Photograph: Werner Schmidt

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Indefatigable Jack Dearlove

Jack Dearlove at Marlow Regatta.

HTBS’s Tim Koch writes about the unknown hero, Jack Dearlove:

The 2012 Paralympic Game will undoubtedly be a great success and will certainly be remembered as a milestone in changing attitudes to disability. The widespread acceptance of Paralympians as ‘real’ athletes has happened so quickly that one does not have to go too far back for examples from a time when things were very different. An article by Neil Tweedie in the Daily Telegraph of 4 July does go far back, sixty four years in fact, but is still well worth reading. It tells the full story of a man who earned a small place in the history of rowing by coxing the British eight that won silver at the 1948 London Olympics. That man was called Jack Dearlove and he had one leg. Today the media and the Olympic public relations machine would be keen to extract maximum publicity from this ‘human interest’ story. Two decades ago things were very different.

Until the age of ten, Jack Dearlove was a gifted, sports mad youngster. However, in 1922 he was involved in an accident with a lorry which resulted in the amputation of his right leg.

Determined not to stay in a wheelchair and unable to get on with an artificial limb, Jack taught himself to walk on crutches. Tweedie quotes Jack’s son, Richard:

His parents were from tough no-nonsense backgrounds who had made their way in the world and Dad had been brought up in a similar way… He became amazingly agile and developed the ability to lead a pretty normal life. He was a good tennis player, brilliant swimmer and could water ski. He could drive too. And if the family went on a five mile walk, he was there…

Jack’s other son, John, says that as a child he never thought of his Father as disabled.

Jack Dearlove and the 1948 Olympic Eight. Won Silver.

Jack coxed for Thames Rowing Club and in 1948, at the age of 37 and with 20 years of rowing behind him, he was chosen to cox the British Olympic eight. His delight with what would undoubtedly be the pinnacle of his sporting career was  considerably reduced when he was informed that it would not be ‘right’ for a disabled man to take part in the parade of athletes at the official opening of the Games by the King at Wembley. He had to watch from the stands with the other 85,000 spectators so as not to cause ‘embarrassment’.

Jack was from a generation that did not expect compensation or pity for injury or stress or hurt feelings. He and his contemporaries accepted what life threw at them and made the best of it. His children did not know of his disgraceful exclusion from his rightful place among his fellow sportsmen until after his death in 1967. Son John says ‘He was utterly devoid of self-pity’.

Jack Dearlove and the 1950 Empire Games Crew. Won Bronze.

I do not suppose that Jack ever thought of himself as a pioneer. Had he ever considered it, he probably regarded himself simply as an athlete who wanted to compete making full use of whatever abilities he had. Today, the Paralympic Games exists precisely so that this may happen. We have come a long way since Jack Dearlove was relegated to the stands.

Pictures © John Dearlove

See also 6 September, 2012

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Adaptive Rowing: Removing Barriers

Tim Koch, HTBS’s special correspondent in London, writes about the Paralympic Rowing Regatta which starts tomorrow, Friday:

Rowing will make its second Paralympic Games appearance starting on Friday, 31 August at Eton Dorney. Forty-six men and forty-six women will race 1,000 metres in four events, three of which allow for different ‘functional ability’. All the finals will take place on Sunday, 2 September.

It is likely that London will be the first Paralympic Games to sell out. As of 28 August, 2.4 million tickets out of a possible 2.5 million tickets had been sold. I had earlier assumed that I would be able to pick up tickets to the rowing at any time but this was a big mistake, it looks as though I will have to watch it on television.

The first ‘paralell’ games were held in Rome following the 1960 Olympics. These were inspired by the ‘Stoke Mandeville Games’ for disabled British war veterans which started in 1948 and held to coincide with the London Olympics of that year. Though it took forty-eight years for rowing to be introduced into the Paralympic programme, starting at Beijing in 2008, the international governing body of rowing, FISA, introduced adaptive rowing to the world championships in 2002. ‘Adaptive’ means that the equipment is adapted to the user rather than the other way around.

The sport is now practiced in 24 countries and Concept 2 and other companies have responded accordingly. In Britain the first rowing club for those with a disability was affiliated to British Rowing in 1998 and there are now twenty-one clubs that offer, or are dedicated to, adaptive rowing. In the years leading to Beijing, UK Sport gave £1.3 million to the Paralympic Rowing Squad and increased this to £2.3 million for London 2012. Eleven rowers are receiving ‘Athlete Personal Awards’ designed to let them focus on their training.

USRowing has twenty-five adaptive rowing programmes currently running in the United States and in 2010 the Head of the Charles in Boston included an adaptive event for the first time.

The four events at Dorney are men’s and women’s single sculls, mixed sex doubles and mixed sex coxed fours.

The single sculls are ‘AS’ class i.e. the rower’s impairment means that they can only use their arms and shoulders to move the scull. Stabilising floats must be attached to the riggers.

Mixed double sculls are ‘TA’ which means the trunk, arms and shoulders can be used.

In the ‘LTA’ mixed coxed four the rowers may use legs, trunk and arms as is usual but they qualify by having an impairment which affects their ability to row. According to the British Paralympic Association website:

All impairment groups except athletes with learning difficulties are eligible (but the latter) look set to compete in Rio after an (International Paralympic Committee) vote in 2009 reinstated athletes with learning difficulties in four sports including rowing.

The cox is not required to be disabled and no more than two of the rowers may have a visual impairment. In the much fancied British four, James Roe and Naomi Riches are partially sighted, Pamela Relph has arthritis and David Smith has a fused ankle.

I do not know what the view of the Paralympics is outside of Britain but the excitement and anticipation here is palpable. In a very short space of time I, like many others, have changed the way that I view disabled people and sport. The Paralympians themselves have brought about this advance by their obvious total commitment to their training and to their ultimate goal. Many people no longer view them as ‘disabled athletes’, but see them simply as ‘athletes’.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Up the Creek with an Oar

In the September issue of Down East, which calls itself ‘The Magazine of Maine’, there is a nice little article about the old oar and paddle making company Shaw & Tenney in Orono, Maine. The company was founded in 1858 and today has seven workers who hand-make all the products: oars, paddles, masts, spars, flag poles, and parts for canoes, kayaks and Adirondack guide boats, etc.

I had, of course, heard about the company before, but it was first when I began looking around for a pair of sculls that I spent some time on Shaw & Tenney’s website – lovely stuff. I did not buy a set of sculls from the company this time as, in a round about way, I came across some used sculls.

While the company sells mainly oars and paddles to be used on an outing, so to say, they have also started to sell ‘engraved paddles’. One of the latest ones of this kind was actually sold to Paul McCartney’s children who wanted to order an engraved paddle for their father for his birthday. Shaw & Tenney has also sold props to different films, Virginia M. Wright writes in her article in Down East.

One of the problems for a small company as Shaw & Tenney, the article tells us, is that the company does not have a large inventory, as it hand-crafts oars and paddles more or less ‘on demand’. One big order for the company was when another Maine based company, L.L. Bean, ordered 500 paddles because of the company’s 100-year anniversary this year.

If you are looking for a first-class, handcrafted pair of sculls for your boat, Shaw & Tenney is probably the company for you! Here is a video from the company:

The photograph on top is from Shaw & Tenney's website.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

2012 Paralympic Rowing Regatta

Helene Raynsford of Great Britain.

Paralympic racing starts on Friday 31 August, at 9:30 a.m. at Eton Dorney, outside of London. Finals will be raced on Sunday 2 September. A total of 23 countries will be represented by 108 Paralympic rowers competing in one of the four Paralympic boat classes. FISA writes in a press release:

The four Paralympic boat classes are the AS women’s single sculls (ASW1x), the AS men’s single sculls (ASM1x), the TA mixed double sculls (TAMix2x) and the LTA mixed coxed four (LTAMix4+). There will be 12 crews racing in each of these four events, representing a total of 48 boats.
Brazil and Ukraine have qualified crews in each of the four Paralympic boat classes, with six nations having qualified three crews each.

Qualification began in 2011 at the World Rowing Championships, where the top eight finishers in each boat class qualified a spot for their country at rowing’s second ever Paralympic Games. At the Final Paralympic Qualification Regatta this year in May, a further two Paralympic spots were attributed to the top two crews in each event. The final two entries in each event are invitational and have been allocated by the Bipartite Commission composed of representatives of FISA and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).

FISA’s “adaptive” rowing, has been part of the World Rowing Championship programme since 2002 and, in 2005, the IPC announced the inclusion of rowing into the Paralympic Games. At the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing, rowing’s first Paralympic Rowing Regatta was staged. FISA has “adapted” the boats so that the adaptive rowers can compete in the same sport with the same field of play and rules.

2008 Paralympic Champion in the AS men’s single sculls, Tom Aggar of Great Britain, a former rugby player, will be aiming to win gold once again in front of a home crowd. He has not lost a single World Championship since appearing on the international rowing scene in 2007.

In the AS women’s single sculls, only a few 2008 Paralympians will be lining up once again in London. Beijing silver medallist from Belarus, Liudmila Vauchok, will aim for the podium once again. Vauchok is also a multi Winter Paralympic Champion. Strong contenders will be 2009 and 2011 World Champion from Ukraine, Alla Lysenko, as well as 2010 World Champion and 2009 and 2011 world silver medallist Nathalie Benoît from France.

In the TA mixed double sculls, China was the Paralympic Champions in 2008. In London, the Chinese athletes racing this year will be different from those who won gold in Beijing. Xiaoxian Lou and Tianming Fei have only competed once internationally before these Paralympic Games, when they became World Champions last year in Bled, Slovenia. They will be facing Australia (whose Kathryn Ross rowed to silver in Beijing) and Brazil (whose Josiane Lima won bronze in 2008).

The reigning World Champions in the LTA mixed coxed four are Great Britain, having won gold in 2009 and 2011 and silver in 2010. Their London line-up is different to the one that won bronze in Beijing with only Naomi Riches continuing in the boat. Their toughest competition is expected to come from Canada who were World Champions in 2010.

To view the entries and provisional timetable, please click here.

Stay tuned here and for up to the minute information and photos from the regatta.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Noel Duckworth: ‘Small of Stature, Great of Heart’

One of the truly great pre-war Cambridge crews: the Light Blues pratising at Chiswick for the 1936 Boat Race: cox J.N. Duckworth, stroke W.R.M. Laurie, 7 J.H.T. Wilson, 6 D.W. Burnford, 5 M.P. Lonnon, 4 D.G. Kingsford, 3 G.M. Lewis, 2 H.W. Mason and bow T.S. Cree. 

Here HTBS’s Tim Koch tells the story about a most remarkable man, Noel Duckworth:

‘Hear The Boat Sing’ has in the past written about rowers with outstanding war records. The sort of personal qualities that are needed to be successful as an oarsman are also those that can produce great soldiers. But what of coxswains, people who need very different qualities to those that pull the oar? Coxes are physically small but need to gain the respect of those who are much more powerful than they are. They have to get the best out of people without alienating themselves from them. They need to remain calm and thoughtful under pressure. I have recently discovered the story a man who used the personal attributes that enabled him to be an exceptional cox to incredible effect in the full horror of war. His biographer, Michael Smyth, says this of him:

[He] was one of those rare men who will always be remembered by everyone who ever met him. He had enormous charisma, great strength of will, but above all dedicated his life to the needs of others.

I hesitate to write about him as I fear that I cannot do justice to such a remarkable man. I am also embarrassed by the fact that I have only recently heard of him. In an age of ‘celebrities’ there is not one of these well-known figures who is fit to be mentioned in the same breath as (John) Noel Duckworth.

Noel Duckworth was born on 25 December 1912, the son of a clergyman. He and two brothers were all later ordained and all three became Canons. In 1931 the 5 ft. 2 in. Duckworth went to Jesus College, Cambridge and was soon involved with the Boat Club. In 1961, he gave a typically self-deprecating interview to the BBC on his time on the Cam:

JND: … I started rowing in Jesus College in ’31 when I went up. When I went out as a freshman I knocked 10 foot off the end of a boat and sank the crew (I won’t tell you what they said). I was charged ten pounds for mending it so I stayed on in the boat club to get my monies worth.

Interviewer: How did you progress from sinking boats to coxing winning boats?

JND: A loud voice, a certain amount of bluff and always been there when you are wanted and never been put out by various disasters – which many came my way.

Interviewer: Are there many small conflicting things in a crew and the men around a crew?

JND: Not in the crew itself because it was part of my job to keep them sweet and good tempered by humour and the odd bit of whimsy in one way or another, generally making a fool of oneself and making them look outside themselves and enjoy the misfortunes of others and I always try to be the unfortunate one, a little Charlie Chaplin…

Like this perhaps?

Cambridge in the 1930s was a good place for rowing. Between 1920 and 1936 the Light Blues lost only one University Boat Race. Further, CUBC had such giants of the rowing world as Ran Laurie and Jack Wilson. In 1934, Noel was chosen to cox Cambridge in the Boat Race of that year. Film evidence is here. It was perhaps the best crew of the era and they won easily, beating the course record by 26 seconds with a time of 18 minutes and 3 seconds. At Henley three months later, Noel steered Leander to victory in the Grand Challenge Cup and, on the same day, Jesus to victory in the Ladies’ Plate. A annus mirabilis indeed.

Noel recalled his next two Boat Races in his 1961 BBC interview:

In ’35 Oxford were very heavily tipped to win because there had been a change of coaches, old Peter Haig-Thomas had left Cambridge (I think it was a case of ‘did he fall or was he pushed?’) and went and coached Oxford. So hopes rang very high for Oxford. It was a very stormy day; white horses on the river, and Oxford were tipped to win because they were the heavier crew.  But we lead out from the first stroke practically and then we made our distance more and more. I went off under the cover of the Surrey bank… Now this was hailed by the press who know nothing about these things as a masterly move… I have to confess that this was a very unwise thing to do, anyway we got away with it and in ’35 we won by five lengths…
Here is nice film of the ’35 Light Blue:

Now ’36 was interesting… the (Irish Republican Army) had been putting bombs all over the place… and they actually put one on Hammersmith Bridge… Now this is entirely fictitious but it makes a very good story… We thought that if the IRA were going to demonstrate their loyalty by blowing up Hammersmith Bridge then we thought that Oxford should be the recipient of this token of their loyalty and so they went through Hammersmith Bridge ahead of us by half a length but just after Hammersmith we put on a spurt … and we left them in about twenty strokes and won by five lengths, but not in a good time.

See for yourself here, here and here.

Honours Board 1934-36 at CUBC Boathouse. © Michael Smyth

Noel was the obvious choice to cox the British eight in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The crew were all Cambridge men save two from ‘the other place’. In the final they were placed fourth behind the USA, Italy and Germany. Writing later in The Cambridge Review, Noel probably unjustly blamed himself for the crew failing to make the first three. He held that his steering in the first heat meant that they had to get to the final via the repechage and were thus unduly tired. The more likely reason was that, as he himself stated, the crew was a ‘patched up affair’ who had trained to peak at Henley rather than the Olympics. There are brief glimpses of Noel in the official film of the race and on the YouTube version he can be seen from 2 minutes 32 seconds and from 3 minutes 38 seconds.

Despite Berlin, it was with good reason that Noel’s obituary in the Times called him ‘…one of the outstanding coxswains in British rowing in the immediate pre-war era.’

Ordained in late 1936, Michael Smyth says that at Noel’s first parish, ‘His energy was immediately apparent, attendance at services grew and various societies were revitalised’.

At the outbreak of war in September 1939, Noel was appointed Chaplain to the 2nd Battalion, Cambridgeshire Regiment and was sent to Malaya in 1941. In January 1942, the 2nd Cambridgeshires and others were defending Batu Pahat on the west coast. They were ordered to withdraw as they were in danger of being cut off by advancing Japanese forces. As a non-combatant, Noel should have been the first to go but he and two doctors chose to stay with those wounded who could not be evacuated. The story is taken up in his own style by Russell Braddon, the Australian author of the million selling The Naked Island (1952), an account of his time as a Far East Prisoner of War:
[Noel] stayed there and when the Japanese… would have slaughtered the wounded, this little man flayed them with such a virulent tongue that they were sufficiently disconcerted to refrain. They beat him up very cruelly for days, because they did care for being verbally flayed… but they did not kill the wounded men he had stayed behind to protect… This little man with the rosy cheeks and the cheerful grin and the mop of hair like a small boy’s eventually brought (the wounded) to the comparative security of (Padu Goal in Kuala Lumpar). His name is Padre Noel Duckworth. It is a name that thousands of Australians, Englishmen and Scots will always remember until the day they die.

Michael Smyth puts forward a fascinating suggestion as to why Noel was not killed:

When Noel was captured with the wounded soldiers one of the doctors who had also stayed behind attested “I firmly believe that Noel’s fame as a rowing man saved all our lives” because a Japanese officer recognised Noel. This story is given some credence by the fact that a Japanese crew from Tokyo University participated in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, as well as Henley prior to that, so it is likely that Duckworth was known to them. Furthermore, of the Japanese Divisions used for the invasion of Malaya, one ‘the Imperial Guard’ traditionally recruited its officers from Tokyo University!

Noel’s obituary in the Times noted one of his vital skills:

Duckworth was one of those small men with a giant personality. The skill which he acquired in getting the best out of his oarsmen by exhorting, cajoling, and if need be, verbally castigating, he later employed during the bleak years in (prisoner of war camps) both to sustain his fellow prisoners, and to extract those small concessions from the Japanese guards which were so vital to survival.

Carol Cooper of the ‘Children of Far East Prisoners of War’ continues this theme:

The Padre perfected the art of selling broken, worthless pens, watches, lighters etc. to the Japanese guards and the money received went straight to local traders for food for the prisoners. The guards would fall for his soft honeyed tones… but in reality his words, although sweet sounding, were calling them all kinds of unflattering names… To men who were very ill, starving and dying, his mixture of courage and comfort, defiance and deliverance, humour and understanding all made up the necessary essence and spirit which the men needed and clung to when at their lowest ebb.

After the fall of Singapore to the Japanese, Noel was moved to Changi Gaol and in 1943 was sent into Thailand and Burma on the construction of the notorious Burma Railway. There he tended hundreds upon hundreds of men dying from disease and starvation. Over 90,000 Asian civilians and 16,000 Allied POWs died in the building of the railway.

On the completion of the railway, Noel again chose to stay behind with those judged too ill to move back to Singapore, his indomitable spirit having the same inspirational effect on the men to that which he had at Padu. He was one of the very few who lived to return to Singapore in April 1944.

A fellow prisoner, the illustrator and cartoonist Ronald Searle said:

Noel Duckworth was a marvellous man who almost killed himself doing good… I loved him for what he did to raise morale and for his lovely sense of humour and for just being himself.

A picture that Searle drew entitled ‘Padre Noel Duckworth selling a Parker pen to a Japanese guard’ is here. It was created as a gift to mark Noel’s appearance on ‘This is Your Life’, and was autographed by all those who appeared with him.

Noel free at last, Changi Singapore, 1945. © Michael Smyth

There are hundreds of anecdotes about Noel Duckworth’s work in the Japanese camps. This telling story, from a letter by Rev Dr A.A. Macintosh to the Daily Telegraph in 2007, is my favourite:

His men sought some little solace in cigarettes, which they had to make themselves. Bible pages were ideal for this purpose and the soldiers asked their chaplain for permission to use them. Duckworth assented with the proviso that they read every word on the pages first.

At the end of the war Noel made what was to become a famous BBC broadcast ironically entitled ‘Japanese Holiday’. It was the first detailed account of the horrors of the Far East camps that many people had heard and the talk was subsequently printed and widely circulated. It turned out that Noel was also a natural broadcaster and for three years he joined John Snagge in commentating on the Boat Race. He was the subject of an edition of the ‘This is Your Life’ television programme in 1959 (a picture of Noel and Roland Searle on the show is here) and in 1961 he was invited to appear on the iconic BBC radio programme ‘Desert Island Discs’. More formal recognition of Noel’s wartime achievements came in 1946 when he was twice ‘mentioned in despatches’, retrospective bravery awards for ‘gallant and distinguished service while a prisoner of war’ and ‘in recognition of gallant and distinguished service in Malaya in 1942’.

Noel c. 1946. © Michael Smyth

Surviving nearly four years in a ‘living hell’ did not blunt Noel’s sense of humour or his sense of fun, nor did it diminish his love of life or love of his fellow man. From 1948 until 1957 he lived in the Gold Coast (now Ghana) where he helped to establish the first university in that country (‘a Cambridge of the tropics’). Characteristically, he went beyond his ‘job description’ and worked tirelessly to set up a charity providing free schooling to local children.

In 1961, he joined the newly founded Churchill College, Cambridge as its first Chaplain. He now had the chance to return to his beloved rowing and set about establishing a boat club for the new college. Dr Frank Maine, the first Captain of CCBC, claims that for Churchill College Boat Club, the time markers B.C. and A.D. stand for ‘Before Duckworth’ and ‘After Duckworth’. He is still toasted every year at the Churchill Boat Club dinner and the club always has a boat named ‘The Canon’. The Times obituary again:

Although his health had been severely undermined by his years as a prisoner of war, he seemed indefatigable as a coach of all comers on the towpath of the Cam, seemingly a perpetually enthusiastic adolescent on what passed as a bicycle, yet transformed into a wise counsellor and a friend in his rooms in College.

 The CCBC website has a splendid history section with yet more ‘quotable quotes’ about the great man:

J. Hamilton: Rowing was his lasting love and through his enthusiasm, knowledge and encouragement, many men at Churchill experienced… the meaning of physical endeavour and team spirit with the rewards that follow.

M. Bomford: He was just as happy coaching the fourth boat as the first and was almost solely responsible for the tremendous progress that Churchill made in the early years… and if a Churchill boat was bumped it was a College tragedy.’

A. Ramsay: He was capable of almost apoplectic excitement and regularly cycled into the river during races’.

R. Larkin: The Canon was not the archetypal cleric! His graces at the bumps supper were: ‘Bumps done – Food’s up – Sit down – Amen’.’
Noel at Churchill in his Blue's blazer, 1973. © Michael Smyth

Noel died on 24 November 1980. In his 68 years he had seen the worst that man can do to man, but he still retained his faith in humanity, his sense of humour and his love of life. It is impossible for me to do justice to the life of Noel Duckworth in 2,000 words. The best I can hope is that I have done a little to raise awareness of a great man. Fortunately, Michael Smyth (who knew Noel during his time as a student at Churchill College) has written his biography, Canon Noel Duckworth: An Extraordinary Life (ISBN 9780956391766). It will be published in September 2012 and can be ordered from the Development Office at Churchill College. Its 44,000 words should start to give some due honour to a truly remarkable man and a truly remarkable life.

I would like to thank Michael Smyth for the help he has given me in preparing this piece (though the responsibility for it is all mine). Michael would like to hear from anyone who knew or knew of Noel. He says ‘He was such a character that all who ever met him will certainly remember him and indeed I am still turning up stories about him’. Michael’s email is

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Rhythm of the Rower

Basho Matsuo (1644 - 1694)

The Rhythm of the Rower

Each stroke of his oars
Pulling the water
Sounded like "Basho, Basho," to him,
The poet's name itself
An abbreviated haiku of two syllables,
The poet's voice, swept whisper,
Along the sides of his shell,
The poet's voice pulling
His shell forward,

Until haiku intersected sonnet,
The sonnet of the river
Where Rilke's Orpheus dwelled,
Waiting for his otherworldly
Mermaid ascend with him.
Here the rower rowed
With hesitation so as not to chun
The water and send hurtling
Deeper into the Underworld
The poet's heart,

Heart Cavafy took up
And rowed with
Toward the river's mouth
That spoke the poet's name
To the rower, to the beat
Of the rower's rhythmic
Stroking, Cavafy's mermen, muscular,
Breaking the surface of the muscular river,
Against which muscle the rower pulled,
The better to discipline his stroke;

Haiku flowing into sonnet,
Sonnet into poem,
Poem into rhythm
Of the rower, rhythmic,
Rower, rhythmic,
Rhythmic river.

Philip Kuepper
(July 2012)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Women’s Boat Clubs Appoint New Chief Coaches

In a press release yesterday, it was announced that both Oxford and Cambridge Universities Women’s Boat Clubs have appointed new Chief Coaches. This move comes following the joint initiative between Newton and BNY Mellon, the Women’s and Men’s Boat Race sponsors, that will see the Newton Women’s Race move to the Tideway course in 2015, thus achieving parity with the Men’s Race.

Oxford University Women’s Boat Club have announced that Christine ‘Chris’ Wilson has been appointed Chief Coach. Chris,  a Canadian by origin,  has an extensive international coaching career spanning Olympic, University and School rowing. She was formerly assistant Coach to the US Women’s Olympic Team, Head Coach of Women’s Programmes at Yale and Cornell and was the first woman to coach men at a major American university programme. As well as this coaching experience, she recently worked as a Technical Adviser and Market Strategist for Concept2.

On her appointment Chris says, “I am grateful to the OUWBC for this unique coaching opportunity and for trusting me to lead the athletes through these exciting transitional years. The decision to create parity for the men and women who row for Oxford affords us the chance to build a modern racing tradition for ambitious university women. My appointment comes in the wake of exceptional performances by British Women’s crews at the London Olympics where the quality of competition reached new levels in all boat classes – role models abound for our squad.”

Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club have appointed Rob Baker as their new Chief Coach. Rob brings a combination of international and Tideway experience to the role, as CUWBC looks to transition to producing world class athletes competitive over the intense Tideway course in 2015. Rob has spent the last four years at Rowing Ireland where he has been working as Lead Under-23 National Coach. Before that, Rob was Assistant Coach at the Cambridge University Boat Club, where he coached the winning Goldie crews in 2006 and 2007, and acted as Head Coach in 2008.

Rob commented, “I am absolutely delighted that the CUWBC have asked me to be their new Chief Coach. It will be an honour and a privilege to lead the club into the first Newton Women’s Boat Race on the Tideway in 2015. I am very excited to be working alongside the CUBC on a level playing field and to help develop the CUWBC into one of the best University Boat Clubs in the world.”

The 2013 Newton Women’s Boat Race will take place on 24 March at Henley-on-Thames.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Glide along like a Swan

Tom Aggar of Great Britain will compete in the men's adaptive single sculls event in the upcoming Paralympic Games at Eton Dorney. He will defend his championship title from the 2008 Paralympic Games. Aggar is also a four-time World Champion in the boat class (2007, 2009, 2010, and 2011). Photo: British Rowing.

A week from today, on Friday, 31 August, the Paralympic Games are starting in London, with the rowing at Eton Dorney. Read more about the athletes and the regatta on FISA’s website here. Adaptive rowing has been around for quite some time now. Here is an article about a ‘disabled rowing’ regatta held in Oxford almost three decades ago. Author is Chris Dodd, famous rowing historian at the River and Rowing Museum, rowing journalist and writer, who had this piece published on 19 September, 1984, in his newspaper at the time, The Guardian. Thank you to Chris for allowing HTBS to re-publish it.

19 September, 1984
Chris Dodd
Rowing is a sport that could offer much to the disabled. Here Christopher Dodd reports on a British initiative to grant them freedom of the river:

Trevor Cox was penalised for using his leg to move his sliding seat during a recent sculling race on the Isis. It’s the only leg he’s got, but his two-legged opponent had no power in either of his. They were taking part in Britain’s first regatta for the disabled at Oxford, a remarkable day of courage and enjoyment. No one bar Bob Glendinning, who is partially blind as a result of multiple sclerosis, had been in a boat three months before the event.

A rowing club has been set up by Oxford and District Sport and Recreation Association for the Disabled (Oxrad) and Richard Yonge, a researcher at the Radcliffe and past president of Oxford University Boat Club. Two years ago Yonge helped out at the United States Rowing Association’s [now called USRowing] all-Disabled regatta in Philadelphia, where he saw amputees, paraplegics, the blind, victims of spina bifida, cerebral palsy, and the mentally handicapped propelling twin-hulled Rowcats. One of the athletes told him: ‘The good thing about rowing is that on land we are so ungainly when we try to get about, but on the water we just glide along like a swan. Nobody knows you are disabled. In fact, you sometimes forget it yourself.’

Yonge realised that a programme could be run easily in Oxford, where there is water on the doorstep and an army of able-bodied rowers to help out. Last May sculling began for those who can swim in Westminster College’s pool using a single hulled Playboat, a stable learning craft developed for beginners and loaned by the Amateur Rowing Association, ARA [now called British Rowing].

Graham Jones, another past president of OUBC, did some of the coaching. ‘They learned to manoeuvre the boat much quicker than most able-bodied oarsmen,’ he says. ‘There’s only room to take three strokes in the pool before you have to turn round.’ Most are out on the river after three sessions in the pool. At the regatta two of the competitors were using regular sculling boats, and there was a crew event in coxed tub pairs in which able-bodied oarsmen teamed up with disabled rowers. The blind were steered by towpath runners with megaphones, ARA officials officiated, Blues and college oarsmen provided extra manpower, and the watermanship on display was better than that showed by most of those trying their hand at punting nearby.

The Americans have been running programmes for the disabled for some time, and it is to them that we can look to see what can be done. Doug Herland was born in Oregon in 1951 with four broken ribs, a broken collarbone and pelvis. He suffered brittle bones and lived with almost constant breakages until he grew to 4 ft. 8 in. The Catch 22, he says, is that when his bones solidified in puberty there was no muscle to protect them.

A particularly serious swimming accident in his late teens left him in a wheelchair and walking with sticks for five years. But in August he won a bronze medal at the Olympic Games, wedged into the bows of a boat on his back and steering two giant oarsmen in the race of their lives. Herland walked from his boat to have his medal hung round his neck – after seven attempts to get a US team place. His high school baseball coach had suggested coxing to him. Later, he took up weight training and sculling, and he hasn’t used sticks to walk since then.

‘Rowing is excellent for the disabled,’ Herland says. ‘It causes no jarring in the joints.’ After working as a janitor while unpaid rowing coach at the University of Michigan he set up a programme for mobility impaired people called Freedom on the River.

‘If you want to organise something, get a paraplegic,’ he says. ‘If anyone is an expert on organisation, it is a quadriplegic. He has to be, just to go somewhere or do something.’ He has been trying to get Rowing in the Mainstream afloat as a countrywide programme for the able-bodied and the disabled, so far without success. But the schemes that have started have worked wonders for some of the participants.

Herland has sat on a Rowcat with a quadriplegic with no use in his arms and helped him twice up the pool by doing the puling. ‘On the third trip I took my hands off the oar. He realised that I wasn’t helping him. His eyes were full of wonder. “I’m doing this,’ he said. That guy has rowed three miles by himself and no longer has weights on his oars to get the blades out of the water.’

Richard Yonge is blessed with an able body and an enthusiasm for jarring people into joining his project. Oxrad has raised about £500 of the £700 they need to buy their own Playboat, and Falcon Rowing Club has offered them a roof. They hope to stage a demonstration at Stoke Mandeville’s pool soon, and Yonge wants other places with water, pools, a boat, and sympathetic rowers to get started so that they can come and race at Oxford next year.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

It's the Royal Canadian Henley!

This old photograph is taken at the Henley Regatta! However, not at the Henley Royal Regatta or at the 1948 Olympic Rowing held in Henley-on-Thames. No, instead it is from the Royal Canadian Henley in St Catharines, ONT.

On 9 August, HTBS posted some lovely old photographs from the 1948 Olympic Rowing Regatta held on the Henley Royal Regatta course. Or so I thought. HTBS received a kind e-mail from Andrew W. where he writes about the photograph of the grandstand and press box: “I think the one of the Grandstand is actually on Martindale Pond, at the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta (St Catharines, ONT).” Andrew also gives a link to a more recent taken photograph of the grandstand and press box – wonderful photograph, by the way – have a look here.

I have to confess that I have never been to the Royal Canadian Henley (yes, I am ashamed, dear readers from Canada), and as I knew that special stands for the spectators and a larger press box were built at the English Henley for the 1948 Olympic Rowing, I went with what it said on the back of the photograph “OG '48 Henley Grandstand & Press Box”.

Andrew was also most helpful in providing more information, on my request, about when the grandstand at Canadian Henley was built. Andrew replied: “I had a look at old programs from the regatta, and it appears that the present grandstand has been in place since at least 1946 (I’ve seen a photo), although 1931 was when the land for the present site was acquired (apparently the old grandstand blew down in 1929). What originally caught my eye was the house on the hill to the left – as far as I can remember the bank of Henley-on-Thames is flat.”

Thank you, Andrew, for setting the record straight!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Olympic Rowing? No, thank you!

In a very recently published press release, the International Rowing Federation, FISA, declared the London 2012 Olympic Games Rowing Regatta “a resounding success following the eight days of racing at the Eton Dorney regatta course.” The message continued: “Packed grandstands and enthusiastic cheering became the norm for each day of the regatta with crowds spread along most of the 2,000m course. The official Olympic customer satisfaction survey of all Olympic sites consistently rated Eton Dorney as the top venue peaking at a 97 per cent approval rating.”

Denis Oswald, president of FISA, hailed the regatta as a very successful Olympic Regatta and said: “Rowing is very popular in Great Britain and we knew that the interest would be strong, and it was. The regatta went smoothly for athletes, organisers and supporters.”

Everywhere you read about the regatta at Eton Dorney the story is the same: “The best regatta ever”. If you are British you are probably still in a euphoric state because of all the medals your rowing countrymen and -women brought home. It makes me happy to read that everyone seems to agree that it was a smashing hit.

Of course, it makes it a little harder to understand that one hundred years ago, despite the British oarsmens’ triumphs at the 1908 and 1912 Olympic Regattas, the British rowing’s governing body at that time, ARA, decided that Olympic rowing was not anything that the British rowers should occupy themselves with. Even before the Stockholm Games had started, in the spring of 1912, ARA sent a letter to the German Olympic organisers (the 1916 Olympic Games were supposed to have been held in Berlin had not the War intervened) that ARA “could not at this early date bind themselves to send crews to compete at the next or any future Olympiad”. But why, you might ask yourself? The answer came to the British Olympic Association (BOA) after the War when it was time again to send crews to the Olympic Games, now in Antwerp. BOA then took the opportunity to also send an invitation to ARA’s rival organization NARA to send crews. Now ARA took the chance to speak more plainly:

“[…] that organized international athletic competitions to take place at regular specific periods, and the expenditure of time and money which such competitions must necessarily entail, are entirely contrary to the true spirit of amateur sport”.

There it is in black and white! No true amateur sportsman would like to compete against other athletes who are getting paid to compete. The British view on this was very strict. If someone paid your trip to go to the Olympics, then you were paid and were therefore not an amateur. For the 1916 Berlin Games, BOA had suggested that a public fund was to be set up to try to raise £100,000. The idea got some support, among the supporters was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the editor of The Field, Theodore A. Cook, who was the only oarsman to support the suggestion, probably because he was a member of the International Olympic Committee. Among the doubtful oarsmen were Guy Nickalls and Rudie Lehmann (on the left). It might seem odd that both these famous oarsmen were against the Games, after all, Nickalls took an Olympic gold in the eights in 1908, and Lehmann was known to have very liberal ideas. Although, ARA sent crews to the next Olympic rowing regattas, the organization did not really believe in the Games. In 1925, ARA told the Canadian Association of American Oarsmen that “it had never been in sympathy with the Olympic Games or Olympic Regattas.

This story about the many British oarsmen’s disbelief in the Olympic Games is vividly told in Eric Halladay’s Rowing in England: A Social History – The Amateur Debate (1990). Halladay’s book is brilliant and hard to find; and if you do find it, it is going to cost you a hefty sum. On the other hand, if you are interested in reading it, you will find it as a ‘Google book’ here.

In the research library of Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut, is a letter written by Halladay (down on the left) in December 1990 to the American rowing historian Tom Mendenhall (up on the right). The American had probably written the Englishman a letter about Rudie Lehmann because Halladay writes

“You may be interested to know that I thought at one time of writing a life of Lehmann. It seemed to me that he needed to be remembered as more than a large footnote in the history of rowing. I got to know his son, John Lehmann, quite well. He was a minor literary figure and publisher, on the fringes of the Bloomsbury group and at one time thought to be the ‘fifth’ man forming the Cambridge spy-ring – Burgess, McLean etc. But there were no papers of any importance and so I had to drop the matter.”

Personally, I think it is really a shame that Halladay did not pursue this mission. Just think what a grand book it could have been. But, instead, we can read Halladay’s book about the amateur question among the oarsmen at a time when they did not want to have anything to do with the Olympics.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The London Olympics’ Rowing Programmes, Official and Unofficial!

Photo: British Rowing
HTBS’s Greg Denieffe went to the Olympic Rowing at Eton Dorney and could not find an official rowing programme. A kind lady with a rowing mad friend saved him. Here is Greg’s story:

1908, 1948 and 2012. The three years when the Olympics were held in London. Of course, the rowing was held outside the capital each time; Henley-on-Thames had the honour in 1908 and 1948, and Eton Dorney in 2012. Now imagine looking forward to the Games for seven years and imagine looking forward for seven years to be at the Olympic Regatta, and imagine getting tickets for the rowing in the lottery. Yes, I would go to the ball!

On Sunday 29 July, we joined the other thousands and thousands of people on the shuttle buses and on the long walk to the course. Once inside we passed the queues for the toilets, the water pumps, the food sellers and the souvenir stalls. We would buy our programme further up the course. There were lots of programme sellers and they were selling The London 2012 Olympic Games Official Programme for ten pounds and The Official Olympic Games Daily Programme for five pounds. All very nice, lovely glossy magazines with loads of articles about what were happening at all the Olympic venues; but I would like The Rowing Programme, please! “Sorry sir, but we don’t have a sport specific programme”. Don’t worry readers, I got over it, but it rankled, just a bit. You see, I’ve been to a few big rowing events and I’ve always had a programme, but not this time it seemed.

The 1908 regatta was held at Henley-on-Thames on July 28 and the three following days and they had a daily programme. That’s the way to do it.

The cover of the official 1908 rowing programme for Wednesday 29 July.

Even in 1948, at the so called Austerity Games there was a different colour programme for each of the four days of the regatta held on the 5, 6, 7 and 9 August. Did you notice the crowds in the BBC production of Bert and Dickie, all waving the correct programme on finals day?

The cover of the official 1948 rowing programme for Monday 9 August, finals day.

Alas, 2012 was different. No official rowing programme. There was one for sailing, and one for football and daily ones for the athletics. Now, I think a sport that produced two gold, two silver and two bronze medals for Great Britain in Beijing and promised to deliver more in London deserved, at least, a programme.

The following day we returned to Eton Dorney for a very short day’s racing. Like sheep, we found our place on the course as close to where we had been the previous day. Making ourselves as comfortable as we could, we waited for the first race and as soon as it finished, I noticed a young girl in front of me with what I thought was, you’ve guessed it, a programme! I politely enquired of the young girl’s mother as to where this seemingly magical document could be found. “Oh” she said, “a rowing mad friend made it for my daughter”. So that was that, I thought. Not so. Seeing the look of disappointment on my daughter’s face (and mine!), the kind lady produced a spare copy from her bag and handed it over. What luck?

The week before we set off to Eton Dorney, I bought I-SPY FLAGS to keep my six-year-old busy and it certainly did. With the flags of all the competing countries fluttering over the grandstand, she was busy spotting and ticking and for the medal ceremonies there were more flags and even people wandering around draped in flags. We even spotted the correct shaped flag of Switzerland!

The Cover of the ‘Official’ I-SPY FLAGS.

This is what has to say about their little books:

‘Do you remember the popular Michelin I-Spy books? If you were a child in the 1950s and 60s the answer will probably be yes.The iconic book collection was back on the shelves for Christmas 2009 for the first time since 2002, encouraging children of all ages to get out and explore the world around them.

‘Created by Charles Warrell in 1948 the pocket-sized picture books were designed to develop children's curiosity, powers of observation and sense of discovery. Each book was based on a specific theme I-Spy Cars, I-Spy in the Country, I-Spy on the Road, I-Spy Below your Feet and so on. Within the 40-page books were illustrations of things for children to spot which earned them a certain number of points.

‘During its heyday Michelin I-Spy had a cult following with more than 1.5million children becoming members of the I-Spy 'tribe', headed up by Big Chief I-Spy, Warrell himself. Once children had 'spied' all of the items in the book they sent it to Wigwam-by-the-Water (later Wigwam-by-the-Green) in London and completed books were rewarded with badges.’

What we now had in our (yes our) possession, was another ‘spotting’ book, The completely unofficial I-SPY book of Olympic Rowing 2012. A very well thought out 16-page booklet that the author should be very proud of. The ‘programme’ has a nice introduction, followed by details of all the Great Britain crews, including photographs. Next are seven pages of blade colours. Throw in a few specials like Jürgen Grobler and a rigger jigger and there were hours of fun to be had.  Of course there is a spotting box to tick and the I-SPY points for each ‘spot’. The last two pages are a race schedule and maps of the course. The only snag was how would I keep my six-year-old from filling in the boxes until I had a chance to copy it? Bribery of course!

I hoped to meet the kind lady who gave it to us and find out who the compiler was, but although we returned for two more days of racing, we never saw her again. Here are a few pages for HTBS readers to enjoy.

It was great to be part of the Olympics and see some of the best rowers in the world at their peak.  Let’s hope someone down Rio way has the good sense to be reading HTBS and is in charge of the Olympic Rowing in 2016.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Note on the American Bushnells

Did Olympic gold medallist Bert Bushnell have relatives in America?

After HTBS has posted several blog posts on Bert Bushnell and Dickie Burnell and the BBC film Bert and Dickie, some days ago, HTBS received an e-mail from ‘an American Bushnell’, Steven E. Bushnell in California. Let it be said from the start, no one seems to really know the true connection between Bert’s family and Steven’s family on this side of the pond. But more about that later.

Steven writes, “Early American Bushnells were a largely Connecticut, Puritan family, first in Guilford and then longer and more prominently in Old Saybrook, and after reading about Göran’s outings with his children, here’s information about places not far from Mystic that everyone might enjoy. I’m guessing you’ve at least heard of them, and it may be you’ve visited those on the water, which have to do with some of the ‘American Bushnells’. Those are:

Photo: Connecticut River Museum
David Bushnell (1740 - ca. 1826) of Saybrook built the first practical submarine, which was the first used to attack a ship, and the engineering aspects of The Turtle (on the right) are simple and neat enough that particularly families with children might enjoy the full-size replicas at the Submarine Force Museum at Groton and the Connecticut River Museum at Essex, at which there are of course many other things for you all. Take a closer look at the Submarine Force Library and Museum and Connecticut River Museum and The Turtle.

“Still in the water, Cornelius S. Bushnell (1829 - 1896) born in Madison, Connecticut, is today best known as a result of his meeting with a Swede, the naval engineer John Ericsson, and of their roles in the construction of the U.S.S. Monitor. There’s a nice description of this history near the middle on the page here and a well-written biography of Bushnell, who had quite an eventful life beyond the Monitor here.

“It seems the Allis-Bushnell House at Madison is undergoing some changes, but at the Annex, there are things Göran’s children Ingrid and Anders, and other visiting children might enjoy seeing, just look here.”

Steven belongs to a branch of the family in California who is descended from those of Saybrook. He continues to write,

“In the end of the 1970s, my late father, David Pearsall B. (if you click on the link you will come to the Wikipedia entry for Steven’s father, and yes, the little baby in the photo is Steven), hired a boat from Bert Bushnell as part of his last, happy honeymoon. My Dad told me how he enjoyed their conversation and about their speculation over whether or not they were related. The evidence now compiled indicates that surname is attached to one family that originated in Berkshire at a place about six miles WSW of the Thames called in earlier times some variant of “the Bushenell,” today Bushnells Green. As I’ve seen comments by Bert’s daughters on HTBS, you might know that Bert’s grand-nephew David, who won the Doggett’s Coat and Badge Race in 1998, runs Bushnell Marine Services at Wargrave, his father, Paul, having been appointed one of the Royal Watermen. More on that family here.

“Göran, if you haven’t been to those places in Connecticut, I’m sure you’ll enjoy taking your children there. Thank you for everything that is written about Bert on HTBS!”

Update 20 Aug., 2 p.m.: Steven Bushnell sent a little extra note on Cornelius’ son: “Samuel Clarke Bushnell (1852  - 1930) was the President of the Yale University Boat Club in 1874, which participated in the races of the National Rowing Association of American Colleges on July 17 and 19 on Saratoga Lake; Ansley Wilcox of Yale winning the single sculls competition.”

Steven also adds: “Cornelius’ feelings about his Swedish colleague in the construction of the Monitor were such that he named a son born in 1861 Ericsson Bushnell.”

Dear Steven ~ thank you for all this interesting information about the Bushnells in Connecticut. I am sure the British Bushnells are now also wondering how they are connected to your family!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

It could have been Six Games!

Not tired of Olympic rowing history yet?

If not, here is something for you: Did you know that instead of taking five Olympic gold medals in five consecutive Games, Steven Redgrave maybe could have taken six Olympic gold medals at six consecutive Games! How so? Redgrave was actually selected as an 18-year-old rower to go to the 1980 Moscow Games, he says in an interview in the Sport Magazine. However, when the Americans decided to boycott these Games, Great Britain decided to send a smaller group of athletes, so Redgrave was dropped from the team.

Read the interview here.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Temper of the Rower

The Temper of the Rower

No, it was
Not the perfect row.
An oar broke
Against a rock.
The sun beat down hot.
Water traffic made nightmare
Of the day,
All managing to make foul
The temper of the rower
Who strung the air with beads of curses.
The oil slick fouling the water
was the tipping point.
He struck a mental match,
And set light to it,
And felt better, intellectually, for it.

Philip Kuepper
(January 2012)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Rowing Down To Rio: Less than 1,460 Days to go…

Tim Koch writes,

The Summer Games of the 31st Olympiad will be held between 5 and 21 August, 2016, in in Rio de  Janeiro, Brazil. The official website says this about the rowing venue, Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas:

'(It) is located in the heart of Rio with a spectacular backdrop of mountains, the Tijuca Forest and Christ the Redeemer statue at Corcovado. It is within ten minutes of the hotels and beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema. A feature of the design will be the installation of a temporary pontoon with 10,000 seats, ensuring a great atmosphere in the finish zone.'

The Wikipedia entry on Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas says that it is known locally as ‘Lagoa’ and that it is a lagoon in south Rio which is connected to the sea by canal. It was the venue for the rowing in the 2007 Pan American Games. I think it must be the most spectacular international rowing course in the world. The rowing centre is the Estádio de Remo da Lagoa, the waterfront building with the sloping roof situated just left of centre in this picture (double click on it to enlarge). 

The official website continues:

'As the traditional home of Rowing and Canoeing in Rio, the proposed venue upgrade will leave an important legacy, which will include accommodation for athlete training and renovated facilities including a new finish tower and boatshed. The local clubs and the National Rowing Confederation (CBR) will benefit significantly from such enhancements.'

Evidence that Lagoa has a history of rowing use seems to be here. Can any Portuguese speakers translate for us?

Top class rowing in a spectacular setting just minutes from Copacabana? I have already packed my thong.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

1912 Thames RC's Olympic Silver

Thames RC coxed four took an Olympic silver medal in Stockholm in 1912: bow Julius Beresford, 2 Karl Vernon, 3 Charles Rough, stroke Bruce Logan and cox Geoffrey Carr.

Out of the twenty-four British oarsmen competing at the Stockholm Olympic rowing event one hundred years ago, Geoffrey Carr (1886-1969) is probably the least known of them all. Carr, who was born in Putney, was, according to Geoffrey Page in his magnificent Hear the Boat Sing: The History of Thames Rowing Club and Tideway Rowing (1991), an Anglian coxswain who had been recruited by Julius ‘Berry’ Beresford to steer the Thames RC’s four at the Olympic rowing regatta at Djurgårdsbrunnsviken in the Swedish capital.

In England at the time, the coxed four was regarded as a second-class boat type ever since ‘Guts’ Woodgate had invented the coxless four at Henley in 1868. But as the race course was not really straight on Djurgårdsbrunnsviken and the boats were also to go under a couple of bridges, the Swedish regatta organizers had insisted that the boats competing should have a cox – of course with the exception of the single sculls. Berry and his comrades in the coxless four were therefore forced to train in a coxed four with Carr. The boat they used was twenty years old, Page writes in his book about Thames RC. As Henley Royal Regatta was only a fortnight before the Olympic regatta, Berry’s crew was also training in the coxless four and in the pairs.

In the final of the Stewards’, Thames, with Berry, Karl ‘Bean’ Vernon, Charles Rough and Bruce Logan, met New College, Oxford, stroked by R. C. ‘Bob’ Bourne, who earlier in March and April, had won both The Boat Races (at the first row Cambridge sank). Thames was in the lead of most of the race, but at the Enclosure New College was slightly ahead and by then the air went out of Berry’s crew. ‘Bean was convinced that this defeat was due mainly to their having practised so much with a cox, though doubling up in the pairs again cannot have helped’, Page states.

In the Olympic final in the coxed four, Ludwigshafen proved to be too strong for the British four from Thames. The Germans who took the gold were: bow Albert Arnheiter, 2 Hermann Wilker, 3 Rudolf Fickeisen, stroke Otto Fickeisen and cox Otto Maier.

At the Olympics, Thames RC’s coxed four first had a row-over, and then beat the Norwegian crew from Studenternes in the quarterfinal, another Norwegian boat from Christiania in the semifinal, and met the Germans of Ludwigshafen Ruderverein in the final. After having rowed neck and neck for the first 500 metres, the German boat took a lead and won with two lengths.

I am not sure if Thames RC has celebrated that it is one hundred years ago that Berry’s crew took an Olympic silver medal, but reports from England tell the story how fifty of Geoffrey Carr’s family, from his daughter, Jane Jox 90, to his great-great-great grandchildren got together for a cruise on the Thames in his honour. Read more here.

In the chapter that wraps up the 1912 Olympic rowing in Page’s Hear the Boat Sing, the author writes about some of the Thames’s members who lost their lives in the Great War, among them Eric Fairbairn, whom HTBS has written about lately. Berry’s four was not spared. Page writes,

‘The unluckiest of all […] was probably Charles Rought. A prisoner of war almost from the beginning, he died after eating a bad oyster while waiting to be demobilized after his release, and so technically his death occurred while on active service. Requiescant in Pace’.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

‘... nobody expects you to win - you are bloody English’

The BBC building on the site of the 1908 Olympic Stadium with the Medal Table Memorial.

HTBS’s Tim Koch writes from London:

The Thirtieth Olympiad has ended. Every host nation puts their own ‘national stamp’ on the Games but perhaps the UK has done this more than most. Continuing the theme of doing things in a British way, it would be allegedly typical understatement say that the 2012 London Olympics went ‘rather well’ and the host nation ‘did not do too badly’. No one was going to beat the United States or China in the medal table so the race was always for third place – a place which the host nation won.

Britain will never better their 1908 record but 2012 is their most successful Games in modern times.

Great Britain also did ‘reasonably’ in the rowing. In what the President of the International Rowing Federation called ‘the best Olympic regatta ever’ the forty seven rowers and scullers of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales all qualified for their finals and again made Britain the top rowing nation with four wins. However, this was not always the case. From 1948 Britain went for 36 years without winning a world rowing title. How did British international rowing make the dramatic turnaround in its fortunes? I would suggest that much of the credit can be given to four individuals.

Number one is the man who, in 1974, uttered the ‘bloody English’ phrase to a squabbling crew – Bob Janousek. In his excellent review of Chris Dodd’s book Pieces of Eight: Bob Janousek and his Olympians, Göran Buckhorn says of British international 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."

At the end of the 1960s British international rowing had reached its lowest ebb and the Amateur Rowing Association, in a very rare inspired move, invited Bob, a non-English speaking foreigner who was unknown outside of Czechoslovakia, to take charge of the coaching of what passed as the national squad. Top level rowing in Britain was ‘amateur’ in both its true and its derogative sense. Different clubs fought to have their chosen crew to represent the country rather than put the best individuals together. If crews were mixed, their styles were often incompatible. Scientific training on land and water was virtually unknown. There was little money and few facilities. With a lot of time and effort Bob managed to change much of this and the result was that a British eight won silver at the 1974 World Championships and also at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. He ended the age of the ‘Gentleman Amateurs’ and the ‘Private Navies’ and proved that British crews could compete with the best in the world.
The second person I would credit with turning British international rowing around is Steve Redgrave. Of course, the man who won five golds in five Olympics rowed in crew boats, but it was Redgrave who inspired these boats, crews were built around him and partners had to come up to his level. When an athlete shows that something can be done, others will follow. Once Roger Bannister broke the four minute mile in 1954, within months others did the same and today it is the standard of all male middle distance runners. Steve personified the fact that a British oarsman could be a world beater. Credit must also go Mike Spracklen, Redgrave’s coach until 1988, though he, in turn, was a protégée of Bob Janousek.

Photo: British Rowing
Some people suggested that Steve was a ‘one off’ and that, once he retired, British rowing would cease to be so successful. They reckoned without another non-English speaking foreigner from the Eastern Bloc, a man who has now coached at least one win in each of the last ten Olympic regattas, six for GB, Jürgen Gröbler (on the right). A product of what was then the world’s best rowing nation, the former East Germany, he became Leander’s Chief Coach in 1991 and in 1992 took up the same post with the then Amateur Rowing Association. In the words of BR’s website ‘….since then he has been responsible for an exceptional and sustained period of success on the world stage’. Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Simon Briggs noted:

"Gröbler is not exactly noted as a technical coach……. [his] talents lie in manipulating the physical data. He logs every ergometer time-trial, every piece on the water. Then he calculates when to drive his athletes harder, when to taper off their efforts, and when to break the boats up and reconfigure them in a new formation. In his ability to run a fleet, he is the heir of Admiral Nelson."

An honorary knighthood must surely be forthcoming for a man whose record is never likely to be bettered.

The final person that I would credit for the revival of British international rowing has nothing to do with our sport – he is a famously dull politician with an interest in cricket. The contribution that John Major, the British Prime Minister from 1990 to 1997, made to rowing and British sport in general has already been well chronicled in a recent HTBS posting. In 1994, Major approved the establishment of a National Lottery with 28% of takings going to ‘good causes’ including sport and the arts. This was too late to have much effect on the 1996 Atlanta Games and Redgrave and Pinsent brought home the only British gold and Britain was seventh in the regatta medal table. In the next few years however, Lottery money began to ‘kick in’ and the returns were rapid. In the words of Allan Massie: ‘Individual talent and determination were for the first time properly supported’.

Andy Triggs Hodge – one of Britain’s ten gold medal winning rowers.

In Sydney in 2000 Britain athletes won ten golds overall and its rowers were third in the regatta table. In Athens in 2004, there was a slight plateau and Britain got nine golds and was again in third place in rowing. In the run up to Beijing the funding to UK sport was quadrupled to £235m and the 2008 Games saw nineteen golds for Britain and it reached first place in the regatta table. London 2012 brought twenty eight British wins and the host country retained its position as the top rowing nation.

The reverse of the London medal.

UK Sport does not distribute Lottery money randomly; it is done with ‘tough love’. The more successful the sport, the more money it gets, less success may mean less money. Naturally rowing has benefited greatly, getting over £27m / $42m for the Olympiad just past. The BBC website reports:

"No other sport exceeded their (2012) target by the distance rowing achieved, winning nine medals to the six demanded of them.... (rowing) will have few worries about sitting down with UK Sport for its performance review."

The most successful British sports, the elite teams of athletics, cycling, sailing, swimming and rowing, account for half of all the UK’s Olympic team funding.  While two thirds of Great Britain’s sporting teams reached their targets in London, nine sports failed to reach the standard set and will have to wait to see if their budgets are cut.

The BBC says that the Lottery (which of course is a ‘voluntary tax’ as no one has to buy a Lottery ticket) contributed 60% of the funding for Team GB in the run up to London 2012. The other 40% came from the taxpayer – about 80 pence/$1.25 per person. Continuing with British understatement, I would say that this was not a bad price to pay – not bad at all.