Photograph: Werner Schmidt

Monday, April 30, 2012

Yeats, Joyce, Heaney... and Currivan?

HTBS’s Tim Koch writes,

The recent postings of things poetical and things Irish on HTBS prompts me to write about a collection of humorous rowing poems entitled Inside Rowing, The Outside Handbook by the Irish international oarsman, Barry Currivan of Dublin’s Neptune Rowing Club. In the introduction he writes:

‘Lets face it, in a sport that is shorter on light moments than one of Thor Nilsen’s fartlek programmes, there is a gap in the humorous literature department. As to whether this volume does anything to fill that gap or only widens it I will leave to you, the reader, to decide.’

To help you come to a decision, this is from ‘High Noon: Henley’:

Approaching Remenham Club
We could hear the clink of glasses
Of ancient oarsmen
Drinking Pimms
And talking through their asses.

From ‘On the Subject of Coxes’:

So please don't you believe them
When you're going for that line.
Because when they call ‘Last 20 strokes’
It’s more like thirty nine.

The booklet can also be used as an instructional manual, viz:

On the draw it would be best
(for this will never fail ya)
To draw the oar up to the chest,
And not to the genitalia.

Currivan’s rowing experience enables him to make some nice observations. This is from ‘Seating Arrangements (The VIII)’:

For the stroke whose only claim to fame
Is maintaining a steady rate,
Does not deserve the strokeman’s name
He’s only number eight.

The poems are also used to make other points as in ‘Rowing in the Media’:

A football match you can read about
That was held in some back ally;
You'd think that rowing faded out
When Ben Hur sank his galley.

Some of Currivan’s rhyming is a little forced (but he has never suggested that he is producing high art) and some of it only works when spoken by an Irishman (as when he rhymes ‘seat with ‘teeth’) but I still recommend that you buy a copy and use it as I do, to enliven speeches made at rowing functions (but give Barry a credit). Copies can be ordered from Neptune Rowing Club at

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Suit Cracknell Wore

2004 Olympic gold medallists: Steve Williams, James Cracknell, Ed Coode, and Matt Pinsent
For those of you who are interested in Olympic rowing memorabilia, a seller on eBay is right now offering Olympic gold medallist James Cracknell’s rowing suit from the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. The seller writes, ‘The suit is signed by all four rowers (James Cracknell, Ed Coode, Sir Matt Pinsent, and Steve Williams) and comes with a letter of authenticity and a signed James Cracknell photograph.’

The starting bid is £500 (plus shipping) and the auction ends on 3 May. Read more here.

I would like to mention that HTBS, of course, has nothing to do with this eBay listing. I am not the seller and do not take any responsibility of what is said about these items, nor if they are authentic or not!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Nice Rowing Cover

On 10 November, 2010, on HTBS, I wrote about a book that I had found on an antiquarian bookseller’s site. The book had a very interesting and nice-looking cover showing some school boys in a racing shell in the background and two other boys in the foreground watching them racing. At least one of the boys in the foreground is a rowers as he is holding an oar. When I ordered the book, I was hoping that there would be a ‘rowing story’ in the book, which was not the case.

Well, the other week, I did it again, ordered another juvenile book, Monster Book for Boys (Dean & Son, Ltd) with a ‘rowing cover’ hoping to find a good rowing story in the book – not so! But also this cover is nice, I think: a boy biking along the towpath holding a megaphone by his mouth shouting instruction to the boys in the shell on the river. There is no printing year, but it was probably published in the 1940s (someone has neatly penciled in 24/10/44 on the inside cover). It is difficult to find information about the publishers, but it seems that the ‘Monster Book’ was published annually; there was also ‘Monster Book for Girls’.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Neptune RC Out For A Spin!

Greg Denieffe, HTBS’s expert on Irish rowing, writes,

What a great entry on HTBS yesterday!

Attached is a photo of the lower Liffey taken in October 2006. Usually there is no rowing here. Off in the distance on the right hand side (south side of the river) is Ringsend where all the old rowing clubs were before they moved upstream to the non-tidal Islandbridge.

I believe it is the Neptune Rowing Club, Intermediate VIII on the water for a training spin.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Row River

Row River

The gray silk scarf of the Liffey lay
Wrinkled at the bow
Of his shell as the rower
Stroked slowly the river,
Source of frothy lager
Flowing beneath Ha’penny Bridge.

As the blades of his oars
Tore the silk of the river,
The rower imagined Bloom standing
In line at the post office
Waiting to mail his two cents worth
Of uprising.

The morning hung still. Dublin slept.
Up at Sligo, Yeats turned in his grave
At the sound of horses’ hooves passing by.
So the rower imagined
As the blades of his oars
Clip-clopped, clip-clopped the Liffey.

His hard as steel body
Described a motion
Of rhythmic perfection, the morning
Sky deepening with light,
Turning the gray silk Liffey white.
The rower rowed to the harp of his heart.

Philip Kuepper
(April, 2012)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tufte On The Thames

One of the most popular post on HTBS so far this year is Tim Koch’s interview with the Norwegian Olympic sculling champion Olaf Tufte, “Olaf Tufte: “You can always hear the boat sing a little more…”, posted on 9 January. Tim’s rowing club, Kensington Rowing Club by Hammersmith Bridge had agreed to organise a little rowing competition on the Thames between one of their club fours (“England”) and a Norwegian team. The Scandinavian crew  (“Norway”) actually only had two real rowers, Olaf Tufte and Bjørn Jostein Singstad, and then two hosts from a tremendously popular television show in Norway, Senkveld med Thomas og Harald (‘Late night with Thomas and Harald’) with Thomas Numme and Harald Rønneberg.

The show has now aired in Norway, and a short version of the rowing race is now available on YouTube, Tim writes in an e-mail. Below is the video clip, it is all in Norwegian, but never mind, you do not need to understand what they are saying, it is entertaining as it is! Tim is the welcoming host (and he is speaking British-English, of course). But before you watch the clip, do read Tim’s 9 January article once more – click on the link above. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Olympic Countdown...

On 18 April, it was exactly 100 days to go to the opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games in London. This was celebrated in Times Square in New York City. Some of the U.S. Women’s National Team was there: Erin Cafaro, Elle Logan, Susan Francia, Caroline Lind, Mary Whipple, and Megan Kalmoe. “Times Square was completely transformed into an Olympic playground, complete with BMX ramp, beach volleyball pit, gymnastics platform, and… ergs!”, Megan Kalmoe writes on her blog. She had a blast, she says, and so did the rest of the team which you can see on Megan’s entertaining video above.

Megan is April's FISA Athlete of the Month!

Megan also mentions on her blog that the U.S. Olympic Team does not receive any funding from the U.S. government to train and compete for the United States – which is really a disgrace, if I may say so… If you would like to help by donating some money, the USOC has just launched a campaign, “Raise Our Flag”, which allows you to support the U.S. Olympic Team by purchasing stitches in the flag that Team USA will carry at the Opening Ceremony in London. The stitches are really affordable at only $12 each. To donate, please go here.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Tim Koch: Big Green, Little Rowing

 HTBS's Tim Koch writes from London:

A recent addition to YouTube is a 37 minute long promotional film made in 1956 for potential applicants to Dartmouth (the American Ivy League University, not the British naval officer training establishment). It is a charming period piece showing attitudes, manners and modes of dress that would be strongly challenged within ten years. It is very easy to romanticise a time and a place where The American Dream seemed to be flourishing but, after a while, you may notice that there is a distinct lack of women and minorities on campus. However, enough of politics and sociology, what about the really important stuff, i.e. how much rowing is in the film? Sadly, only fifteen seconds. It's a very nice fifteen seconds (at 22.50) but, if that is all Dartmouth thought worth including, I would be applying to Harvard or Yale (or even Brown).

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Two Poems About The Boat Race 7 April, 2012

As it is still April, which means that it is still Poetry Month, today HTBS will post two poems, both about the Oxford–Cambridge Boat Race which was rowed on 7 April, 2012. To be honest, I am not sure if I should called both these writings poems, as only one is written by a real poet, HTBS’s own Poet Laureate of Rowing, Philip Kuepper. The second ‘poem’ is written by, well … ehh, never mind… Enjoy!

Photograph © Hélène Rémond: ‘The End of Boat Race Day’

Rowers, True

The tower of Christ dreamed
As King’s enchoired the evening
At the close of the day of the race.
Dusk brushed gray the river
Where earlier the men had rowed.

Their psyches flowed like rivers in them,
Rivers of memory of what had happened,
Their race, suddenly!,
Blitzed by an anarchist
Throwing himself in the path of their boats,

The smooth river, suddenly!,
A shark-like thrashing of confusion,
The rowers, suddenly!,
Oaring to stillness their boats.
They tread the river with dismay,

The anarchist shark thrashing the river to chaos,
The race attacked, blood spilled,
The heart of the race wounded.
The shark cleared from the river,
The rowers turned, again, to the race,

The order of the day brought
Into a semblance of balance.
Yet anarchy was still
To force its hand,
As an oar’s blade broke,

Depriving one boat of a rower.
Anger, heartbreak rowed in his place.
But the tower of Christ dreamed
As King’s enchoired the evening.
The rowers had crossed

The finish line, regardless,
Rowing their dream to reality.

Philip Kuepper
(April 2012)

Photograph from

The Row of the Brave Eighteen
(with apologies to Alfred, Lord Tennyson)

Two more miles, two more miles,
Two crews go onward,
Upon the water of Thames
Rowed the two brave eights.
‘Forward, the Light Blue crew!
Charge for the Cup!’ cox yelled.
Upon the water of Thames
Rowed the two brave eights.

‘Forward, you Dark Blue crew!’
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the oarsmen knew –
There’s no room for blunder:
They provide no reply,
They’re not to reason why,
They are to row, or die:
Upon the water of Thames
Rowed the two brave eights.

Public to right of them,
Public to left of them,
Public ahead of them,
Voices roll like thunder,
Storm’d at with shout and yell,
Boldly they rowed and well,
Into the snare of Hell,
Into the mocking scene
Rowed the brave eighteen.

Flashing all oars so bare,
Flashing them up in air
Pulling and pulling – ‘there…’
Charging on, no despair,
Then, what a scheme, so mean,
Plunged from the shore, this bloke
Swam in their lane, dimwit!
Brothers of Oxbridge boats
Stopped their huge power stroke.
Stunned by the swimming twit,
They could not row, no more,
Not the brave eighteen.

Launches to right of them,
Launches to left of them,
Chaos all around them.
Stupid act, never seen,
Played out by daft rebel.
Race had been fought so well,
Now fate has cast a spell.
– Garrett, the umpire, said:
‘Crews - ready in your shell!’
Flag is up, flag is down
Go – all brave eighteen!

Two Blue crews, fearless men
Charging the championship course.
Cox orders: ‘Another ten!’
Oarsmen obey with force.
Pulling hard - not too close…
Oars clashing, dark blade lost,
– Seven rowing heroes!
Finish line not yet crossed:
‘Forward, you strong Blue crews!
Soon your pain will be gone.’
Upon the water of Thames
Rowed the two brave eights.

There it is – Chiswick Bridge!
Oxford’s crew now fading,
Though on course, racing still
Bravely they try spurting.
What a race, what a thrill:
Winning boat is Cambridge!
Arms in air, cries of joy;
Then, here comes Oxford’s crew
Slumped on oars – ‘bow’ is down,
So rows a true Blue!
– Ignore the stupid clown –
Clear is the race review:
Upon the water of Thames
Rowed the two brave eights.

When will their glory fade?
O the wild chase they made.
Their gallant show: pristine…
Honour the row they made!
Honour the whole Brigade,
Noble, brave eighteen.

(April 2012)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Greg Denieffe: ‘Hitler Oaks’

Jack Beresford and Dick Southwood: Olympic Champions in the double sculls, Berlin 1936.

Yesterday’s HTBS post, which mentioned rowing legend Jack Beresford, reminded HTBS’s Greg Denieffe about a story. Greg writes,

They were possibly the oddest sporting prizes ever awarded. Along with gold medals, the champions of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin were each presented with an oak sapling by Adolf Hitler.

Many of the 130 oaks disappeared without trace, but others were dispersed around the world and planted in the athletes’ home towns so that they would grow into mighty oaks. Among them was the tree won by Jack Beresford, which he donated to Bedford School. He had been a pupil at Bedford from 1913 to 1917. The sapling was planted in the School grounds and was known as the ‘Hitler Oak’.

Many years later when Bedford School was having some building work carried out, the tree had to be removed. The timber was put to good use, and Dean Abraham, a friend of mine and ex-captain of Milton Keynes Rowing Club, showed me the result in November 2009 which I photographed.

Dean Abraham and his partner in the pairs, D. Pinkney, won the silver medal at the 1989 National Schools Regatta and were subsequently selected to represent England in junior pairs at the Home International Regatta between Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales. The regatta was held on 29 July 1989 and England won the junior pairs in a time of 7.22.28.

Bedford School Presentation Plaque photographed 2 November 2009.

The School made a presentation to the crew to mark their achievements that year and the plaque presented was made with the timber of the ‘Hitler Oak’. The crests are of Bedford School (L) and of the England rowing team (R). The inscription “Home International Champions of Great Britain” is misleading as Ireland is also involved. Each country takes it in turns to host the event which was first held in 1962.

Dean Abraham with his ‘Hitler Oak’ plaque.

The crest of the Home International Ties: from top anti-clockwise: Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Battling Your Demons

Jack Beresford Jr.
One of the world’s best oarsmen in the pre-Steven Redgrave era was the Englishman Jack Beresford Jr. He rowed his first Olympic race already in 1920, 21-years old, in the single sculls. His rival, the American sculler Jack Kelly, won the final, one second ahead of Beresford. The Englishman continued to take an Olympic gold medal in the boat class four years later (when Kelly took a gold in the double sculls together with his cousin, Paul Costello). Beresford then took a silver in the eights in the 1928 Amsterdam Games and another gold in the coxless fours in the 1932 Los Angeles Games. Beresford's most famous race, however, was at the 1936 Olympic regatta in the double sculls where he and his partner Dick Southwood managed to pass the German double with 200 metres to go to the finish line. When Beresford was asked to comment on their amazing come-from-behind victory, he said, a crew “must get a bit of hate into their racing”.

It is maybe easy to understand a ‘hate’ between adult rowers, but how about a deeply felt hate towards another high school or college crew, where one crew takes to the water in a regatta with the intent to totally crush all the competitors? Where it is not really a competition, but a war between the boats? Forget Coubertin’s ideal that the important thing is to take part, not to win - victory is everything!

This is not, however, the way my coach taught us young boys to row at my Swedish rowing club in Malmö. We boys were messing about in boats because it was fun. Some of us did compete - my first competition was a 4,5-kilometre race in a coxed inrigger four around the canal in Malmö (yes, we did win). But while my friends rose to become stars in the sport, becoming Swedish champions and representing Sweden in the Nordic Championships and the World Championships, I never excelled at the oar. Maybe my lack of ‘success’ had to do with my meager approach to winning, and that I was a ‘non-competitor’?

The Canadian Jason Dorland used to have a tough approach to rowing which started already in high school: at every race he and his teammates went to war, he writes in his well-written Chariots and Horses: Life Lessons from an Olympic Rower (2011), which HTBS has mentioned earlier. Jason really hated his competitors, he was in the boat to kill them. How did they dare to race against him, trying to take away his and his crew’s victory? Jason trained hard and worked his way up to the top of Canadian rowing, all the way to representing his country at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. The Canadian men’s eight was the reigning Olympic champions from 1984, with four of the crew members in the 1988 eight.  The 24-year-old Jason was the newcomer, the youngest, lightest, and the last man to be picked for the 1988 Olympic crew.

Canada made it to the Olympic final via a repechage heat. At the start for the final, the world's best eights were lined up: Australia, USA, West Germany, Russia, Great Britain, and Canada. The Germans had been delayed at the start due to problems with some equipment, but when all the boats were ready, Jason had worked himself up to a real fighting mood. He had waited 15 years for this moment to take an Olympic gold medal, he writes in his book, so to hell with the rest of the crews. When the boats were off, Jason thought their boat felt ‘heavy and sluggish’. At the 250-metre mark, the Canadians were in the lead together with the Germans. But as Jason and his teammates pulled and pulled the boat got heavier and heavier – no speed, no nothing. They were rapidly losing ground. At 1,000-metre, the Canadian boat was fifth and fading. The Germans crossed the finish line first followed by the Russians, then the Americans, the Brits, the Aussies, and dead last, Canada. The photograph on the cover of Chariots and Horses of the Canadian eight tells everything.

See parts of the race below:

What happened? That was the question that everyone asked. Jason did not have any answers, nor was he willing to discuss the crew’s ‘failure’, as it was called in the Canadian press, with anyone, not even his family. For Jason, going to the Olympics had not been to represent his country or to race the best in the world – it was about winning medals. He did not only feel anger, but he also felt, he writes, “another emotion, one that I would struggle with for years to come – shame.”

That was one of the reasons Jason more or less fled Canada to become a rowing coach in Australia for a year, but the move did not help much; he just turned from an angry rower into an angry coach, teaching the ‘killer’ mentality that only winning counts. He continued to teach rowing this way also when he returned to Canada, and also for a short stint a junior girls’ volleyball team.

But he had to somehow show everyone that he was not a loser, and the only way he knew how to was to start training rowing again on an elite level. This time the Canadian men’s team was trained by Mike Spracklen, the British low-keyed, soft-spoken former coach of Steven Redgrave. At a training camp in spring 1990, Jason did not do well, and had to cut it short due to catching the flu. Sometime thereafter, he decided to stop trying to make the National team. (The Canadian men’s eight, with Spracklen as coach, took an Olympic gold medal at Barcelona with some of the oarsmen from the 1988 eight.)

The decision to stop rowing on an elite level was not easy for Jason, nor did it really give him peace in his mind. He was still a bitter young man, and he still behaved like a jerk, he says in his book. Still riding his demons, he started dating a young lady, Robyn Meager, who was an elite runner. Jason was appalled, however, when he heard her approach for competing at the Commonwealth Games: “I will give it my best shot and see what happens.” How could anyone on a top level have the approach of a six-year-old”, he asks. “Give it your best shot? You’ve got to be kidding.”

Jason Dorland
After fifteen years of being hunted by the demons of losing that 1988 Olympic race, Jason started to come around, mostly watching his then fiancée, later wife, Robyn’s attitude towards her running races. It helped him to drop the ‘macho approach’ and coach his rowers at the Shawnigan Lake School to have fun rowing; he did not even mention the word ‘winning’ during the students’ practice.

I have to be honest and say that I was a little skeptical when I began reading Jason Dorland’s book, only because it was labelled ‘life lessons’ on the cover. I guess I was afraid it was going to be another of those books that would like you to run your life as if you were an elite athlete and your career was a sport competition; instead Jason’s Chariots and Horses is the opposite. This book is not a handbook in the art of coaching rowing, but it has many different levels about how to handle failures (yours and others), how to recognise and overcome your demons, and how to inspire and give young people a healthy approach to competing and keeping the spirit high even though they are not the first ones to cross the finish line.

Jason is sometimes brutally honest, mostly about his own short-comings, but that way his writing rings more true to what he has to say about competing and struggling on the highest of sport levels. Although, I maybe cannot truly imagine how Jason felt as an ‘Olympic failure’, his writing reminds me of some of my own short-comings in other fields during my life and how painful they were then (and sometimes still are when I am reminded of them). Jason’s book made me reflect on and remember how parts of your life are not battles to win, but episodes to go through still with your head held high. It is important to keep in mind for the upcoming Olympics this summer!

When Jason’s senior men’s eight from the Shawnigan Lake School, in the end of his tale, for the first time wins the national championship, Jason and everyone around him, including the crew, weep of emotion. When I put the book down, I realised that my cheeks were wet, too. A good read it was!

Go to Jason Dorland’s website to read more about his book and how to order it.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

'Gloriana' Launched

Yesterday, the 88-foot Gloriana, the custom-built 18-oar-powered vessel, which will lead the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant for Queen Elizabeth II on 3 June, was launched onto the River Thames at Isleworth, the Daily Telegraph shows in a video here. Lord Sterling, who has organised the project, told the paper: “I think it has come out even better than we had thought. You’ve got this combination of 21st century-technology plus the skills which have been there for thousands of years in building a boat of this type.”

Bobby Pearce Olympic Gold Medals To Be Auctioned Off At Bonhams

On 4 April, HTBS wrote about an interesting sale at the auction house Bonhams in London. It was Frederick Septimus Kelly’s 1905 Pineapple Trophy Goblet (Diamond Challenge Sculls at Henley Royal Regatta), which was sold for £3,800 (exclusive of premium and VAT).

Bobby Pearce at the 1932 Olympic Games.   
In time for the Olympic Games in London this summer, on 24 July, Bonhams will be holding an Olympic Games sale and among the many sport treasures will be a lot including Henry ‘Bobby’ Pearce’s Olympic gold medals in the single sculls from Amsterdam in 1928 and Los Angles in 1932, and other rowing memorabilia which belonged to him.

Bobby Pearce (1905-1976) began to row early, having rowing in his blood. His grandfather, Harry Pearce, Sr., was Australian sculling champion and so was his father, Harry Pearce Jnr., who also tried, unsuccessfully, to become professional World Sculling Champion, racing Dick Arnst in 1911 and Ernest Barry in 1913. Bobby Pearce turned professional after the 1932 Olympic Games, taking the world title in 1933 by beating Ted Phelps.

In an interview Bobby Pearce’s son, Bobby Jnr., said about the sale: “This is a remarkable archive of Olympic and Australian memorabilia, paying homage to my father’s great sporting achievements. I would hope that a suitable home for this collection could be found in Australia.”

At the Bonhams auction Bobby Pearce medals and his other rowing memorabilia will appear with a pre-sale estimate of £30,000-50,000. It is very likely to bring in much more. Catalogue will be available four weeks before the auction. Go to Bonhams here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Triton Gets A New Four

Three weeks ago, Johan ten Berg, oarsman and editor of the brilliant book about the regatta Holland Beker, sent me a short e-mail with an interesting photograph. On Saturday, 31 March, Johan’s rowing club USR Triton in Utrecht had an event where a new coxed four was inaugurated. The new boat was given the name Prof dr. Gerard ‘t Hooft after club member Professor Gerard ‘t Hooft, Nobel Prize winner in Physics (1999), whom HTBS has written about earlier. Johan’s photograph shows Professor Gerard ‘t Hooft baptizing the new shell.

HTBS hopes the boat will serve USR Triton well for many years!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

He Who Rowed

He Who Rowed

He would cast wide
His net of rowing.
He imagined his shell a needle
Mending one vast
Net of bodies of water:
The harbor at Stockholm;
The estuary of the Thames;
The mouth of the Seine;
The strait at Istanbul;
The bay at San Francisco;
The rivers of America:
Columbia, Missouri,
Mississippi, Ohio,
Monongahela, the Delaware,
These the net in his mind he would cast
As having rowed,
And in the deep
Gray years of being, cast
Wide across his memory,
Cast wide across the satisfied
Smile of his memory.

Philip Kuepper
(February 2012)

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Speech of Rowing

The Speech of Rowing

Big Ben’s bell booms
Along the rolling Thames,
Pacing the rower as he sweeps past
The Embankment beneath the Eye,
The ever watchful Eye,
Turning, turning,
Causing Yeats’s falcon fly
Into his mind. Turner clouds billow high
Above the rower, towards the open ocean,
Drawing the rower’s heart onward
Along the bell-booming Thames,
The barge-clogged Thames,
Clouds that billow into the air
And are gone. Through the rower’s mind
Ben’s bell booms a rhythm
Pacing him, each stroke in synch
With the bell’s clear tongue
That speaks a language the angels spend
Their time translating
Between God and man;
Ben’s bell booming the Thames
And the rower one,
Past the Tower built of anguish stone
Toward the open ocean,
The Eye ever turning, turning.

Philip Kuepper
(February 2012)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

To Row The Seine

To Row the Seine

She rowed the Seine
Each time she needed
To return to her personal
Center of gravity.
There she could row
Through all that stood unmoving
On land, row through the shadow
Of the Eiffel Tower,
For an instant shivering it
Into slivers of shadow;
And the bridges, Pont Alexandre,
Pont des Artes,
Ages, solid,
Shadows she slivered to pieces
By the wake of her shell.
Rowing awakened her to herself,
Awakened her from the sleep
Of being land-bound,
Awakened in her the Marianne
Of her heritage. Rowing,
She came closest to being,
And being who only she was.

Philip Kuepper
(March 2012)

April - Poetry Month!

Dear readers of HTBS,

This is a little reminder that April is Poetry Month, which means that we have a few days of rowing poetry ahead of us on HTBS. I hope you will enjoy the poems. ~ GRB

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The College Rower

The College Rower
(For Oliver St. John Gogarty)

Jesus, at first light,
Shivered, collectively,
Standing next the river
Gauzed in fog,

Buck Mulligan thinking to dip his oar
In Heraclitus’s river,
River streaming Joycean time,
River gauzed

In the fog of departure,
The fog of return,
Ulysses pulling his stopwatch
From the pocket of his voyage

To time the time
It takes to take
Him to row the tolling
Thames from Putney to Mortlake,

Row the Irish
Sea all the way to the azure
Ionian, where he will morph
Back into Odysseus,

Row the fog-gauzed
River of Existence,
Odysseus, Ulysses, Jesus,
Row the tolling river until

They break through
The dimension of time.

Philip Kuepper
(March 2012)

See also entries on Oliver St. John Gogarty’s son Dermot.

Friday, April 13, 2012

A "Bert And Dickie" Update

In the bow Matt Smith as Bert Bushnell and Sam Hoare as Dickie Burnell in the upcoming BBC film Bert and Dickie.
As some of you readers of HTBS might remember, last August we had a few blog posts about the upcoming BBC One film Bert and Dickie about Bert Bushnell and Richard ‘Dickie’ Burnell and their triumph in the double sculls race on the Henley course at the 1948 Olympic regatta. After only training together for six weeks, they managed to become Olympic champions, giving Great Britain one of two Olympic gold medals in rowing events in 1948 (the second British gold went to Ran Laurie and Jack Wilson in the coxless pairs).

On Wednesday evening, there was a private screening of the movie for the involved families, the Bushnells, Burnells, and Beresfords, Sue Bushnell, daughter of Bert, writes to HTBS. Sue continues,

“The rowing scenes are beautifully shot, Matt Smith [playing Bert Bushnell] gives a mesmerising performance and I was particularly moved by the scene where Jack Kelly Jnr., shares his plentiful rations of steaks and cheesecake with his British hosts and fellow Olympians. […]  I think the film will be a great success and be of interest to rowing fans and laymen alike.”

Matt Smith is portraying Bert Bushnell and Sam Hoare is Dickie Burnell. Other cast members are James Frain impersonating five-time Olympian Jack Beresford Jnr., who was an Olympic official at the 1948 Olympic regatta, Douglas Hodge is playing Bert’s father, John Bushnell, and Geoffrey Palmer stars as Dickie’s father, Charles Burnell, who took an Olympic gold medal in the eights in 1908.

As of now, there is no official date when Bert and Dickie is going to air on BBC One, but it’s likely to happen in May or June. Of course, HTBS will keep you updated. While we wait, here is a BBC trailer with upcoming films on BBC, with a few seconds of Bert and Dickie (and a few seconds with Sir Steve, too).

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Facts About Wally...

Two great scullers, Ernest Barry and Wally Kinnear
The other day, someone left a comment on an old entry about William ‘Wally’ Kinnear of Kensington Rowing Club, who hundred years ago became Olympic champion in the single sculls at the Stockholm Games. The question is short: ‘Does anyone know how tall Wally was and what he weighed at his peak?’

The question goes to HTBS’s Tim Koch, rowing historian and member of Auriol Kensington RC in London. Tim, who right now is doing research and will produce a 5,000 word piece about Wally in time for the centenary of his Olympic win, writes,

Wally’s weights given in the Henley programmes were 12 stone 10 pounds for 1910 and 12 6 for 1911 and 12 5 for 1912. I do not think he was much over 6 foot (his oldest son was 6'4''). I have downloaded WDK’s Service Record from the First World War. As he was 36 when he enlisted in 1916, he served in England as a lorry driver for the Royal Naval Air Service. In 1918 the RNAS was amalgamated with the Royal Flying Corps to form the Royal Air Force. Thus he served with the Royal Navy and the RAF. The record says height - 6 foot and 1/2 inch, chest - 40 inches (not big!), hair - brown, eyes - blue, complexion - fresh. The attached picture above shows that he did not possess the biggest legs that sculling has ever seen.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Murder In The Boat

Why are there so few novels about rowing? I really do not know. Maybe it is because most authors do not know enough about our sport to even allow a small part of their novels to be about a rower, a regatta, or a boat race. Of course, there are some novels and short stories which have rowing in them, and a few have been mentioned earlier on HTBS, fiction stories by Eric Linklater, Jeffrey Archer, Rudie Lehmann, David Winser, and Robert Swartwout. A novella, which is more or less all about rowing, was written by the Dutch author H. M. van den Brink, Over het water (1998; English translation by Paul Vincent On the Water, 2001); eventually there will be an entry about this brilliant little book here on HTBS.

Swartwout and Winser, who both had participated in the Boat Race, Swartwout in 1930, and Winser in 1935, 1936, and 1937, wrote crime stories with rowing. It is actually in this literary genre we do find some rowing.

What kind of weapon is then used in a ‘rowing crime story’? Well, an oar, of course. An oar is a deadly weapon in for example Patricia Highsmith’s famous novel The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955), where the utterly disturbed swindler Tom Ripley whacks his acquaintance Dickie Greenlef over the head with an oar when they are out boating. Now, mind you, they are not out in a racing shell or even a rowing dinghy, but a motor launch.

However, in Carola Dunn’s Dead in the Water (1998), the female amateur sleuth Daisy Dalrymple is at the 1923 Henley Royal Regatta to cover the races for an American magazine. Dalrymple suddenly finds herself in the middle of a murder case when Basil DeLancey, the boorish and unsympathetic stroke in the eight and coxless four of the fictional Oxford college, Ambrose, suddenly dies.  Just after the start in the Visitors’ Cup, DeLancey stops rowing, clutches his head, vomits in the water, wobbles in the boat and falls into the river – dead. His collapse and passing are due to an earlier blow to his head with an oar.

Again, in another crime story, The River Killings (2006), by Merry Jones, the oar is used to try to murder a rower, the main character, Zoe Hayes. Unlike Dunn’s Dalrymple, Hayes is not an amateur sleuth, though both Dalrymple and Hayes have detectives as boyfriends. Hayes is a novice rower at Humberton Barge, a fictional rowing club at Boathouse Row on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. When she is out practicing an evening on the river with her best friend, Susan Cummings, one of Susan’s sculls get caught in something floating in the water – it is a woman’s dress. Their double scull capsizes, and Hayes and Cummings end up in the water. There they make the cruel discovery that they are surrounded by nineteen dead bodies, all Asian women. These poor women have fallen victim of human trafficking.

In Baltimore Blues (1997) Laura Lippman’s character Tess Monagham, a member of the Baltimore Rowing Club, had put herself in a bad situation after she had promised to snoop around to help her fellow club member and friend, “Rock” Paxton, who is a suspect in a murder case. She managed to get away from the killer by giving him three good whacks with an oar inside the boat house, whereupon she threw herself in the river to escape being shot. 

Rowing is not a major theme in Baltimore Blues, nor is it in Murder on the Ballarat Train (1991) by crime writer Kerry Greenwood, whose Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher is another lady detective solving mysteries and murders in 1920s Australia. For those who know their Olympic rowing history, the book title gives a rowing connotation as the 1956 Olympic rowing regatta was held on Lake Wendouree in the suburbs of the town of Ballarat. On board the train to Ballarat, where a hideous murder has been committed, is Phryne Fisher and, amongst the other passengers, a rowing team from Melbourne University. Phryne Fisher starts a sexual relationship with one of the young oarsmen in the boat, Lindsay Herbert. Greenwood’s description of their sexual encounters is an embarrassing read.

If her book had been published two years later, in 1993, I am sure her book would have been on the first short-list of one of the world’s most unwanted literary awards: The Bad Sex in Fiction Award, which is an annual prize for the novel with the worst description of the sexual act. It was established in 1993 by the literary critic Rhoda Koenig and Evelyn Waugh’s son, Auberon Waugh, then the editor of the British magazine, Literary Review. The literary magazine is still handing out this award every year to a displeased recipient.

Just as Swartwout and Winser have an Oxbridge ‘boat race theme’ in their stories, so has Victoria Blake in her Cutting Blades (2005). Blake’s novel begins with Harry Cameron, the very talented Oxford stroke, who suddenly goes missing some weeks before the Boat Race. Harry is loyal to the crew, but he is also devoted to his twin brother, Dave, who constantly gets himself into trouble. The Oxford coach hires Sam Falconer, a female private investigator, to try to find Harry. A side-line in Blake’s story is that Sam’s father, an ex-SAS soldier who everyone thought was dead, precipitously shows up. He is chased by some British government agents who are trying to kill him before he reveals some shady stuff that he and some other SAS soldiers were ordered to do during the conflict in Northern Ireland. There is also a third parallel story in this novel, when Sam’s nasty neighbour is hiring her for protection. Too many plots? No, not really. I think that Blake handles it very well up to a certain point.

Edmund Crispin
In the beginning, I could not put the book down. However, like some rowing races, it starts out superbly well, but with the last 500 metres to go, say with one fourth left of this well-written book, it just runs right into the wall. There is no more power to add, and the novel only just slides across the finish line with a totally wiped-out Victoria Blake, barely holding on to the sculls. It is sad, really…

I find it odd that it seems to be only women writing crime stories with rowing nowadays.Writing this little essay, I was hoping to find a 'rowing story' by Agatha Cristie, but her short story “The Regatta Mystery” (1939) is not about rowing, it only hints at a yachting regatta. Not even Dorothy L. Sayers allows Lord Peter Wimsey to solve a rowing mystery, nor does Edmund Crispin’s Oxford don, Cervase Fen. I am desperately trying to remember which episode of Inspector Morse had scenes at one of the Oxford colleges’ boathouses, but I am not sure if these scenes are only in the tv-series and not in Colin Dexter’s novels about Morse. Is there anyone who knows?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Alex Woods On The Mend

HTBS is happy to hear that Dr. Alexander Woods, Oxford’s bow man who collapsed after the Dark Blues crossed the finish line at the Boat Race last Saturday, is on the mend. In a statement Dr. Woods says:

"I’d like to thank everybody for all of their concern and for their kind wishes over the last couple of days, it really does mean a lot. I’m sorry for causing any worry! I am pleased to say that I am on the mend and that the doctors have allowed me to return home to recover. I should be fine in a few days.

"I’d like to thank the paramedics, Dr Sichel, 1st Response Medical Services, the St John’s Ambulance staff and everyone at A+E and the Cardiology unit at Charing Cross Hospital for their great care. I hope that I can reach the same standards when I qualify.

“I’m very proud of Zoe and all of the guys. I feel privileged to have lived, trained and raced with them and it has been an honour to call them my crew mates. It is a shame that we’ll finish this year having never raced the whole Boat Race course together.

“I don’t remember anything of the Race after being aware of the blade breaking, and am obviously devastated at the way things turned out, but would like to congratulate CUBC for their win.

“I have contacted their crew and Steve Trapmore personally, to say that I’m very sorry that my collapse prevented their celebrations, and to thank them for thinking of me at the time.

“Such sportsman-like behaviour is a real credit to all of their crew and everyone at CUBC. Although The Boat Race 2012 will be remembered for a number of unfortunate reasons, I hope it is some of these qualities that will keep the Race in people’s minds for years to come.”

So speaks a true sportsman and gentleman!

Monday, April 9, 2012

April Is The Cruellest Month

Even now, two days after the 2012 Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge, I have to confess that I am still feeling anger, sadness, and bewilderment thinking of ‘the swimming man’, who took upon himself to stop this annual and traditional sport event due to selfishness to get his own murky political agenda exposed before the eyes of millions and millions of people. This was truly an act of a very disturbed man, whose name should not be mentioned here, nor should his political statement.

On Saturday, 7 April, both my HTBS-fellow-in-arms, Tim Koch, and I read something on the eminent blog RowingRelated written by our clever colleague Bryan Kitch. Bryan’s article is very much worth reading as it is, in Tim’s words, ‘eloquent, articulate and well thought out’, and so is Oxford’s two-seat man, William Zeng’s words which Bryan is quoting in his article.

Read “Op-Ed: Thoughts on The 2012 Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race" 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

What Did The Papers Write?

(Photograph & copyright: Hélène Rémond)

As you all know by now, Cambridge won yesterday’s 158th Boat Race, which was one-of-a-kind. Here is what different newspapers and bloggers wrote:

Rowing Voice (Chris Dodd)

The Guardian (staff writer)

The Guardian (Andy Bull)

The Daily Telegraph (Patrick Sawer & Edward Malnick)

The Daily Telegraph (Rachel Quarrell)

The Independent (Emily Dugan):

The Daily Mail

The Boat Race Live Text (Martin Gough)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Hélène Rémond: What A Historic Race!

Winners of the 158th Boat Race - Cambridge. Photographs & copyright: Hélène Rémond)

HTBS’s Hélène Rémond writes from the finish line of today’s remarkable race between Oxford and Cambridge, ‘That it was a memorable race. The most dramatic in the Boat Race’s history, according to many people’. Hélène continues to write,

Before joining the Mortlake Anglian & Alpha Boat Club for the finish, I spent a few hours in Putney where I met Cambridge spare pair Sam Troughton and Danny Longman, respectively stroke and bow.

After they had been interviewed by ESPN Brazil, they told me that it was their first year taking part in the Boat Race preparation. They have made progress this year, though it is frustrating not to be part of it, they said. The duo hope to be able to take part in the Boat Race next year.

By now everyone knows what happened during the race: a stupid swimmer with a political issue* stopped the race. After the restart, the blades clashed and Oxford lost a blade – and that was the end of it for the Dark Blues.

Alex Woods, the bow man in Oxford’s boat, collapsed at the finish line and had to have medical attention before he was taken to Charing Cross Hospital. He is now in a stable condition and will be OK. Due to what happened to Woods, it was decided there would not be a prize ceremony or speech by Mayor Boris Johnson, nor a presentation of the crews.

Sir Matthew Pinsent’s face reveals the atmosphere. Pinsent said it was a fantastic race, an exciting afternoon, ‘but not a normal race and it’s a shame'.

The Cambridge rowers came to the press office and Steve Dudek talked to Martin Gough, who was working with Live Text on the Boat Race website.

Alex Davidson was overwhelmed by emotions at the finish.

Zoe and stroke Roel are comforting each other.

*HTBS editor has decided to not mention the swimmer's name, nor his political agenda to not further give him the media attention he seeks.