Photograph: Werner Schmidt

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The 2012 Rowing History Forum A Great Success!

More than fifty people came for the 6th Rowing History Forum at Mystic Seaport.

After Friday’s triumphant fund-raising event in memory of Hart Perry which brought in around $15,000, Saturday started with the 6th Rowing History Forum in the River Room at Latitude Restaurant and Tavern by Mystic Seaport. As usual, organiser Bill Miller, well-known rowing historian of Friends of Rowing History, had done a tremendous job getting some interesting speakers for this almost full-day event. Slightly more than fifty people showed up to listen to stories and histories by Miller, Tom Weil, Peter Raymond, Chris Dodd, Jim Dietz, and Peter Mallory.

Tom Weil (above) gave an entertaining talk called ‘Cheers & Jeers, A Prospective on Women and Rowing 1850-1900’, the same lecture he presented at last year’s Rowing Forum in Henley-on-Thames which was reported by Tim Koch. Weil never disappoints his audience whatever rowing subject he is speaking on and here he used some interesting prints and images to help show us the pros and cons by which men had viewed women’s early rowing.

Then came Peter Raymond (above), Olympic rower in 1968 (Four with) and 1972 (Eight), who was to be inducted in the Rowing Hall of Fame later in the evening, together with his fellow oarsmen in the Princeton eight. Raymond proved to be a witty gentleman, and his ‘The Transition to Ratzeburg Training & U.S. National Camp System’ told the story about Karl Adam of West-Germany and how his special rowing style and his new interval training changed the lives of the young oarsmen of Princeton. After being introduced to Adam’s style, the Americans soon gave up the old Conibear style for the winning one used by the West-Germans.

Jim Dietz spoke fondly about his old coach Jack Sulger.

After lunch, Olympic sculler and college coach Jim Dietz, who was inducted in the ‘Hall’ in 2010, literally dashed in through the doors to give a whimsical, hilariously funny talk about his club, ‘New York Athletic Club’, or so it said in the programme. Instead, his presentation soon slid in to a tribute to one man, Jack Sulger, an Irish New York policeman, who was a six-time national champion oarsman, and Dietz’s rowing coach at New York A.C. Sulger carried his service revolver at all times, it seems, and at least once he used it to keep law and order when a fancy fast boat with a water-skier came too close to the ‘kids’’ race course.

Sulger, who was a manager of the U.S. rowing team, director of the U.S. Olympic Committee, and president of the N.A.A.O., had, according to Dietz, an old-fashioned way of what was right and wrong, and what ever that was, it was always to Dietz’s and his fellow rowers’ advantage, because first and foremost, rowing should, at that age, be fun! They don’t make them like that anymore…

Chris Dodd (above), British rowing historian and famous author, gave a short report on upcoming events at the River & Rowing Museum in Henley-on-Thames this Olympic year. Unfortunately, a planned exhibit about the Olympics, had to be cancelled due to lack of funding and interest from the Olympic bureaucratic establishment. Good news, though, were that Dodd had just come out with his latest book, Pieces of Eight – Bob Janousek and his Olympians (March 2012), about the Czech oarsman and coach Bob Janousek, who came to England to save the ‘bloody English’ from their conservative selection system which during the 1960s only had resulted in dead-last boats. (More about Dodd’s book in upcoming HTBS posts.)

Last but not least, Peter Mallory (above), rowing historian and author of the 2,500-page The Sport of Rowing, spoke about one of the most important rowing coaches during the 1900s, Steve Fairbairn in ‘Steve Fairbairn, the Man, the Athlete & the Coach’. Although, Fairbairn seems to be forgotten, or maybe even not known, by many coaches and rowers these days, some influential coaches still frequently read Fairbairn’s books for inspiration. Mallory proved to be a real Fairbairn fan.

Next Rowing History Forum will be in October 2013 at the River & Rowing Museum!

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