Photograph: Werner Schmidt

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pageant Post Script

Ops, yesterday I forgot to add this very useful link to my HTBS post from the website CITYA.M. – showing everything you need to know about Sunday’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the River Thames. So, sorry, and here you are….. here!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Royal River Pageants In 1919 & 1953

On 3 June, the Diamond Jubilee Pageant for Queen Elizabeth II will be held on the River Thames, which HTBS has written about earlier. I guess, a lot of the crews of the boats and vessels which are going to take part in this Pageant for the Queen have been practicing ‘tossing the oars’. If you do not know what that means, take a look at the following film clip from 1919 from, I think, the ‘Peace Pageant’ with the Royal Barge on the Thames. Coming in to dock, the Royal Watermen are tossing their oars.


 Queen Elizabeth had her first River Pageant as the Sovereign in 1953, and of course the Royal Watermen where present. It is said that the oars the Watermen are holding have not been used since 1919 for the ‘Peace Pageant’.


Good luck to all you 'Oar Tossers' on the 3rd!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Two Distinguished Awards

Last Saturday, 26 May, the International Rowing Federation, FISA, presented rowing’s highest distinction, the 2012 Thomas Keller Medal, to the sculler Vaclav Chalupa, not only a legend in his home country the Czech Republic, but also in the rowing world. Chalupa was awarded the 18-carat gold medal at the “Lucerne Rowing Night”, a regatta gala dinner held during the 2012 Samsung World Rowing Cup II in Switzerland.

FISA writes on their website: “Chalupa made competitive rowing his life. A veteran of five Olympic Games, Chalupa spent the majority of his 20-year rowing career racing in the men’s single sculls. His Olympic silver medal, won at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games, his five World Championship silver medals (from 1989, 1990, 1991, 1993 and 2009), and three World Championship bronze medals (from 1995, 1998 and 2001) drove him to continually strive for the elusive gold. He would strive for over two decades and during that time became known for his modesty, selflessness and enthusiasm for the sport.”

Chalupa, known to have been a fighter on the race course, but a gentleman off the water, actually never won a gold medal at a World Championship or at an Olympic Regatta. During his many years competing, he mostly had to struggle on his own with little support from his country. However, Chalupa’s fighting spirit inspirited other Czech rowers of today of whom the most famous are Ondrej Synek, world champion in the men’s single sculls in 2010, and Mirka Knapkova, world champion in the women’s single sculls in 2011.

Read more about Vaclav Chalupa on FISA’s website.

Last week, another distinguished award was presented at Harvard University to Crimson Head Coach, Harry Parker, who received the Harvard Medal for his extraordinary service to the university. Parker has served as rowing coach at Harvard for 50 years! Read more here.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The 147th Y-H Regatta - A Foreign Affair?

While we are used to reading that a large number of the Oxford and Cambridge crews are non-Brits, I think it came as a big surprise, at least to many of us, that nowadays there are also a lot of foreign oarsmen travelling in the reverse direction across the pond. This was stated in an article published in January this year in The Economist, which was brought up in an entry on HTBS on 18 January.

After the Yale-Harvard Regatta last Saturday, it might interest the HTBS readers to know how many non-American oarsmen (coxswains included*) are named in the Yale and Harvard rowing Varsity and Freshman programmes. According to the names of the rowers and coxes and their hometowns/‘High Schools’ given in the 147th Regatta Programme, among the 33 oarsmen in the Yale programme, eight are from abroad: three from Australia, one from New Zealand, two from England, one from Germany, and one from South Africa. 24% of the rowing Bulldogs come from overseas. Harvard has an even higher percentage of non-American rowers in their programme. Of the 60 oarsmen, 24 come from foreign countries: seven from Australia, three from New Zealand, nine from England, one from Scotland, one from Germany, and three from Canada, making 40% of the Crimson Ausländischer!

The percent is even higher if we take a closer look at the two Varsity crews: of the nine crew members in Yale’s boat, five came from abroad (55.5%), and six of the nine in Harvard’s boat were non-Americans (66.7%).

So, what do these statistics actually show? To be honest, I am not really sure. Maybe there is great financial aid at American universities for foreign scholars who can handle an oar, especially in an Olympic year like this, when the best of the best American oarsmen are out chasing an Olympic seat?

*Among the coxswains in the Varsity and Freshman programmes at both Yale and Harvard are also a few women.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Harvard Takes Everything At The 147th Regatta

Clean sweep for Harvard again
While Yale's coach Steve Gladstone is in his second season as rowing Head Coach at Yale, Head Coach for Harvard's rowers, Harry Parker, is in his 50th season, an unbeatable record. Harvard's varsity crew has had a great season although they lost to Brown by 0.3 sec. at the Sprints (see RowingRelated May 17). This showed that Crimsons were not unbeatable, but did the Bulldogs have what it would take to overpower them today at the 147th Yale-Harvard Regatta that was held on the Thames River in New London? The answer is simply: no!

All three Yalies' boats were not really at any time during the Freshman's Race, the Second Varsity Race (also called the Junior Varsity Race), and the Varsity Race close to giving Harvard's crews a match. Not that the Bulldogs' boats did not put up a fight, they did, but in vain. And, the Freshman race proved to be a thriller.

Yale Varsity crew was several lengths behind over the line.
Today's races were rowed downstream, which means that the finish line was just under the Gold Star Bridge, which allows the spectators to stand on the shore very close to the finish line (although to find this spectator spot you have to have high skills in navigation to maneuver your car down this industrial area which resembles mostly a dump). With almost 1/2 mile to go from under the bridge we on-lookers suddenly saw how both Freshman crews were stopped by the umpires flag. What is going on we all wondered? Was this a repeat of the now famous Oxford-Cambridge Race on 7 April? Was there a terrorist in the water?

No, nothing that bad, but a power-boat had, though the river was closed for boating while the races were on, managed to speed-up and created waves that totally drenched the Bulldogs' boat and water-logged it totally (there were also some jet-skiers around making a mess of the water...). The race was stopped, so that Yale's oarsmen could row in to the Coast Guard's dock to empty out their boat from water. The race was then restarted with a 1/2 mile to go and with Harvard 1 1/2 boat lengths ahead of Yale as the situation was when the race was stopped. Crimsons crossed the finish line slightly more than 1 1/2 ahead of Yale.

With the victory for Harvard's Varsity eight, Harry Parker now has 43 won and 7 lost races against Yale. Harvard Varsity leads with a total of 93 victories, Yale 54.

Few spectators had gathered to watch the races this year.
I am afraid this regatta is never a well attended rowing event, and this year it seemed less people were around than last time the races were rowed downstream (in 2009). Although, the regatta is a 'private' match between six boats, it would be fun to see more people watching the races, especially as rowing and sculling are on the rise along the Connecticut shoreline and other waterways. Of course, both Harvard and Yale have to try to promote the regatta better on their websites, so 'outsiders' who are not on the e-mail lists or have no grapevine to listen to know where and when this old regatta is taking place.

Winning times for Harvard's crews:
Freshman Race (2 miles): 10:25.6 (combined time)
Second Varsity (3 miles): 14:55.5
Varsity (4 miles): 19:41.3

Waiting for the next race.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Greece Olympic Gold Medal In Rowing?

A year ago, I ended up receiving a lot of free magazines and one free newspaper. An airline company which I used to fly with sent me an offer to use up all my frequent flyer miles by getting a year’s free subscription to several magazines. To be honest, I would not spend my money on subscribing to most of the magazines that were offered, but suddenly the publications began to arrive with the postman. Though I flipped through as many and as quickly as I could, most of them ended up in piles in a corner of the dining room before they finally made it out in the street for the recycling truck to pick them up.

Of course, there were a couple of exceptions, one of them being the New York Observer. This weekly newspaper is more libertine than The New York Times, to say the least. And while some of the articles in the Observer’s sometimes go ‘overboard’ in their free-spirit fashion of describing people’s lifestyles and sex lives, I enjoy reading the well-written pieces on books, films, and theatre performances, although, I can not really remember last time we travelled to the big city for a show.

Allan Massie
In the current issue, 21 may, 2012, there is an article by Drew Grant, a young, up-and-coming reporter, and her article, ‘To Slur, With Love?’, is about ‘Ironic racism: portent of white backlash, or just a little Taki-ness?’. The latter, ‘Taki’, is referring to Taki Theodoracopulos, a right-wing publicist, journalist, and writer, who is known for his racist and ethnic slurs, or his slip-of-the-tongue remarks about Blacks and Jews. He has been writing his ‘High Life’ column in the British Spectator since 1977, and still does, and it was there I first read his pieces. However, I never bought the magazine to read what Taki had done with some of his jet-setting playboy friends at the Riviera, instead I purchased the Spectator for the ‘Low Life’ column written by the inimitable drunk, Jeffrey Bernard, who died in September 1997. (I could write a long essay about Bernard and the extremely funny play Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell by Keith Waterhouse, but this is not the right forum). If I come across the Spectator today, which is getting harder and harder as not that many book chains carry the magazine in the USA, I buy it if there is a piece by Scottish writer Allan Massie.

So, why am I writing about Taki on HTBS then? In Grant’s article she writes that “His father, in addition to being an Olympic gold medalist in rowing, was a shipping baron.” This information came as a surprise to me because last time I checked the different nations’ lists of Olympic gold medallists, no Greek crew has ever taken a gold medal at any of the official Olympic Games (but Greece took a bronze in the men’s lightweight double sculls in 2004 and a silver in the same class in 2008). I do not know where Grant got the wrong information, maybe she mixed up the different event or sport?

Tug-of-war, Olympic sport in Stockholm in 1912.
There is also another slim explanation, which literally came to me in the form of an e-mail from Mrs. B. She sent me a link to The New York Times, an article about odd Olympic sports that only made it at one or two Games, like softball, cricket, tug-of-war, and rowing in naval 16-oared gigs. The latter race was held in the so called 1906 Intercalated Games, or 1906 Olympic Games, in Athens. In the gig class, the Greek Team Poros won the gold. Let us say that Taki’s father was in the winning crew, and he was twenty years old, thirty-one years later, 1937, Taki was born – not impossibly, but not very likely, I think. Of course, then we can also consider the fact that the Games in 1906 are not recognised as official Olympic Games anymore.

The question, whether Taki’s father was a gold medallist in rowing or not, I will leave open. However, I would like to point out that Taki’s online magazine, Taki Magazine, which brands itself as “a Libertarian webzine”, and is run by his daughter, Mandolyna Theodoracopulos, actually had a rowing article published in April, and although most of the articles in Taki’s Magazine are not my cup of tea (or in Taki’s case, champagne), I do approve of the content in “Elitism Leads to Tyrannically Whiny Protesters” by John M. Clarke Jr. Of course, HTBS also wrote about this incident, several times, as a matter of fact.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Blue Or Red?

Is the famous Rock going to be painted red or blue this year?
This coming Saturday, 26 May, it is the 147th regatta between Yale and Harvard. Once again the races are going to be held on the Thames River in New London, Connecticut. The first race, for freshmen, is at 3 p.m., the second race, for junior varsity, is at 3:45 p.m., and the main event, between the two varsity crews, is at 4:45 p.m. All three races are going to be rowed downstream.

If you are not able to watch these races, again you will be saved by the broadcast on WKNL Kool 101 (100.9) and As usual, Charlie Hamlin (Harvard '70) and Yale lightweight coach Andy Card will provide commentary from the water.

Read what the Bulldogs has on the website about the regatta, here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tim Koch: The Great Eight

Three of the Eight: Ondrej Synek, Warren Anderson, and Mahe Drysdale. Photo: Row2K
Tim Koch writes from London:

HTBS is presently speculating about the make up of the perfect crew. In 2009 however, British international coach Bill Barry did not just dream about a ‘Great Eight’, he made it happen. In what must have been an enormous feat of organization (British sculler Alan Campbell told the BBC that ‘it took three years to pull this project together’), he assembled the following crew of great Olympic and World Championship scullers:

Bow - Tim Maeyens (Belgium, 4th in 2008 Olympic final)
2 - Andre Vonarburg (Switzerland, 9th overall in 2008 Olympics)
3 - Alan Campbell (Britain, 5th in 2008 Olympic Final)
4 - Marcel Hacker (Germany, bronze, 2000 Olympics & 7th overall in 2008 Olympics)
5 - Mahe Drysdale (New Zealand, bronze, Beijing 2008; three times world champion)
6 - Olaf Tufte (Norway, Olympic champion 2008, 2004)
7 - Ondrej Synek (Czech, silver, 2008 Olympics)
Stroke - Iztok Cop (Slovenia, gold in 2x, 2000 Olympics & silver in 2x, 2004 Olympics)

Bill Barry
In March 2009, the ‘dream team’ had their first test, rowing against that year’s Cambridge crew on a 2.5 km course from Putney to Hammersmith. In assembling fantasy crews that will never actually come together, the practicalities of such an exercise are never factored in. In the real world, Cambridge had been together for five months, the Champions had only five practice sessions. Also, the Light Blues were training to peak at the Boat Race a week later while their opposition were training to peak (individually) at the World Championships which was five months away. Some people speculated that the sort of individual that was attracted to competing in the single scull would not make a good crew rower.

Olaf Tufte
In the first of two races the more practiced boat predictably had a better start and won by 2/3 of a length. In the second race it at first looked as if it would be a rerun of the first but it is dangerous to make highly competitive people angry and, with better rhythm and two monster pushes, the Great Eight reached Hammersmith Bridge first. Olaf Tufte told the BBC’s Martin Gough:

“I didn’t expect to crush anyone…. They’ve been together for six months, they’re well-organised and they’re timing is good…. If you’d given our boat a couple of months, we’d definitely be the best [in the world] but rowing in an eight is about much more than power.”

New Zealand TV made this nice video here:

Ali Williams. Photo: flyby
A few days later, Barry’s eight went off at number five in the Head of the River Race on the Thames Championship Course. In their sights were the Leander crew who went off first and who included five Beijing medallists. The theory that single scullers cannot form a crew was dashed when the Great Eight went ‘Head of the river’, four seconds faster than the boys from the Pink Palace. Seven months later they repeated this performance across the Atlantic when six of the original crew, plus Lassi Karonen of Sweden and Warren Anderson of the U.S. (replacing Olaf Tufte and Andre Vonarburg), entered the Head of the Charles in Boston, where they were skillfully coxed by Ali Williams. There is a nice interview with Anderson here.

The result? They won the Championship Eights, going over the finish line at 42 plus. It seems that dreams - and dream teams - sometimes become real.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Martin's Words On Mark

Mark Hunter
On 12 May, 2012, HTBS wrote about editor Wendy Kewley’s glorious May issue of Rowing & Regatta, mentioning among other interesting articles, Martin Gough’s interview with Mark Hunter. As we have witnessed before, Martin is a man of many (good) words, but luckily he is running his own sport blog which means that what he cannot fit in his R&R article about Hunter, Martin can post in a blog post. This is exactly what he has done. Read the article’s “out-takes” here.

Chris Dodd
Talking about articles, yesterday the Henley Standard had a long article about Chris Dodd’s book Pieces of Eight. Read that article here.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Rowers List 2: Göran Buckhorn

Hunting Howell began to row at Trinity Hall in 1895 and took the same year the Grand, got his Blue in 1897, and won both the Diamonds and Wingfields in 1898 and 1899. Courtesy NRF ©
Time for more lists, now the two Top Ten Scullers, up until 1919 and the Top Ten Scullers, from 1920 to present time picked by yours truly. They were not easy to put together, so I had to cheat: the scullers are in alphabetic order, not necessarily ranked within the lists.

Alexander Alcée Casamajor
List IV - Top Ten British Scullers (up until 1919):

1.    E. Barry (p.)
2.    H. Blackstaffe
3.    A. A. Casamajor
4.    R. Chambers (p.)
5.    B. H. Howell
6.    F. S. Kelly
7.    W. Kinnear
8.    J. Lowndes
9.    G. Nickalls
10.  F. L. Playford

Runners-up: R. Guinness, H. Kelley (p.), and V. Nickalls

Tony Fox
List V - Top Ten British Scullers (from 1920 to present time):

1.    C. Baillieu
2.    J. Beresford Jnr.
3.    R. Burnell
4.    B. Bushnell
5.    A. Campbell
6.    T. Fox
7.    P. Haining
8.    E. Phelps (p.)
9.    S. Redgrave
10.  L. Southwood

Runners-up: T. Crooks, M. Hart, and M. Hunter

F. S. Kelly
Comments: Two foreigners have sneaked on to List IV, the American Benjamin Hunting Howell (1875-1953*) and the Australian Frederick Septimus Kelly (1881-1916). Neither of these two gentlemen ever rowed in their home countries, Howell began to row at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and Kelly at Eton, and later took up sculling at Balliol College, Oxford. After their studies had ended, Howell continued to row as a member of Thames RC and Kelly for Leander Club.

(p.) is indicating a ‘professional sculler’.

* In all information on the web (also Wikipedia), and in rowing books where he is mentioned, B. H. Howell's death date is always missing. Well, here it is: Benjamin Hunting Howell was born on 3 September 1875, died on 26 February 1953. Remember that you saw this information first on HTBS!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Bert And Dickie - Going For Gold

More about Bert and Dickie, and by Chris Dodd!

While there is no information which date the BBC drama is going to be aired in the U.K., there is a date flying around on the internet when BBC America is going to show this film, which by the way is called Going for Gold – The ’48 Games on their website. The date given is 25 July, but this date is not even stated in the BBC America’s information about the film – please, do not take this date for certain, yet!

On the Rowing Voice blog, Chris Dodd has posted the first review on the film, “Bert & Dickie – a double whammy”. He is very positive, and he writes among other things:

“Bert & Dickie plunges you straight into this world of high hopes and low snobbery. It’s a watery-eyed drama about how Bert Bushnell and Dickie Burnell came to win the double sculls in 1948. By that I don’t mean that it’s soppy; it’s a story of ambition and class that I reckon will touch your tear ducts when the BBC releases it on the box before the Olympics, as it did mine.”

Read Chris Dodd's whole review here.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Chris Dodd On Bert And Dickie, 1948

Bow: Matt Smith as Bert & Stroke: Sam Hoare as Dickie
I think many of us, rowers and rowing writers and historians, are eagerly waiting for BBC’s film Bert and Dickie. Greg Denieffe, one in the crew here at HTBS, pointed me in the direction of a BBC radio clip which was first broadcasted on 5 March 2010, a month after British Olympian Champion Bert Bushnell died. In the slightly more than 4-minute clip, rowing writer and historian Chris Dodd is being interviewed by Matthew Bannister about Bert’s and Dickie’s 1948 Olympic success in the double sculls. By that time, the script for Bert and Dickie was already under way, but the clip is a splendid reminder why the combination of Bert and Dickie was so unique at the end of the 1940s.

Greg writes, ‘Spot the error at the beginning when talking about Redgrave in 1984!’ [Redgrave took his first Olympic gold medal in 1984 in the coxed four – not the coxless four!]

To go to the broadcast, please click here.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Captain JP On The Diamond Jubilee

Yesterday, the blog 'Captain JP's log' had an interesting entry about the upcoming Diamond Jubilee - read Queen's Diamond Jubilee - update here.

As a matter of fact, continue reading 'Captain JP's log' as there are several very entertaining blog posts about rowing!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

OUBC Film 7: The Epilogue

For the 158th Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge, Oxford Today released six films in a series called “A Year in the Life of the Boat Race”, which showed behind-the-scenes shots about the Dark Blues. These films were both well-made and interesting. After the race, which will go down in history as one-of-a-kind, Oxford did an epilogue, which I think is the best film in these series. The Oxford crew reflects how it all ended.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Rowers List 1: David Brooks

As it was David Brooks who actually started this ‘listomania’ on HTBS, it is only fair that he is the first one out with two lists, and he has picked oarsmen for List III and List V. David writes,

‘I have to admit, I am more familiar with the last 40 years or so and find it difficult to compare rowers from pre-war who were generally so much smaller than today’s guys.

‘So, here is my all-star eight of the last 40 or so years and my top 5 scullers from the same period.’

Holmes and Redgrave
1.    A. Holmes
2.    T. Crooks
3.    J. Cracknell
4.    G. Searle
5.    S. Redgrave
6.    M. Pinsent
7.    T. Foster
Str. A. Triggs-Hodge
Cox P. Sweeney

‘…and then S. Williams and M. Cross to round out the top ten sweeps rowers. It would be interesting to see how this eight would have done against a similar German eight that could call on so many powerhouse East German crews? Or eights from Australia, Canada, USA and New Zealand for that matter!’

Alan Campbell and his coach Bill Barry
1. A. Campbell
2. C. Baillieu
3. G. Searle
4. S. Redgrave
5. H. Matheson (or T. Crooks)

Thank you, David!

So, all you HTBS readers which rowers and scullers would you have own your lists?

If you would like to see your list/lists posted on HTBS, please e-mail your list/s to:
gbuckhorn -at- – please put “List” in the subject box.

To have your list/s posted you have to give me your name and town and country.

List The Best Of The Best!

So, against better judgment I have decided to post lists on HTBS (see yesterday’s entry). Yes, there is going to be more than one ‘All-Time Top Ten British Rowers/Scullers’ only because I believe it is impossible to compare oarsmen’s achievements during different eras. These are the different lists:

List I: Top Ten British Rowers, up until the end of WWI (-1919)

List II: Top Ten British Rowers, between 1920 and 1970

List III: Top Ten British Rowers, from 1971 to the present time

List IV: Top Ten British Scullers, up until 1919 (amateurs and professionals on the same list)

List V: Top Ten British Scullers, from 1920 to the present time (amateurs and professionals on the same list)

If you would like to see your list/lists posted on HTBS, please e-mail your list/s to:
gbuckhorn -at- – please put “List” in the subject box.

To have your list/s posted you have to give me your name and town and country – and no pranks, please!

You may, of course, explain the names on your lists, if you like, but it is not necessary to be posted.

Who knows, HTBS might extend the lists to American and international rowers and scullers in the future.

Thank you – Göran/HTBS

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Would 'Muttle' make The List?
What do you think of when you hear ‘rowing list’? Maybe you are thinking of Megan Kalmoe’s ‘Hot List’, or one of the lists of rowers that sometimes pop up on FISA’s website? I had not really considered to post a list of rowers on HTBS, as I have been happy to occasionally post entries on some of my ‘rowing heroes’. But a week ago, I received an e-mail from my HTBS colleague Tim Koch in London. Tim had got an e-mail from David Brooks, a Brit living in the USA. David, who calls himself an ‘amateur sports historian’, was interested in getting information about some British oarsmen to be able to put together what he calls ‘an all-time British rowing squad.’

Both Tim and I thought that it sounded like a good idea for a discussion on HTBS. Tim immediately threw in five names: Steve Redgrave, Matthew Pinsent, Jack Beresford Jnr., Guy Nickalls, and the professional sculler Ernest Barry. Tim also mentions one of his (and mine) rowing heroes, Wally Kinnear, as someone who might be on a ‘scullers’ list’ with Barry.

I also contacted some rowing historians to see whom they might like to have on their ‘Top Ten British Rowers List’. There I run into problems. You see, they do not ‘do’ lists. However, they were happy to drop some names. Peter Mallory, author of the four-volume, 2,500-page, The Sport of Rowing (2011), mentions: Stanley Muttlebury, Beresford Snr., and Ran Laurie. ‘Beresford Jr. could row lightweight for sure. And don’t forget Mark Hunter [who is featured in the current issue of Rowing & Regatta, May 2012]. I’m not too impressed with British professionals beyond Ernie and perhaps Bert Barry,’ Peter writes. He also mentions ‘the Old Crocks’, the Leander eight that took gold at the Olympic regatta in 1908.

Well-known rowing historian Tom Weil writes:

‘Two scullers of y’oar who merit very serious consideration are A.A. Casamajor and F.S. Kelly, each a giant of his era. By his death at 28 (3 days before the 1861 Wingfields), Casamajor had won the Diamonds in 1855, 1856, 1857, 1858 and 1861, and the Wingfields in 1855, 1856, 1857, 1858, 1859, and 1860 (as well as the Goblets in 1855, 1856, 1858, and 1860, the Stewards in 1856, the Wyfolds in 1856, and the Grand in 1857 and 1859).  This records includes multiple Henley victories in each of the 1855, 1856, 1857, 1858 regattas.

‘Kelly (who was born in Australia, but spent his entire rowing career in England, starting with stroking Eton to the Ladies’ in 1899) won the Diamonds in 1902, 1903 (over Beresford Sr) and 1905, and the Wingfields in 1903 (as well as the Stewards in 1906, the Grand in 1903, 1904, and 1905, and gold in the UK eight in the 1908 Olympics [‘the Old Crocks’]). Kelly’s Diamonds time stood for 30+ years before beaten by Joe Burk. Kelly also died young, a casualty of WWI.’

Albert de Laud Long
Another HTBS colleague, Greg Denieffe, writes, ‘I’m no great fan of ‘listomania’ but that’s because I’m no good at them!’ However, Greg drops a name:

‘One person that I would put forward,’ Greg writes, ‘to be on an overall top 10 sweep list would be Albert de Laud Long. A Wingfield Sculls winner in 1869 and again in 1870 he won a staggering 18 trophies at Henley between 1868 and 1877. Five times a Grand winner, eight Stewards’ wins, four in the Goblets and a win in the Coxless fours of 1872. He was also in the London R.C. crew in the “1872 Anglo-American Boat-Race,” in which London R.C. beat Atalanta B.C. of New York from Mortlake to Putney.’

Tomorrow, HTBS will present David Brooks’s ‘all-time British rowing squad’, and some ‘rules’ for those of you who would like to contribute with your own ‘Top Ten British Rowers List’, or should I say ‘lists’ as there is going to be more than one.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Meet The Cast And Crew Of 'Bert And Dickie'

The Henley Standard, the local newspaper in Henley-on-Thames, now and then, has some interesting video clips showing rowing. On the following link the paper allows us to meet some of the cast and crew members of the BBC film Bert and Dickie. We meet, for example, 'Dickie's father' and 'Bert's mother and father'. To enjoy the video, click here.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Isis - Troubled Water

Click to enlarge
It is May which means that it will soon be time for ‘Summer Eights’ or as it is also called, Eights Week, the bump races on Isis which is the biggest intercollegiate rowing event at the University of Oxford. However, some of the colleges have run into trouble as they have not been able to train on the river due to an extremely high water level, The Oxford Student wrote the other day. The newspaper has talked to some rowers who think it is unfair as some colleges’ rowers have been able to train outside of Oxford. Read the article in The Oxford Student here.

Reading this article about this four-day regatta, which has been rowed almost every year since 1815, except 1820, 1821, 1823, 1829, and during the War years, reminded me that I had an old programme, or ‘race chart’, from 29 May, 1929, showing the order of starting for the different crews.

One fun thing with these old ‘charts’ is the advertisements. In mine from 1929 you will find ads from ‘Grimbly, Hughes & Co.’ the food experts and wine & spirit merchants; the ‘New Theatre, Oxford’ is presenting “The Desert Song”; ‘The Oriel Restaurant’ on High Street has a full page ad; and so has ‘Arthur Shepherd & Woodwards’, the tailors, who has a special ‘flannel trouser offer’; E. M. Staniland is pushing for ‘King Weed’, which should be smoked in one of his ‘natural briars’; a couple of car dealers are selling ‘dependable used’ cars; buy flowers and fruit at ‘John Mattock’; or have your photograph taken by ‘James Soame’; or stay at ‘The Castle Hotel’ or ‘Becket House Hotel’, or see the Eights from ‘Salter’s Steamer’ where you of course can obtain tea on board; and ‘Elliston & Cavell Ltd.’ in Magdalen Street, which was established in 1823, offers ‘Everything for Ladies and Children’s wear’.

I am ashamed to say that I have only witnessed Eights Week for half a day in May 1998….

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Loaded With Good Stuff!

I have just received the latest issue of Rowing & Regatta - and what a lovely issue it is! For quite some time now I have been wondering why on earth there was nothing about the upcoming BBC film Bert and Dickie in the magazine. But finally, in this May issue, there is an article about the film, just have a look at the wonderful cover showing Sam Hoare and Matt Smith portraying Dickie Burnell and Bert Bushnell, respectively.

Wendy Kewley, editor of R&R, had Patricia Carswell put together the article with long quotes by William Ivory, screenwriter, Sam Hoare, and Ross Hunter. The latter is a member of Leander and the rowing double for Smith/Bushnell in the double scull. There has been a 'rumour' that actor Hoare actually rowed at Eton, which he now brings up in the article. He says that, while he did go to Eton, 'I hadn't done a huge amount of rowing before I got involved in this project'.

Ivory also confirms that Burnell, although 'a rowing royalty' at Leander, 'was clearly such a modest man', which the readers of HTBS already know after all the articles about him on this blog. One question that this nice article does not answer is when this film is going to be on television. I guess, we all have to have our eyes and ears open.

Other interesting articles in this May issue of R&R are Martin Cross's article on the eventful 158th Boat Race and Martin Gough's article on the race between Oxford's Isis and Cambridge's Goldie, which Isis won. Furthermore, Gough also interviews Olympic champion Mark Hunter, and there are articles on the Oxbridge veterans' race, the Henley Boat Races, and The Great River Race. As for Mike Rowbottom, who always has a well-written interview published about an interesting 'old' rower, this time he has taken on Chris Baillieu, the Cambridge Blue, who is depicted in Chris Dodd's latest book, Pieces of Eight. Talking about Dodd, as always, he has a great piece on rowing history at the end of the magazine. This time it is about a voyage between London and Vienna in 1869.

HTBS congratulates R&R editor Wendy K. for a glorious issue loaded with good stuff!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Swing Together

Dickie & Bert
On 2 May, Tim Koch gave the readers of HTBS the weights of some of the famous British Olympic oarsmen. Of course, an oarsman’s weight can vary depending on if he is in a ‘racing trim’ or not. Some athletes, or their coaches, are keeping diaries or logs how their training is going, more for their own sake than for sport historians who later would like to do research. A good example of a ‘log keeper’, was Dickie Burnell, who soon will be featured in a BBC film, Bert and Dickie, about how he and Bert Bushnell only spent a few weeks together before it was time for them to race at the 1948 Olympic regatta in Henley-on-Thames. As we all know, they became Olympic champions.

I am not sure, but I am guessing that the filmmakers have very carefully read Burnell’s brilliant book Swing Together: Thoughts on Rowing, which was published in 1952. In this book is a chapter called “Olympic Log Book, 1947-8” where he scribbled down some notes about his training in the boat. It is indeed an interesting read. Burnell’s first partner in the double scull was Dick Winstone, and Burnell’s first entry reads:

‘27.ix.47 Tried out the Leander double sculler with Winstone at Henley. Paddled to Hambleden lock and back. Quite promising.’

The second entry reads:

‘4.x.47. Bow (Winstone) 12 st. 9 ½ lb. Stroke (Burnell) 14 st. 6 ½ lb. Henley. Paddled to lock and up to Fawley in one piece. back to [Temple] Island, and paddled hard over regatta course. Quite comfortable, but ragged when tired.’

Later that month they get the good news that they will receive a new boat:

‘21.x.47. Heard to-day from Gully [Nickalls] that we can have a new boat built by Sims. This is excellent news as the Leander boat, a converted pair, is much too heavy.’

Burnell is frequently coming back to their weights in his log:

‘27.i.48. Bow, 13 st. 5 ½ lb. Stoke, 14 st. 5 lb. Kingston. Paddled new boat to Hampton Court and back. beginning to get the feel of it, but we were very unsteady in a strong and difficult wind.’

’13.iv.48. Bow, 13 st. 6 lb. Stroke, 14 st. 12 lb. Jack Beresford came out with us Paddled up to Ditton and back. Nice water and going quite well. Jack said he thought us promising, but a bit short forward.’

And so it goes on. There are several entries where one word indicates that their practise probably should have gone better: ‘not bad to-day, but…..’ In the beginning of June, Burnell’s log tells that they went out sculling on their own, or had no outing at all. For the Marlow Regatta, which was going to be the double’s first test, the entry on 19 June, ’48, reveals it all: ‘This was a disaster.’ Nothing seemed to have worked. Winstone and Burnell were just not to be, they sculled too differently. They were beaten at Henley by a Belgian double in the semi-final. After Henley, Burnell was put in the double with Bert Bushnell:

‘6.vii.48. Bow (Bushnell), 11 st. 5 lb., Stroke (Burnell), 14 st. 3 ½ lb. […].’

This combination seems to work much better. The last entry with the oarsmen’s weights given is on 26 July ’48: ‘Bow, 11 st. 6 lb. Stroke, 14 st. 3 lb.’ The very last entry is on 31 July ’48, three days before the beginning of the Olympic regatta.

They were a good match, Burnell wrote: ‘Bushnell […] liked a fairly lively rate of striking, but alone lacked the power to maintain it. I also liked it, and had the necessary power, but needed encouragement to keep it up. Bushnell’s liveliness, by taking much of the weight off me, particular at the start, enabled me to get going fast and settle into a comfortable gait, whilst my weight helped us to keep it going. But a great deal of credit must go to Bushnell. It was a remarkable performance for one whose whole time had been spent as a single sculler, to fit in so quickly with the vagaries of a stroke behind whom he had never sculled before.’

Dickie Burnell’s Swing Together: Thoughts on Rowing is a remarkable book!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

At Putney

At Putney

When eight strong fellows are out to row,
With a slip of a lad to guide them,
I warrant they’ll make the light ship go,
Though the coach on the launch may chide them,
With his “Six, get on to it! Five, you’re late!

Don’t hurry the slides, and use your weight!
You're bucketing, Bow; and, as to Four,
The sight of his shoulders makes me sore!”

But Stroke has steadied his fiery men,
And the lift on the boat gets stronger;
And the Coxswain suddenly shouts for “Ten!

Reach out to it, longer, longer!”
While the wind and the tide raced hand in hand
The swing of the crew and the pace were grand;

But now that the two meet face to face
It’s buffet and slam and a tortoise-pace.

For Hammersmith Bridge has rattled past,
And, oh, but the storm is humming.

The turbulent white steeds gallop fast;
They’re tossing their crests and coming.

It’s a downright rackety, gusty day,
And the backs of the crew are drenched in spray;
But it’s “Swing, boys, swing till you’re deaf and blind,

And you’ll beat and baffle the raging wind.”

They have slipped through Barnes; they are round the bend;
And the chests of the eight are tightening.
“Now spend your strength, if you’ve strength to spend,
And away with your hands like lightning!
Well rowed!” - and the coach is forced to cheer -
“Now stick to it, all, for the post is near! ”

And, lo, they stop at the coxswain’s call,

With its message of comfort, “Easy all!”
So here’s to the sturdy undismayed

Eight men who are bound together
By the faith of the slide and the flashing blade
And the swing and the level feather;
To the deeds they do and the toil they bear;
To the dauntless mind and the will to dare;

And the joyous spirit that makes them one
Till the last fierce stroke of the race is done.

R. C. Lehmann

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Tim Koch: To Be A Pilgrim…

Richard Way in Friday Street, Henley-on-Thames

HTBS’s Tim Koch has revisited Henley-on-Thames. Here is his report:

Anyone who has been lucky enough to make a visit to Henley-on-Thames during the Henley Royal Regatta will know what a delightful experience this is. For those who missed it, a video of the HTBS visit to last year’s ‘Royal’ is here.

However, a trip to this lovely English town is worthwhile at any time, not just for five days in June and July.

Leander Club
For those interested in rowing there are five places in Henley that merit a ‘pilgrimage’. Sited on opposite sides of Henley Bridge are two of them, Leander Club and Regatta Headquarters. I always have the idea that they are guarding the entrance to the sacred waters of the regatta course. Unfortunately, neither is open to the general public but you may catch a glimpse of some of the stars of British rowing (past and present) going about their business.

Henley Royal Regatta Headquarters
For anyone who normally attends the regatta, walking the famous 1 mile 550 yard (2,112 metres) course from the bridge via Remenham Village to Temple Island is a strange experience. Where, for a few days in the summer there is elegant chaos, you find only open fields. Further, not a single drink of Pimm’s is to be had. For this, continue on past the regatta start to the Flower Pot, the archetypal English country pub.

The entrance to the River & Rowing Museum.
A visit to the River and Rowing Museum is an obvious choice for the remigiumophile*. The permanent exhibits and the temporary exhibitions cover not only the history of rowing but also the town of Henley and of the river in all its aspects. It also caters for children, notably with its ‘Wind in the Willows’ attraction. The award winning building is set in lush riverside meadows and, if you wish to make your visit truly memorable, it is licensed for wedding ceremonies. A full review of the Museum will appear on HTBS in the coming months.

The final place of pilgrimage in Henley for those interested in rowing is Way’s Rare and Second Hand Bookshop in Friday Street. This delightful little shop sells general antiquarian and second hand books but also has a rowing section containing everything from leather bound Victorian tomes on ‘aquatics’ to the most recent paperback on high performance sculling. They sometimes have rowing prints and ephemera but the rowing memorabilia which decorates the shop is, unfortunately, not for sale. At this point I would usually put in a link to their website, but, to complete the slightly Dickensian air, they do not have one. If you put ‘Way’s Bookshop’ into a search engine, the best you will do is find some complementary user reviews. This is typical:

‘This is a beautiful tucked away antique and second hand bookshop. It is so full of books that it can be a bit hard to know where to start, but the owner is lovely and extremely helpful, should you want something specific…’

While I agree with these comments about Diana, one of the owners, she is also very modest and I have failed several times over the years to persuade her to give me an interview – until now.

In an age of obtaining books from the Internet and from large high street chains (a subject that HTBS has covered before) an independent bookshop in a small country town seems to be an anachronism. This was not the situation in 1977 when Richard Way and Diana Cook bought the shop. The previous owner had a small selection of books of interest to some visitors to the regatta but Diana and Richard started to build up this part of their trade, initially selling older books but eventually also stocking new publications. Richard was a wooden boat builder and so already had some knowledge of rowing and the river but for Diana it was to be the start of having to become something of an expert on rowing and its history.

As already mentioned, Way’s Bookshop does not have a website but this does not mean that it does not have a healthy national and international trade; it is simply conducted by letter and telephone. Diana does not deny that putting their stock on the Internet would increase business but she doubts that the extra turnover would cover the increased costs, particularly of extra staff.

In the past Way’s has handled the large and important rowing libraries including those of the rowing journalist and historian, Geoffrey Page and also of a past Henley Chairman and Leander President, Harold Rickett.

Diana Cook successfully runs the Richard Way Book Shop the old-fashioned way.
When I asked Diana what proportion of the shop’s trade was in rowing books she claimed that she has deliberately not worked out the figures on this. She suspects that the general sales ‘subsidise’ the rowing section and, if Way’s were entirely motivated by profit and loss, there would be little shelf space devoted to things aquatic. One fact of modern life which Diana feels that she may have to confront is that many people who trade online in new books sell them at cost and make their profit on the ‘postage and packing’. A bookshop cannot compete with this and she is considering not stocking new publications in future. This would be a sad but understandable move for a place that is so much more than a place to buy books. It is also a publisher, a club, a research centre and a meeting place for old and new friends. It deserves the support of the rowing community so, next time you need a rowing book, do not order it online, visit or contact Way’s and deal with a real person who offers polite and knowledgeable service. You will not get this from an Internet dealer – even if they are named after a South American river.

*Remigiumophile (noun) I have just made this word up. It means ‘a lover of all things related to rowing’ and is from ‘remigium’, the Latin for ‘at oars’ or ‘rowing’. I know combining it with ‘phile’ is mixing Latin and Greek but so does the word ‘television’. If anyone with a classical education can improve on this, please do so – otherwise history will record its first use here (maybe).

(Photograph & copyright: Tim Koch)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Cyril Power’s ‘The Eight’

What I did not mention yesterday in my review about Chris Dodd’s entertaining new book, Pieces of Eight, is the ‘book’ itself. What I mean by ‘book’ is not the content – which, again, is brilliant – it is instead how the book looks, its binding, format, cover, and lay-out. As an old book editor/ publisher, I am not only interested in the content of a book, I would like it to look nice, too. The publisher of Pieces of Eight is the River and Rowing Museum in Henley-on-Thames. It is, if I have counted correctly, the museum’s third published rowing book after Tom Weil’s Beauty and the Boats (2005) and Peter Mallory’s The Sport of Rowing (2011), and it is going to be interesting to see if there are any other books on rowing coming from the museum in the near future.

What I like with Dodd’s book is its format. It is a paperback, but it still has a book cover with flaps. The font is easy to read with a good lay-out. However, while I demand an index in a book like this, the index in Pieces of Eight is almost impossible to read despite my new reading spectacles.

But what I really love is the cover – ‘The Eight’ from 1930 by the British artist Cyril Power (1872-1951). According to material from the auction house Bonhams in London, which rowing historian Tom Weil has forwarded to me, Bonhams writes that “‘The Eight’ shows a racing crew during trials for the Head of the River on the Thames. Power drew it looking down on the boat from Hammersmith Bridge. With its dramatic sense of energy, ‘The Eight’ is one of Power’s most sought after works and the print was in excellent condition.” The ‘print’ mentioned in the text from Bonhams was sold by them last July for £59,520! Read more here. According to Weil only 50 copies were printed of Power’s ‘The Eight’. So, if you have a copy of this print laying about, dust it off and run immediately over to the nearest Bonhams office.

USA cover?
U.K. cover?

Looking at the website of the publishing company Shire Library, it seems that they are also going to use ‘The Eight’ for one of their books which is coming out this summer. Writer, historian, and rower Julie Summers’s book Rowing in Britain has it on its cover. Read more about Summers’s book here, and read her Newsletter about the book here. A little confusing is that Shire Library’s distributor in the USA, Random House, is showing a completely different cover for the book on their site. That looks nice, too, though…*

*Here is an update regarding the cover of Summers's book: it will not be the same as the one on the cover of Dodd's book, however, at this point of time, there are no certainties that it will be the one that Random House has on their site either. (Updated 9 May, 2012)

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Tenth Man

I have admired Chris Dodd’s writing on rowing for three decades. I have followed his writing in The Guardian and later his short stint at The Independent. For years I subscribed to ARA’s magazine Regatta, which was founded by Dodd, giving Great Britain at the time two quality rowing magazines as Rowing already existed, published by the boat building company Aylings – nowadays ARA is called British Rowing and its magazine Rowing & Regatta. And of course, I have read all of Dodd’s brilliant rowing books: Henley Royal Regatta (1981), The Oxford & Cambridge Boat Race (1983), Boating (1983), The Story of World Rowing (1992), Battle of the Blues: The Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race from 1829 (ed. with John Marks; 2004), and Water Boiling Aft: London Rowing Club, the First 150 Years 1856-2006 (2006).

Chris Dodd
When Dodd began his career as a rowing correspondent in the beginning of the 1970s, he joined a small group of outstanding rowing journalists, to mention the maybe most famous ones: Dickie Burnell, Desmond Hill, Geoffrey Page, Jim Railton, and John Rooda. Dodd is the only one left of these gentlemen of the rowing press, and today he has to be regarded as the doyen of rowing writers and historians. Nowadays, he is writing for the electronic rowing publication Rowing Voice, which he co-founded, and since 1997 he is the curator and historian at the River and Rowing Museum in Henley-on-Thames, a beautiful institution he also co-founded.

With this background, or should I write, firm base to stand on, Dodd is highly qualified to pen the story about how British rowing rose from pure misery to once again have crews standing on the medal podiums at the World Championships and Olympic Games. His new book is called Pieces of Eight: Bob Janousek and his Olympians, which was published in March, and it splendidly tells the tale of a forgotten era of British rowing. It might be hard for rowing people these days to understand how our time’s greatest rowing nation, which ‘invented’ modern rowing in the beginning of the 1800s and which has fed rowing giants like Sir Steven Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent, had a two-decade-long ‘down period’. From after the Olympic Games in 1948 to the beginning of the 1970s (with the exception of an Olympic silver in the coxless four in 1964) British rowing had been without any medals and barely made it to the finals in the World Championships and Olympic regattas.

After the end of the 1960s when British rowing had hit rock bottom, ARA decided to do something drastic: invite a coach from Prague, who had Olympic bronze medals as a member of the Czech eights in Rome in 1960 and Tokyo in 1964, to organise and guide the national teams and to educate the coaches who trained the crews, and to write the first ARA coaching training manual. His name was Bohumil Janoušek and he arrived in London in October 1969. Besides his Olympic rowing medals, he had two more key attributes in his personal baggage “that would serve him well in the hide-bound and divided rowing society that he had parachuted into” Dodd writes, “He had a degree in sports science from Charles University in Prague. And he spoke no English.”

Of course, not everyone liked or approved that help was coming from the outside, especially not some of the coaches from the old system with ‘private navies’. It was difficult for a coach to train a crew which had members from different clubs, which Bob Janousek, the name he took in England, soon discovered when he went to coach the national eight that had oarsmen from Leander and Thames Tradesmen. There was a huge difference in styles and techniques whether the rowers came from Cambridge, Leander or Tradesmen. Nor did the oarsmen understand how to row at a steady rate for 20 minutes; in the beginning they all rowed their hearts out and totally collapsed after 9 minutes. Janousek had brought with him some coaching ideas from Karl Adam of the Ratzeburg Rowing Academy, but it was not easy to apply them to the British scene.

Janousek, cover of Rowing 1975

At first, the Czech coach kept his distance from the national crews, allowing their coaches to train the different boats, but no British crew managed to reach the A-finals at the 1970 World Championships at St Catherines, the 1971 European Championships at Copenhagen, and the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich (exception of a fifth place by a Leander double). As Janousek had decided to stay in Britain with his family and thereby disobeying the Czech rowing government body to come home, he did not go to the 1973 European Championships which were held in Moscow – with the Cold War lingering about, as a ‘defector’ it was not likely that he would be allowed to go back to Britain.

In September 1973, Janousek decided to take a more active role as the National coach and sent out a letter to a selected group of oarsmen inviting them to join the National Squad which was going to be personally coached by him. He ended his letter by writing “I cannot promise you medals, even though this is what we shall try for, but I can promise that it will be worth the effort.” None of them, including Janousek, knew how hard the road was going to be.

At the first international regatta for the newly formed National team of oarsmen from Leander and Tradesmen at Mannheim, Germany, in June 1974, they were rowing in a coxless four and a coxed four, each crew mixed between the clubs and with a nervous rivalry crawling outside their skin. After their repecharge heat the men in the coxless four suddenly started a fist fight within (!) the crew. In the mini bus back to their barracks Janousek tried to cool down his crews. In his broken English he said, which also underlined how bad British rowing was at the time: “It’s very important we don’t start to argue with each other. Keep calm guys, nobody expects you to win – you are bloody English. The English never win anything.”

While Janousek’s oarsmen kept on struggling within the crews, with their foreign coach, and with their different styles, at least with the Czech coach came structure to their training both on the water and on land. Janousek was also constantly present, and without the oarsmen’s knowledge he was molding them into competitive crews. At the 1974 World Championships in Lucerne, the only thing Janousek told his eight, when they went out to row in the final, was: “enjoy yourselves”. Despite a good start, the British eight with L. D. Robertson, W. G. Mason, J. Clark, D. L. Maxwell, H. P. Matheson, T. J. Crooks, J. C. Yallop, stroke F. L. Smallbone, and cox P. J. Sweeney were last at the 500-metre mark, but they passed West Germany at 750 metres. They had a ‘big burn’ at 1,100 metres when they got closer to the rest of the field. Then cox Sweeney began talking the crew through the other crews, moving past the East Germans, the Russians, and close to the finish line, the New Zealanders. The British eight never managed to over-come the U.S. crew, but to everyone’s surprise Janousek’s oarsmen took a silver medal, and it was also a big surprise that the Americans took the gold, both these crews beating the East Germans, Russians, and the mighty crew from New Zealand, who had done so brilliantly the last couple of years.

Next year’s World Championships were held in Nottingham, and the coxed four (R.J. Ayling, Crooks, Matheson, R. C. Lester, and cox Sweeney) took a fourth place as did the coxless four (Mason, Clark, Robertson, and Yallop), while the double sculls (M. J. Hart and C. L. Baillieu) took a bronze medal repeating their position both at the European Championships in 1973 and the World Championships in 1974. The 1975 results were not as good as Janousek and his oarsmen wanted especially on their ‘home waters’, but they quickly had to switch focus on the following year’s upcoming big event, the Olympic Games in Montreal.

Bob's Boys in 1975: Lester, Matheson, Clark, Yallop, Aylings, Sweeney, Crooks, Robertson, Manson, and Janousek.
When the Brits arrived at the Olympic basin at Isle Notre-Dame, Montreal, not only did they have the ‘old’ Empacher eight which had served them well, but also the Carbon Tiger, a much lighter boat made of composite plastic and carbon fibre. The new boat worried a lot of their competitors, but while it was very fast on the water it had issues with the rigging and shoulders, and at the end it was not used. Maybe Clark put it best: “If I win a gold medal I don’t want a bastard telling me it was because of the boat.”

Those of you who know your Olympic rowing history remember that Great Britain did not take a gold medal at the Olympic rowing regatta in Montreal, the championship title went to East Germany, with the British boys coming in as a very good second boat. Or did the British actually win? To this day, some in the crew, which on that day was: Robertson, Smallbone, Clark, Maxwell, Matheson, Crooks, Yallop, Lester, and Sweeney, still think that they were the non-cheating boat, the clean crew, which was not on any drugs. Rumour had it that the East Germans were on ‘something’, pills or got some ‘vitamin’ injections by their coach before a race. At the end of the book, Dodd brings up the question and debates whether it would be possible. Nothing was ever proved, so the question still is unanswered, and will probably never be answered.

In his ‘foreword’ Chris Dodd writes that Pieces of Eight is not a book of rowing history, but a ‘collective memory of a coach, a group of oarsmen, and a reporter who followed them in their day. It is therefore, a memoir, not a history.’ Well, whatever you would like to call it, a memoir, a rowing biography, a history book, it is a well-written, damn good book! And it has an important story to tell, as one man, single handedly torn down the social barrier, which only a foreigner could do who did not understand the English class system. After the 1976 Olympic Games Bob Janousek handed in his resignation as the National team coach. His next job was as a ‘baker’, or that is at least what he called himself when he joined John Vigurs to start their boat building company Carborcraft. When the company failed, Janousek established his own company Janousek Racing, which became world-known. What happened to Janousek’s oarsmen? Many of them continued to be involved in rowing in some way, some active rowers, coaches, or rowing advocates, and today some of them are Henley Stewards. They all think fondly of Janousek, he was, one of them said, “the tenth man in the boat”.

Dodd has used his interviews with everyone who was involved in the revival of British rowing at this time in a most effective way, allowing them to reflect and think back of their glory days as Janousek’s men. While it might not always work to have the objects of your book to move back and forth in time, I do not think there is a problem in Dodd’s book to have the oarsmen to ‘pop in’ in present time to leave comments and arguments if a thing was right or not.

Pieces of Eight: Bob Janousek and his Olympians is indeed a must-read, must-have book. If you would like to understand how British rowing has managed to reach its high level of today – when we are only weeks away from the Olympic Games in London where the British yet again will meet glory on the water – this book will tell you how it all started, how one man taught the ‘bloody English’ how to row again.

Order a copy of Chris Dodd’s Pieces of Eight: Bob Janousek and his Olympians, here.

Tomorrow on HTBS there will be a short piece about the beautiful artwork “The Eight” by Cyril Power which grace the cover of Dodd’s book.