat schools and associations, maritime art and antiques, tools, wooden boat hardware, nautical gear, books and innovative items.”

For more information about this great event, go to:

or the Mystic Seaport's web site.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

One Of (The Many) Henley Traditions

A 1967 photograph of the four founding fathers - Wilf Stark (bow), Jacko Stevens (2), Frank Ashenden (3) and Reggie Reeves (Str) - of what is today the Auriol Kensington RC's veteran row from Hammersmith to Henley.*

Soon it is time for the Henley Royal Regatta again. The good Tim Koch of Auriol Kensington RC is taking part in an ‘unofficial’ Henley tradition, he writes in an e-mail from London. I leave it to Tim to tell the story:

Henley Royal Regatta has many traditions. There are the ‘official’ ones that are a result of 171 years of existence and then there are the ‘unofficial’ ones that are the result of the same people attending the same event for much of their lifetime. For the last forty eight years, Auriol Rowing Club (and, latterly, Auriol Kensington Rowing Club) have rowed one or two Veteran (Masters) crews from Hammersmith to Henley, timed to arrive just before the start of the Regatta. These days the distance of fifty six miles is covered in three days by two eights. It is only possible because of the support received from the rest of the rowing community.

Day One is from Hammersmith to Molesey Boat Club, some fourteen miles. The first six miles are on the tidal Thames, the non tidal part begins at Richmond Lock. There are seventeen more locks between there and Henley and, as they are usually less than three miles apart, they afford regular rest stops to oarsmen past their prime. Day Two is from Molesey to Eton Excelsior Rowing Club, just outside of Windsor, via lunch at Staines Boat Club - twenty one miles in total. The crews stay overnight in Windsor where much beer and curry is consumed. The final day takes us through to Henley via lunch at Marlow Rowing Club - twenty miles. The row ends with a race up the Regatta course (much to the amusement of the younger people in training for the ‘Royal’). Some refreshing local beer is then consumed at the Anchor in Friday Street. The landlord is an ex Kensington RC man and it is the only place that tolerates the smell of three day old kit. Following a welcome shower, blazers and ties are donned for a formal dinner where we are joined by the ‘real’ Auriol Kensington HRR crews and assorted supporters.

The ‘Henley Row’ is an event that seems to grow in importance for the participants. At the end of row dinner we remember those stalwart members of Auriol Rowing Club who first did it in 1962. In the words of one participant, “…we both thank them and curse them for this strange obsession.

* The four in the 1967 photo on top are Wilf Stark (bow), Jacko Stevens (2), Frank Ashenden (3) and Reggie Reeves (Str). All joined Auriol before the 1939-1945 War and kept the club going through some difficult times. I knew both Wilf and Frank (‘Ash’), alas no longer with us. They did the Hammersmith to Henley Row until they were in their late 70’s and had their last row over the Henley course in 1989 when they were in their early 80’s. Frank had to swap sides as he was recovering from a broken arm (he already had two plastic hips). At the end of their row he remarked that the course was ‘longer that it used to be’. At the 1997 Club Dinner, he proposed the toast to ‘The Club’. He went home and died in his sleep later that night. Not a bad end.

Great story, Tim, thank you! And I agree, when it is time to go, that is the way to go. Good luck with the row...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

”Sporting Life In A Laptop”

Well, here is a treat for you if you live in England. On Saturday, 26 June, at 11:30, famous rowing writer and historian Chris Dodd is going to give a talk, ”Sporting Life in a Laptop”, at the River and Rowing Museum in Henley-on-Thames. Dodd, who is the museum’s rowing historian, has covered six Olympic regattas and attended more than 30 World Championships, Henley Royal Regattas, and Boat Races. His notes books and laptop are stuffed with good stories about our sport’s stars of today and yesterday. Tickets are £6, to book call 01491 415605, or email To go to HRR web site for more information, please click here.

The Tabooed Charles Courtney

Regarding my entry about the boycott of professional sculler Charles Courtney on 25 May, rowing historian Bill Lanouette of Washington DC has sent me an e-mail. Bill mentions that in a 1930 interview with the sportsman and sportswriter John Hadley Doyle, who was president of Potomac Boat Club (PBC) in 1903, it is revealed that Potomac members were so disgusted with Charles Courtney’s performance in the 1880 race against Ned Hanlan that they threw Courtney’s boats and stuff from the clubhouse. Bill writes that “the Washington Post had reported that Courtney left PBC for the race to rousing cheers and applause, and returned to silence. Still, the club hired him as coach a year later.”

Bill quotes from John Clagett Proctor’s article “Courtney in recollections of John Hadley Doyle” (published in the Washington Sunday Star, 6 April 1930):

“Charley Courtney, after his many fiascos in matches and tabooed by the public generally, was picked up by the Potomacs as coach a year after they had thrown his boats, etc., from their club, due to his weird and funny race with Hanlan. So good did he make that under him the Potomacs won 17 races, and then Cornell placed him under ironclad bonds, and he could not come back to the Potomacs, even though it was this club that made him.”

Bill Lanouette thanks Ms. Elizabeth Webber for this clip! And thank you, Bill for sharing it with the readers of this blog.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Virgin GB Row 2010

On 1 June 2010, starting at Tower Bridge in London, two crews began to row a 2010 mile race around the British coastline. This amazing non-stop unassisted race, which is called Virgin GB Row, can be followed on the web.

In the beginning there was one female crew, The Seagals, rowing in The Commando and a male crew, The Mistfits, in Orca. Yesterday, Orca pulled out of the race after three of the four men had decided to leave as the world record of 26 days and 21 hours could not be matched due to the hard winds and rough seas. They were by then far behind The Commando. The brave female crew, skipper Berlinda Kirk, Angela Madsen, Laura Thomasson, and Beverley Ashton, is continuing, showing that the important thing is not to win, but to participate! Well done, girls!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Scandinavian Rowing In South America

The winners of the Cadet Fours in a regatta at the Scandinavian Rowing Club in December 1930. From the left: N. Torgersen (stroke), I. Christophersen, B. Blich (owner of the photo album), S. Sjöstedt, and S. Speyer (cox).

Some weeks ago, the good Tim Koch of London pointed me in the direction of an old photo album that was up for sale at eBay (Thank you, Tim!). The album had, among other things, rowing photographs from the Argentinean rowing club Club Remeros Escandinavos, the Scandinavian Rowing Club, which is located in the town of Tigre on the Paraná Delta, 30 km north of Buenos Aries. The club was founded by some Scandinavians in 1912. I immediately put in a bid, and a couple of days later, I won the album, which has some wonderful black & white photographs, which once belonged to, I believe, a Mr. Nordahl B. Blich (or, Blick?).

The first photograph in the album is from December 1924. It is taken from the deck of the Norwegian vessel S.S. Hanna Skogland. She was built in 1903 for Argo Line in Bremen, and was given the name Alabama. The following year she was bought by the German East Africa Line/Woermann Line and renamed Eduard Woermann. In 1919, she was taken to Great Britain as war reparations and was operated by Union-Castle Mail SS Co., which in 1921 sold her to T.H. Skogland in Norway. Again she was renamed, now to S.S. Hanna Skogland. It is onboard this vessel this photo album begins.

On Christmas Eve in December 1924, S.S. Hanna Skogland crossed the equator on her way to South America. In a photograph King Neptune and members of his court have preformed the traditional crossing-the-line ceremony for the ‘pollywogs’, seamen and passenger who cross the equator for the first time. A little ‘x’ indicates where a boyish-looking Blich is standing (above).

There are no photographs from 1925, but from the following year there are photographs from Montevideo, picnics, and images from the river and delta of Paraná from November 1926, where the oarsmen are lying down in their skiff - “we are taking it easy”. In January 1927, a photograph is showing the outside of a house in Buenos Aires where Mr. Blich is now living. He has turned into a handsome looking fellow, a real gentleman, which we can see in the photograph on the right, taken in January 1928.

In Buenos Aires he takes up competitive rowing. In a photograph from December 1930, we learn that he and his coxed four were the “Winners of the Cadet Fours” in a regatta at the Scandinavian Rowing Club at Tigre (the photograph on the top of the page!). On the back of the photograph is glued a small newspaper clipping saying that it was a 600-metre race “in favourable weather, rain threatened, but held off, so the regatta were rowed promptly and with great enthusiasm.” The winners were S. Sjöstedt, H.B. Blich, I. Christophersen, N. Torgersen, stroke, and S. Speyer, cox.

Three months later, 15 March 1931, B. Blich was back in a winning boat, this time taking the "Cup La Nación" in the Tigre International Regatta. In the photographs above we see the Scandinavian crew: from the left, stroke J.R. Slötebak, F. Johannesen, cox L. Andersen, H.B. Blich, and S. Sjöstedt.

I do not know if this was B. Blich’s last race. Some of the photographs that follow in the album show him and some of his rowing friends going on a rowing tour to Uruguay in March 1932. If the winds allowed they would sail their Thames skiff and camp overnight on the beaches, using the oars as tent poles (see above).

They also visited the rowing club in Colonia, Uruguay (seen above). And then they rowed and sailed home to Tigre (see below).

And there ends my ‘photographic story’ of Nordahl B. Blich. Or, not quite, there are some loose photographs in a pocket of the album showing Blich on a sail boat in the habour of Strömstad on the Swedish east coast in July 1947, and one photograph of an older Blich, wearing a captain’s hat by a sail boat, with the note “Nordahl - 1962”.

I am afraid the photo album does not reveal a lot about Mr. Nordahl B. Blich, or where he came from. He was probably born in the mid-1910s, and maybe he was Norwegian, although all the notes in the photo album and on the back of the photographs are in English. At least he seems to have enjoyed his rowing. And all of us ‘old oarsmen’ know, that if you ever have pulled an oar, you have done something good in life.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Henley Spirit!

"The Sporting Spirit: An Echo Of Henley."
[From Punch 12 July, 1922]

On 30 June, it is time for the Henley Royal Regatta again!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A New Boat Race

Back in January, Tim Koch sent me an e-mail about a new boat race on the Thames, the Parliamentary Boat Race. However, as it is a race held in June I thought I would wait to post an entry about it. Well, we are in June now, but despite my search on the web, I am not able to find any information about this years’ race. But here is what Tim wrote in January:

"Our great sport is full of tradition. One of the 'newer traditions' is the Parliamentary Boat Race, an event revived in 2007. It has grown rapidly as a result of the work of the All Party Parliamentary Rowing Group, the organisation by Alan Foster of London Rowing Club and generous sponsorship from Siemens. It now consists of a Lords [in red] v Commons [in green] Race and three invitation events. The 2009 PBR, held on 23rd June, had a men's race with crews from London RC and Imperial College BC, a women's race with crews from Vesta RC and Auriol Kensington RC and a junior race with crews from London Youth Rowing. The course is from Vauxhall Bridge to the Lords Terrace at the Palace of Westminster (The Houses of Parliament)."

The photographs above are from the British Rowing web site. My warmest thanks to Tim!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Swedish Henley Regatta?

On 17 May, I had an entry about the first Gant Rowing Race which was going to be held on 22 May on Djurgårdsbrunnsviken in Stockholm. The race, which was actually six races, between Sigtunaskolan Humanistiska Läroverket (SSHL) and Lundsbergs skola seems to have been a great success. Under sunny skies, SSHL won the men’s single and double, and the women’s single and double, while Lundsberg handled the bigger boats better, with two victories in the men’s coxed four and the women’s coxed four.

I have just watched the ‘race video’, which is posted on the clothing company’s web site, and one can clearly see that it was a well-attended event, almost a little like Henley, when it comes to the well-dressed gents and toffs, the ladies’ hats, the drinks (however, no Pimm’s!), but without the same rowing standard of the crews. In this case, the latter really does not matter, as long as the crews and the spectators were having fun.

Of course, this being the Gant Rowing Race, the race video is more of a commercial for the company’s cloths than an actual race video.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Rowing To Fishers Island

The Crimson Knights rowing to Fishers Island. From bow to stern: William Solberg ’11; Tim Smith ’10 (Northeastern); Bert Harney ’10 (Cornell); Grant Barnekow ’10 (U Cal Berkeley); Patrick Grogan ’10 (Trinity Dublin); Josh Weinstein ’11; Kyle Good ’10 (Cornell); stroke Emery Schoenly ’10 (Yale); cox Bryan Wong ’10 (NYU). Photograph: Tony Tremaine, Salisbury captain ’66.

Last Friday in Mystic, I had the great pleasure to meet coaches and a varsity crew from Salisbury School (Connecticut). The team was training in the nearby little town of Stonington, and with some strings pulled here and there, I ended up giving these nice chaps a guided tour in the National Rowing Hall of Fame, the rowing exhibit ‘Let Her Run’, and the Boat Storage at Mystic Seaport Museum. They very patiently and politely allowed me to show them around and to tell some anecdotes about some professional scullers, Thomas Doggett, and Dick and George Pocock, Yale’s 1956 Olympic eight, etc.

The crews’ coaches Tote Smith and Tony Tremaine told me that the boys had been up early in the morning to row their eight from the Connecticut shoreline across Fishers Island Sound to Fishers Island (which actually is in New York State!), a good 2-3 mile stretch of open water (see photograph on top), and then back. Indeed a good way to live up to their school’s motto Esse Quam Videri!

The crew - William Solberg, Tim Smith, Bert Harney, Grant Barnekow, Patrick Grogan, Josh Weinstein, Kyle Good, Emery Schoenly, and cox Bryan Wong – has a busy schedule for the next three weeks. They are going to race at the USRowing Youth National Championships in Cincinnati, and thereafter leave for England to row at the Marlow Regatta, the Reading Town Regatta, and the ever so famous Henley Royal Regatta.

Best of luck, boys, or as you probably would say:


Monday, June 7, 2010

John Gardner's Legacy

This past weekend Mystic Seaport Museum held the John Gardner Small Craft Workshop. From across the Mystic River I could see all kinds of different rowing boats, small sailboats, kayaks, and canoes on the water for this nice get-together. Unfortunately, I was not able to participate, and when I finally arrived to the museum, late Saturday afternoon, all the boating activities had ended. However, I still managed to take a couple of photographs.

The John Gardner Small Craft Workshop is always held the first weekend in June at Mystic Seaport Museum. Participants are encouraged to bring their watercraft, and share it with the other partakers in the workshop, which more or less means that you can be out on the water rowing, paddling, sailing all day long for two days, for the very low registration fee of $20/adult, or museum member $15/adult (fees for 2010).

The Small Craft Workshop is named after the famous American boat builder and writer John Gardner, who came to Mystic Seaport Museum to start a small watercraft programme in 1969. He stayed at the museum till he died in 1995, 90 years old. He published several books on boat design and his books are still in print, and boat plans of his crafts can be bought from the museum's Collection & Research Center.

Trouble On The Cam

In May 1990, a Swedish coxless four was stopped by the Swedish Coast Guard in the habour of the little town of Åhus, in the south of Sweden. The Swedish National Team was on a training camp and had their headquarters at the local rowing club in town. As the habour offered a fairly straight 2,000-metre course, the four powered up and down the course. Well, that is till the boat was stopped by personal from the Coast Guard – for speeding! The four was rowing faster than the allowed 5 knots.

I wrote about it in the Swedish rowing magazine and the news spread to the big Swedish newspapers, and it was also reported in the Danish rowing magazine, Roning, the British Rowing, and in the FISA Bulletin. The rowing world was laughing at the dumb Swedes, or so it felt…

The other day, Rachel Quarrell of British Rowing Service reported that Cambridge News had a piece about Cambridge University Combined Boat Clubs (CUCBC), which had received a letter from the Conservators of the River Cam complaining that CUCBS crews had been using “excessive speed” when they were training for the May Bumps! Read the article by clicking here.

Quarrell also had a link to a press release from Cambridge University BC saying that its Chief Coach, Chris Nilsson, who had such a successful 2010 season, will not seek to renew his contract with the club for 2011. Instead, he will return to his native New Zealand “for lifestyle reasons”. Read the full press release here.

World Cup Rowing In Bled

If you missed the first World Cup rowing in Bled in Slovenia last Sunday, on 30 May, FISA’s web site has all the finals on video - free to watch! Go to World Rowing Live by clicking here.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Bournes: 5 - Carring The Family Tradition

Here is the fifth and final entry about The Bournes.

It must have weighed heavily on a young man’s shoulders to be the grandson of the famous coach Gilbert C. Bourne and the son of the great stroke Bob Bourne. In the book The Boat Race, Gordon Ross states that “R.M.A. Bourne was a great disappointment to his father because he could not get into the Eton boat.” R.M.A. (‘Bobbie’) Bourne, who was born in 1919, only made it into the 2nd eight at Eton which indeed must have felt as a dissatisfaction coming from a renowned rowing family like the Bournes. However, during his last summer at Eton, Bobbie Bourne did reach the final of the School Pulling (pair), and he did win the School Mile which both his grandfather and father had done before him.

After Eton, Bourne went up to New College in 1937, but the following year, he joined the Army. During the Battle of Dunkirk in 1940, Bobbie Bourne was captured by the Germans and he spent the rest of the War in a prison camp. When the War ended, he went back to study at Oxford, and, although “thin and wiry as ever”, as John Langfield writes in his obituary about Bourne, published in Regatta in March 1996, Bobbie Bourne made it into the Blue boat in 1946. The dark Blues won The Boat Race by 3 lengths in 19 min. 54 sec. The same year, he was in the Leander eight that took the Grand and on the same day he won the Stewards’. In 1947, his eight lost The Boat Race to Cambridge.

Here is a newsreel of Oxford training in 1946. Young Bourne can be seen early on, 5 seconds into the film, before the crew goes on the water.


Bobbie Bourne was soon elected a Henley Steward, and he went back to Eton to become a classical master. He was very well liked at Eton, though he got himself into trouble, Langfield writes in his obituary, “having set his classes to compose limericks on the four evangelists.” Of course, Bourne also coached rowing at Eton and his crews had great success winning Princess Elizabeth Cup and the Ladies’ Plate. Bobbie Bourne died in 1996.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Bournes: 4 - 'Beja', The Old Master Coach

Here continues the story of Dr. Gilbert Charles Bourne, famous coach at Oxford.

In A Text-Book of Oarsmanship Bourne agrees that the orthodox style has changed since Warre’s days, and that the style has been taught differently by different coaches, all being campaigners for the English orthodox style. The general factor that all the 'orthodox' coaches of the day could agree upon was that the Cambridge coach Steve Fairbairn’s new 'style' was wrong and therefore should be rebuked, which Bourne also does in his book. One error among many that Bourne found with Fairbairn’s Jesus College crews, who fully rowed according to Fairbairn’s method, was that they “always had an air of dreaminess about it.”

The year after, in 1926, Steve retorted Bourne in the book Rowing Notes. Regarding his dreamy Jesus crews, he writes, “Dr. Bourne […] says my crews look dreamy. They could not have given higher praise, especially as the criticisms were intended to be against the style in which I coach my crews. [- - -] Does not looking dreamy only mean being very smooth? In my opinion the dreamier a crew looks, the nearer it approaches to the poetry of motion.”

A jocular rhymester gave his view of the orthodox style in the Cambridge student magazine The Granta:

Beware the Orthodox, my son,
The slides that check, the arms that snatch;
Beware the drop-in blade, and shun
The Bourneish shoulder-catch.

A few oarsmen and coaches thought that a mix of the two styles were to be preferred, “each style has its own particular merits, and when the best points of each are blended then, in my opinion, perfection is very nearly achieved,” Vivian Nickalls wrote in 1932. But to “blend” the two different styles would be a rare thing to suggest during Bourne’s and Fairbairn’s lifetime. It would however be a more openly discussed subject during the 1950s and 1960s. Vivian Nickalls’s thoughts to “blend” the styles would be expressed some thirty years later by H. R. A. ‘Jumbo’ Edwards in his The Way of a Man with a Blade (1963) where he writes: “… by ‘orthodox’ I mean teaching the best method of moving the body to achieve maximum muscular efficiency in propelling the boat. The Fairbairn method was to teach the oarsman to perfect his bladework and to apply the maximum power to it throughout the stroke. Of course, the ideal is achieved by a combination of these two methods. Putting it another way, orthodoxy was the teaching of the pure art of rowing, while Fairbairnism was the application of the art to winning races. […] It is the greatest pity that Steve and Beja [Dr. Gilbert C. Bourne] never worked together. They would have produced wonderful crews.”

‘Jumbo’ Edwards should know as he had rowed for them both, at Oxford and later for The London RC. It is significant that Edwards dedicated his luminous book “to the memory of the greatest of Old Masters Steve and Beja”.

Dr. Bourne only published one book on rowing during his life time. However, the year after his death, in 1933, his manuscript about his younger days was published, Memories of an Eton Wet-Bob of the Seventies, which is a very exciting read for anyone interested in Eton and Oxford of those days. It is not, however, an easy book to find in an antiquarian bookshop nowadays.

In tomorrow's entry the story about the Bournes continues, then about Bobbie Bourne.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Bournes: 3 - The Theoretical Coach

Bob Bourne’s father Gilbert Charles Bourne, was born in 1861. At the age of six, the family doctor declared him unfit for sports as he had a heart disease. However, at a new medical examination at Eton, young Bourne was given a ‘clean bill of health’. He immediately began to row competitively but, as The Time’s obituary put it, “as his style was unpleasing to the authorities, he was given only a humble position in Lower Boat choices.” It all changed in the spring of 1878, when Bourne unexpectedly was picked for Trail Eights, and he rowed bow of the Eton eight, and the crew reached the final of the Ladies' Plate at Henley that year. He was Captain of the Boats in 1880 and 1881.

G. C. Bourne rowed in the bow seat in Oxford’s winning Blue boat, both in 1883 and 1884. In front of him sat, at two-seat, R.S. de Havilland and they would later become advocates for the English orthodox style taught by the famous Dr. Edmond Warre, head-master and their rowing coach at Eton.

G.C. Bourne, who became a famous professor and coach at Oxford, used his studies in zoology, marine biology, and mathematics to mix in with his coaching. He coached Oxford for several periods from 1885 to 1927 (12 of his Blue boats won The Boat Race). His love for theory, whether it was to coach, to build boats, or the best dimensions of oars – their length and the width of the blades – is clearly seen in his wonderful book A Text-Book of Oarsmanship with an Essay on Muscular Action in Rowing, which was published in 1925 (reprinted in 1987).

Here is a 5-minute newsreel from 1925, Getting Well Together, “by courtesy of Doctor Bourne” [who is coaching the dark Blues in this film!]:


More about Dr. G.C. Bourne in tomorrow's entry!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Bournes: 2 - 'The Ugly Stroke'

Bob Bourne, stroking the dark blues in 1910.

In my column for April in British Rowing’s Rowing & Regatta, I am telling the story of the historic race between Oxford and Cambridge in 1912, or maybe I should write, their first race in 1912; there was also a second race, on 1 April, which Oxford easily won.

It was during the first race, on 30 March, that both the light blues and the dark blues sank. Well, actually when Cambridge really sank, outside of Harrods, Oxford did get waterlogged coming out of Hammersmith Bridge, but went over to the Surrey shore where they emptied out the water. Back in the boat, and after a couple of strokes, the umpire’s launch showed up and Fred Pitman, the umpire, declared a ‘No-Race’. And here the famous Robert Croft Bourne (1888-1938), the stroke in the dark blue boat, comes into the picture again. Years later, the Oxford cox, H.B. Wells, would give his account of this race, saying that “I will not repeat what Bob Bourne said to me when he heard this.” A good guess would be that Bourne said sometimes in the lines of his ‘GDBM’, which was discussed in yesterday’s entry.

Bourne did tell the crew to begin to paddle again. Umpire Pitman lost his temper seeing this and shouted: “What are you doing Oxford? Where are you going? Didn’t you understand that I have declared ‘No-Race.’” Bourne shouted back: “We are going to Mortlake,” and after a short pause, he added, “because our clothes are there.” And off to Mortlake the Oxford crew went, Bourne making a point that it was possible to row the full course.

Not many had high hopes for Bob Bourne as a stroke in his first Boat Race, in 1909. He had not really distinguished himself at Eton as a good ‘oar’. To borrow Gordon Ross’s words in his book The Boat Race (1954): “[Bourne] was of slight build and of moderate physical strength; he never weighed much over eleven stone, and even in 1909 that was a light weight for a Blue. Nor was he an attractive oar to watch; he had an exaggerated reach forward and a long and ugly lie-back at the finish; and there were some who thought that the choice of him to stroke the Oxford crew of 1909 was due largely to the fact that his father was the coach.”

But Bob Bourne proved them all wrong. He stroked the dark blues to victory in 1909, and in 1910, 1911, and 1912. Bourne was gravely wounded during the First World War, in August 1915 at Suvla Bay in the Dardanelles, which stopped his career at the oar. After the war, he went into politics, and was elected a Conservative MP for Oxford in 1924. In 1938, at the age of 50, Bourne suddenly died while walking in Scotland. Ross writes “the long-delayed effects of his war wounds caused a collapse of his heart.”

Next entry will be about Bob Bourne’s legendary father, Dr. Gilbert Charles Bourne.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Bournes: 1 - 'GDBM'

‘GDBM’ – what does it mean? Well, the good Tim Koch of Auriol Kensington RC has drawn my attention to New College Boat Club’s web site where you will find the explanation to ‘GDBM’.

But let me start from the beginning. By now, I have written quite a lot about the 1912 Olympic Rowing Regatta in Stockholm, both here on my blog, but also elsewhere, see for example "Samuel F. Gordon and the 1912 Olympic Rowing" and "Olympiaden 1912" (the latter article is in Swedish). At the Stockholm Olympics, each country was allowed to enter two crews in each boat class. Great Britain sent its two best eights, from Leander Club and from New College BC, Oxford. The Leander crew consisted mostly of oarsmen from Magdalen College. New College web site claims that the two British crews were the favourites for the gold in the eights, disregarding that a good eight from Sydney RC actually two weeks earlier had taken the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley, beating New College on the way to the final, where the Aussies had over-powered the Leander eight.

However, in the Olympics, Leander defeated the Australian eight, making the final an all-British affair, between Leander and New College. On New College's web site the story goes: “The course in Stockholm was not straight, and one of the two lanes was clearly favoured, the other requiring the cox to steer around a protruding boathouse and then back under a bridge.” [Yes, the course was not straight, but not really that bad, as it had a slight bend where both boats had to go under a bridge.]

New College's web site continues “Before the final, the two British captains met to toss for lanes. New College won the toss and following gentlemanly tradition offered the choice of lanes to their opponents, who would - in a gentlemanly fashion - refuse this offer. However the Leander/Magdalen captain accepted this offer and chose the better lane. Leander went on to win the gold medal, leaving New College with the silver.” [Although, I have done a lot of research on this regatta, this was news to me.]

The New College web site goes on, “King Gustav V of Sweden was so disheartened by this display of ungentlemanly conduct that, as a consolation, he presented his colours to New College. Ever since then, New College has raced in purple and gold, the colours of the royal house of Sweden.” [The colours of the House of Bernadotte, or the Royal House of the Kingdom of Sweden are blue, gold, white, and red - not purple. However, in a case of printing a legend or the truth, print the legend!] And then the New College web site comes to GDBM: “A further tradition has been the adoption of the toast: God Damn Bloody Magdalen!, the supposed words of the New College stroke Robert Bourne (seen in a SPY drawing on top) as they crossed the line. The abbreviation GDBM is still used commonly, being on the bottom of the NCBC letterhead to this very day.”

More about Robert ‘Bob’ Bourne tomorrow!