Photograph: Werner Schmidt

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Good-Bye and Welcome!

Dear Readers of HTBS!

‘Hear the Boat Sing’ (HTBS) was founded in March 2009. After more than five successful years on Blogger, with nearly 1,700 blog posts, HTBS has now moved to Wordpress, where a team of seven writers are trying to live up to the HTBS motto: 'This blog covers all aspects of the rich history of rowing, as a sport, culture phenomena, a life style, and a necessary element to keep your wit and stay sane'.

The new HTBS website will have all the old blog posts since March 2009, so you will still be able to go back to read the ‘old stuff’, and at the same time enjoy all new features that a new platform allows us to do.

For all of you who followed HTBS via e-mail and joined the old site, please come with us to the new website by joining and following us on

Göran R Buckhorn,
editor of HTBS

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

F.S. Kelly on the BBC

F. S. Kelly in 1903. Picture: Wikipedia.

Tim Koch writes:

Regular readers will know that HTBS has written many times about one of its heroes, Fredrick Septimus Kelly, a rower and sculler who won eight Henley medals between 1897 and 1906 and an Olympic Gold in 1908 and who was also a gifted musical composer and a gallant and decorated soldier, killed in action in 1916. In 2009, we posted a two-part biography (which is here and here) and our most recent post concerning the great man was last week when we linked to a YouTube video containing Kelly’s Elegy for String Orchestra, written at Gallipoli in memory of his friend and fellow soldier, the poet Rupert Brooke.

In the single scull, Kelly won the Wingfields in 1903 and Henley's Diamonds in 1902, 1903 and 1905. His record time for the latter, 8 minutes and 10 seconds, lasted for 30 years.

There is no shortage of accounts of a man who touched people’s lives in a variety of ways. For example, the Australian Dictionary of Biography gives a nice overview of his life while the auction sale details of his war medals naturally gives a fuller description of his military career. In 2004, the National Library of Australia published Race Against Time: The Diaries of F.S. Kelly, edited by T. Radic, and sections appear online on Google books.

Kelly’s last and perhaps greatest race was the 1908 Olympic Final in which his Leander crew beat the Belgians. Here he is standing on the far left of the crew known as ‘The Old Crocks’.

The most recent tribute to Kelly has been by BBC Radio. On 10 August they broadcast an hour long programme fronted by Steve Williams who won Gold in the GB coxless four in both the Athens and Beijing Olympics. It was in a series entitled “Heroes at War” (though “Sporting Heroes at War” would have been more descriptive). Those in the UK who missed it can hear it through the ‘on demand’ site, BBC iPlayer which will have it available for a week, until 11am on Sunday, 17 August. While iPlayer TV programmes can only be viewed by those with British Internet Service Providers, radio (for some reason) can be accessed (also only until the 17th) from anywhere in the world through (though only via a desktop computer, not a smart phone). Unfortunately, the end of the online version seems to have been clipped.

Steve Williams, later accompanied by BBC Northampton sports editor, Graham McKechnie, records his thoughts ‘on location’ in Henley, Marlow, Gallipoli and the former battlefields of northern France, frequently quoting from Kelly’s diary and with the man’s music forming the underscore. The result is an atmospheric and moving insight into a very complex personality. I particularly like the story that Williams tells of Kelly conducting his battalion’s band as they perform Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture at the Front, presumably within the sound of real artillery. Famously, the ‘1812’ is best known for its finale fanfare of chimes, brass and ‘cannon’. It is, as Williams observes, a very ‘cinematic’ image, and I would suggest that were it a product of a piece of fiction, it could be considered too contrived.

The Martinsart British Cemetery near Albert in Picardie where Kelly is buried. Picture: Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Put aside an hour and enjoy this tribute to a great athlete, artist and soldier.

Monday, August 11, 2014

2014 World Rowing Junior Championships - Results

German's Women Eight winner at the World Championships in Hamburg. Photo: FISA.

World Rowing Junior Championships in Hamburg, Germany, ended yesterday. FISA writes in a press release:

The home advantage paid off for Germany as they finished at the top of the medals table at the 2014 World Rowing Junior Championships in Hamburg, Germany.

The 13 finals raced on the fifth day of the regatta saw rowers face challenging rowing conditions which called for excellent technique. Germany was the only country to have boats in all 13 finals and they topped it off by winning the most medals including seven gold medals.

The golds for Germany came in the men's and women's eight, men's and women's single sculls, men's four, men's quadruple sculls and men's double sculls. This gave the host nation a clean sweep in the blue riband boat classes. The women's single saw Melanie Goeldner stay ahead of Camille Juillet of France and Marieke Keijser of the Netherlands to win the event. Tim Ole Naske won the men's single sculls by a large margin with Daniel De Groot of Canada and South Africa's Daniel Watkins taking silver and bronze respectively.

After missing the podium in 2013, the German women's eight won this year over the 2013 Junior World Champions, Romania as well as the crew from Russia. Romania ended with bronze and Russia with silver. In the men's eight Germany finished ahead of the Netherlands and Italy. The silver for the Netherlands was their first medal in this boat class and it represented one of two medals that the Dutch won at this regatta.

Romania finished second on the medals table with a count of two gold medals, two silvers and a bronze. The golds for Romania came in the women's double sculls and the women's pair. China also tallied up two gold medals. The Chinese brought a small team to the regatta, and found success in the women's four and women's quadruple sculls.

Italy and the Czech Republic both had gold medal success with Italy winning the men's coxed four and the Czech Republic taking gold in the men's pair.

Find the results here.

A number of these athletes will now move on to the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China which begins on 17 August, 2014.

Next on the World Rowing calendar is the 2014 World Rowing Championships. These will be held in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, from 24 to 31 August.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

My Oar My Pen

My Oar My Pen

All I write
I write longhand,
the page my scull,
my pen my oar,
words, the river
I row, calm
water, whitewater,
water of glass, water of froth,
sculls vulnerable
to rock, to pebble,
to grain of sand in my path
the ink of my oar attempts
to navigate.

Philip Kuepper
17 June 2014

Thursday, August 7, 2014

In Memory of Oarsmen who Died in the Great War

Martinsart's British Cemetery, where F. S. Kelly is buried.

This year media are writing celebratory pieces on the First World War that began 100 years ago, on 28 July 1914 to be more exact. The River and Rowing Museum in Henley-on-Thames has just started a very promising blog, Home Front Henley, about the War. Read it here.

HTBS has several times written about oarsmen who fell in the Great War. To mention a few of the more famous ones: Frederick Septimus Kelly, Julian Grenfell, Eric Fairbairn, Guiseppe Sinigaglia and Bernhard von Gaza. We have also posted articles on War Monuments at rowing clubs and other places and war recruitment posters.

In his book The Boat Race: The Story of the First Hundred Races between Oxford and Cambridge (1954) author Gordon Ross lists 42 names of British Blues who paid the ultimate price during the 1914-1918 War - twenty-one Dark Blues and twenty-one Light Blues.

On 1 August Martin Cross published a wonderful piece on FISA’s World Rowing website about the First World War and oarsmen who fought on the battlefields around the world. Read his piece here and watch his video (below) on how he, in May, sculled the River Somme in France to commemorate the brave oarsmen who died:

In the June/July issue of British Rowing’s magazine Rowing & Regatta, Cross also had a well-written piece about his Somme row.

Though the following video has been posted on many places around the web during the last couple of weeks, it is worth watching and listen to over and over again. This is oarsman and composer F. S. Kelly’s Elegy for String Orchestra, written at Gallipoli in memory of Rupert Brooke, the poet and fellow soldier, who had died on board a French hospital ship just off the Greek island of Skyros, where Kelly and his comrades buried Brooke.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

HTBS by the Numbers

Hello All!

Here is an update on HTBS's 'numbers' that we would like to share with you readers.

HTBS will pass a special number today, as we will reach 300,000 pagevisits by the end of the day. We are also rapidly approaching 1M pageviews, we have right now 105 followers, and this is the 1,692nd post. Not bad for a blog celebrating the history of rowing.

Our warm thanks to all you HTBS readers ~ you are the ones who got us there....

Göran R Buckhorn,

Henley Literary Festival 2014

Greg Denieffe writes:

The 8th Henley Literary Festival beginning 29 September and running to 5 October is now open for bookings. The exciting news for rowing enthusiasts is that there are three opportunities to catch up with the authors of recent publications on the subject. Dodd, Carlson and Mowbray may sound like the name of a dodgy firm of solicitors but the only thing dodgy about their contribution to the world of rowing literature is that Chris Dodd touches on some dodgy dealings in his book Bonnie Brave Boat Rowers.

Dodd will be the first of the trio to grace the festival when on Monday 29 September he literally takes to the water on board Hibernia to discuss Geordie Rowers.

A canny good read!

From the festival programme (FP):

As fitting an author to appear at Henley (and on the Hibernia) as you can imagine. Christopher joins us from the River & Rowing Museum to recall the rowing culture that thrived in the north east of England through the 19th and early 20th century. Rowing was a professional sport inspiring innovative design of racing boats, while the music hall roared with songs to honour the oarsmen’s prowess.

You can read HTBS editor Göran Buckhorn’s review of the book here, order a copy here and read a review of Chris’ 2012 appearance at the festival here.

Also on Monday 29 on the Hibernia immediately after Chris, Jack Carlson will tell the story of his book Rowing Blazers.

Rowing Blazers, British edition

Rowing Blazers, American edition

Cambridge University’s Lady Margaret Boat Club has the honour of wearing the first blazers, so called as they were (and still are) bright red. But the jacket has gone on to become a worldwide rowing uniform and one that brightens the Thames banks during our Royal Regatta in July. So join Jack, winner of last year’s Regatta, aboard the Hibernia with his stunning book on the history and development of the rowing blazer, featuring designs from around the globe. He is wonderfully qualified as an oarsman who has represented the USA at the World Rowing Championships and rowed [sic] for Oxford in the University Boat Race. So that is two blazers he is entitled to wear! (FP).

Tim Koch recently reviewed the book for HTBS. He also features within its pages. Read his review here and watch a video that tells the story of the authentic striped, piped, trimmed and badged rowing blazer, through the oarsmen and women who wear them here.

Whilst these two events follow each other on board the Hobbs & Sons Hibernia, separate bookings which can be made here are required for each.

If these two rowing events can be said to top the festival, you will have to wait until the final day (Sunday 5 October) for the tail. It is an event that I am particularly looking forward to as I have already received a ‘pass out’ for the day and my ticket is booked!

Recipe book?

Alison Mowbray won a silver medal in the women’s quadruple scull at the Athens Olympics in 2004. Her autobiography Gold Medal Flapjack, Silver Medal Life was the first rowing book published in 2014, with a publication date of 2 January.

From the official press release:

Alison Mowbray wasn’t a sporty kid and thought that being good at sport was a pre-requisite for going to the Olympics. She thought she might be a doctor, a teacher, a Blue Peter presenter or maybe the first ever female naval submariner.

Then at 18 I discovered rowing. From that point on, for the next 15 years, I didn’t have a choice anymore. She made the British team at 27, by which time she had already lived a whole other life.

I never planned to be inspiring so really this is just the story of how I did the things I love, the very best I could do them, and how very far it took me. You don’t choose to go to the Olympics. You lay out everything you have and let the Olympics take it no deals, no bargains, no questions asked, no hope of return. Maybe it will be enough and the Olympics will choose you, and maybe it won’t.

That’s what you do. That is this story. This is a Silver medal life of achievement, addiction, alcoholism, anorexia and Alzheimer’s. But a Gold medal story of passion and perseverance, and not letting anything or anybody get between yourself and your dream. And of what happens next perhaps the most Olympian journey of all after the blaze of glory with the medal held high. Because what do you do when you’ve achieved everything you ever wanted to achieve? Where do you go from there?

This started out as a recipe book with a few stories from my life, and then the story took over. It also became really important to me to write this as a history of British women’s rowing because I don’t think many people on the outside really understand how incredibly self-motivated and tough us women have had to be pull ourselves up, often in defiance of the first fledgling attempts at some sort of system”.

Alison will once again take to the water on the beautiful river Thames on the final day of the festival as the Hibernia is also the setting for her talk. Martin Cross, aka The Blogging Oarsman gives his take on the book in a short video which you can watch here.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Workout

The Workout

The warm drapery of sunlight
dragged across the cold
colbalt water in the Nordic
morning.  The sculler
shivered as he slipped
into his scull.  The quiet
drip of his oars into the lake
began the measured
conversation between
himself and rowing,
a conversation warmed
by the efforts of his strokes.
Then he felt the drapery
of sunlight brush his shoulders.
And he took the conversation
deeper into the morning.

Philip Kuepper
22 June 2014

Monday, August 4, 2014

1974 World Championships on Rotsee

On 1 August rowing historian and journalist Christopher Dodd wrote here on HTBS about the 1976 Henley Royal Regatta. Just a couple of weeks earlier, on 13 July, he had written a 'prelude' to that piece on his own blog Rowingvoice. In that article he remembers how he, as the rowing correspondent for The Guardian, and Jim Railton of The Times had arrived at Rotsee in Lucerne for the 1974 World Championships. Dodd's "Hot times in the Cold War" is an entertaining story about Henrietta's bar and the hostess's party trick, the British eight's disastrous race in the semi-final, how the eight's cox, Pat Sweeney, worked his boat through the other nations' crews one by one in the final and how the Championships ended with a tear gas attack by Swiss police trying to break up the athletes' after-race party - while the party band continued to play on.... They don't make regattas like that anymore.

In June earlier this year, a video on the eights final at the 1974 World Championships was uploaded on YouTube, see below. (There are no race commentaries, but close to the 500-metre mark, at 2:32 min., Bachman-Turner Overdrive's "Takin' Care of Business" - released in January 1974 - starts to play and will follow the race to the finish line.)

Please see also HTBS's post "The Story of the Martini Achter" on the American 1973 and 1974 crews, and the 1974 crew's reunion earlier this year.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Phoenix Boat

The Phoenix Boat

After the race, the boat
was broken up
and burned.
In the flames, rose
the robed gorgeous
Bird of Fire,
flight of flame fanning,
with brilliance, the air.
Afterwards, ashes
lay white-hot on the ground,
like the whispers of spirits
already discussing
next year's race.

Philip Kuepper
20 June 2014

Saturday, August 2, 2014

100 Years ago at Henley

Union Boat Club, closes to the camera, meeting Harvard for a celebratory row at Henley Royal Regatta this summer.

HTBS just received an e-mail from American 1956 Olympian cox, Bill Becklean (whom we wrote about on 18 June). Bill went to Henley Regatta this summer to, among other things, cox in a ‘reenactment race’ to celebrate the 1914 Grand Challenge Cup race between the American crews Harvard JV and Union Boat Club, of Boston. A race that Harvard famously won.

‘Both organizations showed up with veterans to row over the course during the lunch intermission on the day of the finals. Both crews much enjoyed the demo,’ Bill writes.

The UBC crew, back row: Bill Becklean, Charlie Clapp, Sam Batchelor and Derek Silver; front row:  Val Hollingsworth, Mike Corr, Rob Wettech, Alecs Zoluls and Josi Shamir. (Sorry, no information on the names in the Harvard crew more than Devin Mahoney, cox.

Update 3 August: On the River and Rowing Museum's new blog Home Front Henley, on 5 July, there is a contemporary account of the race between Union BC and Harvard - read it here. See also the blog on 30 June, here.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Chris Dodd: Henley Royal Regatta 1976

Thames Tradesmen leading Leander in the final of the Grand. Photo: Rowing August 1976.

As HTBS readers know by now, YouTube is a real treasure trove when it comes to film clips on rowing. HTBS’s Tim Koch found two wonderful films from the 1976 Henley Royal Regatta on YouTube. HTBS asked rowing historian Christopher Dodd to write a commentary about Henley for that year. As many of you are aware of, Dodd is an authority on British rowing and he paid special attention to the country’s rowing progress during the 1970s in his book Pieces of Eight: Bob Janousek and his Olympians (2012).

Christopher Dodd writes:

Henley Regatta took place on 1-4 July 1976 at the end of a heat wave. The temperature reached over 90° Fahrenheit*, humidity was at its wettest, the river low and the stream minimal. There was a new hazard to Henley, clearly visible in the YouTube video clips – swimmers on the booms and on the course. See the following film:

The open events were devoid of national crews, including the entire British team, who were in Canada preparing for the Montreal Olympics. Britain’s best hopes for medals that summer were the men’s eight, hand-picked three years before by Bob Janousek, the national coach, and the double scullers Chris Baillieu and Mike Hart. The eight’s last pre-Olympic regatta was Lucerne, held before Henley that year, and there was no opportunity to thrill the home crowd at Henley.

So the open events were short of class if not of competition. Janousek’s eight was a blend of Leander Club and Thames Tradesmen, and it was these two clubs who finished up contesting the Grand. Both contained men who had missed Olympic selection. 

Leander reached the final by beating the University of British Columbia (three quarter length) followed by London University (half length). Tradesmen arrived there by beating London RC by a third of a length. London were effectively the national lightweight eight (no Olympic lightweight events in 1976). London University were coxed by John Boultbee, who later became the first Australian to be elected a Henley Steward.

As the clip shows, Tradesmen won a close final by two thirds of a length. This was the second attempt after a re-row was ordered by the umpire after Leander stopped at the top of the Island during the first attempt when their rudder hit a submerged object.

The race was re-scheduled for 4.15 p.m. (three and a quarter hours after the first start), and Tradesmen went out to three quarters of a length at Fawley and saw off Leander’s attempts to get even.

The crews in the Grand final were:

Thames Tradesmen: Mallin, K. Cusack, Burch, Wilson, Bayles, Roberts, Milligan, Brown, cox Sherman.

Leander: D. and G. Innes, Tatton, Hardingham, King, Woodward-Fisher, Gregory, Rankine, cox Lee.

The commentaries on these clips are by Jim Railton, the rowing correspondent of The Times, who had been the ARA’s trainer in the late 1960s and who, a sprinter by sport, had blooded himself in rowing as a volunteer coach at Tradesmen.

Railton has a comfortable, warm voice with a trace of his Liverpudlian origin, and he doesn’t make mistakes. But his performance highlights the problems of commentating on rowing and filming on the Henley course. He is caught between the producers’ paranoia of silence breaking out even when the viewer can see what is happening, and the commentator’s paucity of information. Although he had coached some of these men – producing a famous ‘Beatle’ four of Mason, Clark, Robertson and Smallbone who morphed into Janousek’s Olympic squad – Railton doesn’t furnish us with their record, past performance or personal history. Added to which, he’s talking to a monitor in a trailer somewhere. It’s unfair to throw all the blame for lack lustre at him. The same challenges face the Stewards today as they seriously consider getting the tv cameras in.

The Thames Cup in 1976 was electric because the local club, Henley RC, were on the brink of winning their first Henley medal. They beat Saxon, Vesta, Rollins College and the selected University of Pennsylvania to reach a final against Harvard. Their race with Penn was hairy because Henley lost an oar from a rowlock on the 18th stroke, but recovered to take the lead.

A year before, Harvard had lost the first round of the Thames to Garda Siochana, the Irish police, who went on to win the cup. It was the first time Harvard had lost in the Thames, and in 1976 they were keen to recover their record. They were selected and reached the final by way of wins over Molesey, Imperial College, Hansa Dortmund and Christiania of Norway.

The final was a cracker. Henley had a canvas at the quarter mile signal and kept it to the Barrier and stretched it to a third of a length at Fawley, over-rating Harvard. Then Harvard drew level at the three quarter signal. Henley rose to 41 and Harvard to 43 to bring the latter home first by a canvas.

The crews in the Thames Cup final were:

Harvard: McGee, Templeton, Wood, Moore, Wiley, Perkins, Porter, Gardiner, cox You.

Henley RC: Maffre, Bushnell, Smith, Allen, Marsden, Pankhurst, Glenn, Richardson, cox Woodford.

After Hansa Dortmund withdrew, the Stewards’ was a straight final between University of British Columbia and Thames Tradesmen. Both crews had also rowed in the Grand, with Tradesmen having covered extra mileage that day because of the Grand re-row. The Canadians took the lead off the start and had a length and a half at the mile. Tradesmen then reduced the gap and pulled a desperate splurge out of their hat to finish a third of a length down.

The crews in the Stewards final were:

UBC and Vancouver RC: Rea, Bodnar, Moran, Allester.

Thames Tradesmen: Mallin, Roberts, Milligan, Cusack.

The Princess Elizabeth for schools was marred by the exam timetable again, complained the Henley recorder. Why these people who arrange A levels cannot conduct their affairs to avoid the Henley timetable, he couldn’t imagine. There were two selected crews – Holy Spirit High School (U.S.) and Emanuel School from Wandsworth, and they duly met in the final. Holy Spirit beat Hampton and Tabor Academy to get there, and Emanuel disposed of Abingdon and Eton.

In the final Holy Spirit led to the Barrier, where Emanuel drew level. Not for long, however. The Americans had half a length at the three quarters signal and drew away at the end to win by two thirds of a length.

The crews in the Princess Elizabeth final were:

Holy Spirit HS: McDevitt, Millar, Bibik, Foerster, Guenther, Welsh, White, Brown, cox Maguire.

Emanuel School: Tollitt, Ridgley, Lemmens, G. Roberts, Field, Downie, N. Roberts, C. Roberts, cox Upton.

The other half of the Tradesmen Grand eight won the Prince Philip for coxed fours by a row-over. Leander, the other finalists, withdrew because they were also rowing in the re-scheduled Grand and refused to contest the Philip before it. So the Philip was a damp squib – not the only one on the Sunday afternoon. With a fork of lightning and a clap of thunder, the weather broke, and all thoughts turned to Montreal.

Christopher Dodd’s Pieces of Eight is available from the River & Rowing Museum here and Richard Way Bookseller, 54 Friday Street, Henley-on-Thames or give them a call at INT+44+(0)1491-576663.

*Editor's Note: In an unsigned article about the 1976 Henley Regatta in the magazine Rowing, August 1976 issue, it was stated about the warm weather:

On two days in the nineties the rule about jackets was relaxed in the Stewards’ Enclosure, although ties were still required and shirts had to stay on in the public enclosure. On the banks it was bikini tops which came off, making paddling up to the start more interesting than usual.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

2014 World Rowing Junior Championships

Representing the USA in the women's double sculls at the World Rowing Junior Championships in Germany are Claire Campbell (bow) and Mary Campbell, sisters of Andrew Campbell, who just last weekend became the champion in the men's lightweight single sculls at the 23-Under Championships. Photo: USRowing.

On 6-10 August, the 2014 World Rowing Junior Championships will be held in Hamburg, Germany. About the Championships FISA writes on their website:

More than 730 junior athletes, under the age of 19, from 57 nations will compete in the 13 different boat classes. Germany, Italy and the United States have entered the largest teams; they have entered all 13 events with a total of 49 athletes each.

The women’s single sculls has an impressive turnout and with 35 crews entered, it is the largest field competing at the event. The men’s single sculls has 32 crews entered and the men’s pair and men’s quadruple sculls both with a field of 27.

This is the first FISA World Championship appearance for Nigeria and Togo, who will both compete in the women’s single sculls, with Nigeria also entered in the men’s quadruple sculls.

The course is located on the Dove-Elbe Water Park, which was officially opened as a regatta course in 1985. It is situated on a peaceful arm of the Elbe River and has hosted numerous national and international rowing events including the World Rowing Cup in 2011.

For rowers to be eligible to compete at the World Rowing Junior Championships, they must be 18 years of age or under. A rower can compete as a junior until 31 December of the year in which he or she reaches the age of 18; after that date the rower is classified as an under-23 rower.

Some participants from developing nations are able to attend the World Rowing Junior Championships through donations from participants at the World Rowing Masters Regatta (whose participants are all over the age of 27). 

Live race tracker, audio streaming, results, race reports, live blog and a photo gallery will be available throughout the junior championships on

A full list of entries and an updated provisional timetable can be found here.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Ghost Rower

Ghost Rower

I saw,
reflected in the gleaming
hull of a yacht,
a sculler scull past
in the harbor crowded with craft,
though I never did see him
in the flesh.

Philip Kuepper
19 June 2014

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

2014 Home International Regatta

Photo: Scottish Rowing's Facebook page.

The big winners at last Saturday's Home International Rowing Regatta (HIRR) at the National Rowing Centre, Cork, Ireland, were England and Scotland. Read Mike Haggerty's report on British Rowing's website here - get a report with a Scottish angle here - and get the full results here.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Results from the Under-23 Championships

Photo: USRowing

The 2014 World Rowing Under-23 Championships ended yesterday. In a press release FISA/World Rowing writes on its website:

The 2014 World Rowing Under 23 Championships in Varese, Italy began with a large and enthusiastic field of 800 athletes and ended with the new 2014 under-23 World Champions being crowned. The performances showed why these are the best under-23 athletes in the world.

At the end of two days of finals gold medals were spread among 23 nations, with both New Zealand and the United States earning three golds each. For New Zealand they came in the lightweight women’s double sculls, men’s eight and women’s pair. The women’s pair of Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler completely dominated their final and set a new under-23 World Best Time – the only one set at this regatta.

The United States had gold medal success with Andrew Campbell in the lightweight men’s single sculls, the women’s eight and the women’s four. Campbell’s win saw him defend his 2013 title with the women’s eight also successfully defending their title.

The women’s single sculls had senior World Champion from the women’s double sculls, Milda Valciukaite of Lithuania, dominating her race and finishing just a fraction of a second outside of the under-23 World Best Time. Former junior, Sara Magnaghi of Italy, was the popular silver medallist with Germany’s Anne Beenken earning bronze.

Spain and Turkey both had medal success. Spain earned a gold medal in the lightweight men’s four, beating Great Britain and the 2013 under-23 World Champions, Italy, to the line while Turkey’s Enes Kusku earned silver in the lightweight men’s single sculls.

A number of these athletes will now join their nation’s senior team in preparation for the 2014 World Rowing Championships in Amsterdam (NED) at the end of August. These include Ilse Paulis of the Netherlands who won the lightweight women’s single sculls.

Overall New Zealand topped the medals table with a total count of six from the 21 boat classes. The United States was second with five total medals and Italy came through in third with seven medals, two of them gold.

The next World Rowing event will be the World Rowing Junior Championships to be held in Hamburg (GER) starting 6 August 2014.

To relive the World Rowing Under 23 Championships action visit for full results, race reports and photos.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Boat of Life

Photo: JBar Cycling

The Boat of Life

A life of privilege?
Life is a privilege,
life, that place
for one to find
the pair of oars
to row the boat
to which one was born.

Philip Kuepper
17 June 2014

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Scull Cap

Photo: Northeastern University

Scull Cap

A crew carrying their boat
upside down, overhead,
back to the boathouse
after practice.

Philip Kuepper
11 June 2014

Friday, July 25, 2014

Being A Good Sport

Photo: Megan Mellinger/Row2K

Being A Good Sport

The eights sat
bent, gasping,
just across the finish line,
for the luxurious
gulps of air
the race had emptied them of.
To breathe again, normally,
was the prize.

Philip Kuepper
12 June 2014

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Life in Britain in 1914

From the Telegraph's series Life on the Eve of War, episode "Fashion in 1914" by Drusilla Beyfus.

The Daily Telegraph is right now running a series called "Life on the Eve of War" with episodes called, for example, "Women's Rights in 1914", "Art & Culture in 1914", "Food in 1914", "Cars & Planes in 1914" and "Fashion in 1914". More is to follow, and we hope that eventually there will be one piece called "Sports in 1914" (I guess, hoping for a "Rowing in 1914" would be to ask for too much...). While we are waiting for this episode, you can enjoy Drusilla Beyfus's "Fashion in 1914" in which you will find the image above, an advertisement for Burberry suits showing a gentleman at a rowing regatta, probably Henley.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Under-23 Championships are Underway

Photo: FISA.

The 2014 World Rowing Under-23 Championships started today in Varese, Italy. These championships will go on between 23-27 July. The World Rowing Federation, FISA, writes in a press release:

A large turnout of 800 of the best under-23 rowers in the world, covering 51 nations will race in Varese. The single sculling boat classes have attracted the biggest fields among both the men and the women. The men's single has 30 scullers and the women’s has 22 scullers. The lightweight men's single sculls also has a huge turnout of 25 entries, while the lightweight women's single has 21 entries.

Boris Yotov of Azerbaijan and Natan Wegrzycki-Szymczyk of Poland will be hot contenders in the men's single. They both medalled at the World Rowing Junior Championships last year and Yotov already has a silver medal from this year’s European Rowing Championships in the men's double. The 2012 World Junior Champion Michal Plocek of the Czech Republic is back in the single after finishing second in the double at last year's World Rowing Under-23 Championships.

The women's single has 2013 World Rowing Junior Champion Jessica Leyden of Great Britain and World Junior silver medallist Tatsiana Klimovich of Belarus racing. Leyden and Klimovich will face the more senior Elza Gulbe of Latvia who was third last year in the single at the World Under-23 Championships.

The United States has become regular winners in the women's eight and are the current World Under-23 Champions. Their line up this year, however, is completely new apart from one, Erin Boxberger. The United States will expect the strongest competition to come from Germany, Australia and Great Britain. For the men, New Zealand men’s eight is the reigning World Under-23 Champion and this crew remains the same as in 2013. Their main competition will come from the United States, Germany and Poland.

Both Italy and Germany are sending complete teams of 21 boats. These two nations are strong in under-23 rowing and, at the event in 2013, Germany was on top in the medal table, followed by Italy and then the United States and Romania.

Varese, in northern Italy, is a popular rowing venue. A new regatta course and a new finish tower were installed for the 2012 European Rowing Championships and it is used by a number of international crews as a training base. Varese will host stages of the 2015 and 2016 World Rowing Cup series as well.

The World Rowing Under-23 Championships is raced in 21 boat classes and is open to all FISA member nations for athletes under the age of 23. The under-23s began in 1976 as the ‘Seniors Match’ and then became the ‘Nations Cup’. It became the World Rowing Under-23 Championships in 2005.

For the complete list of entries, click here.

For entries, timetable, full reports, live audio streaming, live results and live blogging during the event go to:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

More on Singapore RC & Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club Rowing

Photo: Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club's website.

A week ago, on 15 July, we posted a question about Singapore Rowing Club. Matt Jennings, England, had read The Escape from Singapore (1987) by Richard Gough, a book describing the fall of Singapore in February 1942. It seems one of the last boats out from Singapore was a four-oared shell from Singapore RC and Matt was wondering if anyone had information about this club and what happened to it after the war.

In that blog post, I mentioned some information from Christopher Dodd’s book The Story of World Rowing from 1992. Just a couple of days after the blog entry was posted HTBS received an e-mail from Simon Boyde of Hong Kong. He writes:

I think that Mr. Dodd has made a small error in his note on post war Singapore.

I believe the Singapore Rowing Club duplicated the situation in Hong Kong – where the Victoria Regatta Club merged with the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club – and merged with the Royal Singapore Yacht Club in the immediate post WWI colonial period – this is backed up by the small potted history on the RSYC website.

I rowed (for the RHKYC) in 1979 in Singapore against crews from what is now known as the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club, having changed its name from the Royal Singapore Yacht Club in the 1960s.

The regatta in 1979 was the annual Far East Amateur Rowing Association Championships (regattas had been hosted in the 1970s and 1980s in Manila, Karachi, Madras, Colombo, Saigon, Hong Kong and Singapore) which was very strong through the post WWII period up till the early 1980s. FEARA, as an organization, effectively an association of the old expatriate rowing clubs around Asia – albeit with the crews being largely local apart from Singapore and HK – is now largely defunct outside of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The rowing movement in Asia has been replaced by national teams in squad crews now so FEARA is a bit of an anachronism.

In terms of the RSYC itself, it seems that rowing has now stopped (though someone told me they still have boats in storage a few years ago). Rowing seems to be controlled and run only by the Singapore Rowing Association.

I am glad to report, however, that the RHKYC still has a very strong rowing section; it has in fact expanded a lot over the last thirty years and is back to sending crews overseas.

Many thanks to Simon Boyde in Hong Kong for this interesting information. If there is anyone else among the readers of HTBS who has more information about Singapore RC, please post a comment to this entry, or send HTBS editor, Göran R Buckhorn, an e-mail, at gbuckhorn – at – gmail – dot – com

Monday, July 21, 2014

Jack Beresford - the Greatest of Them All

The other day, HTBS got an e-mail with some questions about the legendary oarsman Jack Beresford, Jnr, (1899-1977), which made me look for a film about Beresford's and his Olympic medals on YouTube. At five Olympic Games from 1920 to 1936, he took five medals, three gold and two silver. The story of Beresford Jnr., and his Olympic medals and many cups at Henley is wonderfully told in the 1989 BBC series Tales of Gold. The following episode is about Beresford, the greatest oarsman in the pre-Steve Redgrave era. Enjoy! (The narrator - Kenneth Branagh - is mentioning Jack's father, Julius, and his Olympic silver medal in the 1912 Stockholm Games. The British crew took a silver in the coxed four, not the coxless four.)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Rower in Moonlight

Rower in Moonlight

Late returning
along the ink-blue
river, moonlight shone
on the rower's shoulders,
shone along his arms,
twin streams of light glistening
through the darkness;

the gentle splash
of the blades slicing
the water, the cake
of the water, the dessert
of the feeling of accomplishment
at the finish of his workout;
moonlight frosting all.

Philip Kuepper
6 June 2014

Friday, July 18, 2014

The 300th Coat, the 300th Badge: The 2014 Doggett’s

Welcome to the club. Henry (‘Harry’) McCarthy, the 2014 winner of the Doggett’s Coat and Badge with, from left to right: Nick Beasley (who won Doggett’s in 2001), Ralph Humphrey (1989), Henry, Lenny Grieves (1969), acting Bargemaster, Robert Dwan (2004) and Tom Woods (1999).

Tim Koch reports from London (with some help of Chris Dodd):

Ask anyone involved in rowing and sculling what the sport’s oldest event is and most would suggest either the Oxford – Cambridge Boat Race (1829) or Henley Royal Regatta (1839). Few would know that it is, in fact, a 300-year-old single sculling race, the curiously named ‘Doggett’s Coat and Badge Wager’, a contest that has been run continuously since 1715. The HTBS reports on this unique event and on its fascinating history cover 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Competitor Ben Folkard boats from Fishmongers’ Hall which is next to London Bridge. The Fishmongers’ Company have had a Hall on this site since 1434.

While 2014 saw the 300th race, it has been decided that the big celebrations will be held in 2015 to mark the 300th year. Nonetheless, this year’s Doggett’s still attracted a Royal visitor in the person of the Queen’s husband, His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. As this Pathe Newsreel shows, he last saw the race in 1951 (though the film’s commentary is particularly ill-informed).

A tense moment as a 93-year-old member of the Royal family is transferred into the umpire’s launch (though, as a career naval officer from 1939 to 1952, Prince Philip is no stranger to ladders, boats and water).

Colin Middlemiss, Clerk to the Company of Watermen and Lightermen (who organise the event in conjunction with the Fishmongers’ Company) said:

It has been 500 years this year since the earliest Act of Parliament for regulating watermen, wherrymen and bargemen received Royal Assent from King Henry VIII. It’s an extremely special year for us, and we are thrilled the Duke of Edinburgh will be joining one of the oldest and most important celebrations of the river.

The Doggett’s obscurity is in large part due to the fact that it is only open to those under the age of 26 who, in the previous three years, have completed the long apprenticeship to qualify them to carry goods and people on the River Thames. If that were not enough of a barrier to entry, the course itself should dissuade all but the brave or the foolish. It runs from London Bridge to Chelsea, 7,400 metres of unsettled and unsuitable water containing washes, bends, bridges and currents. The prize for this winner of this mad event is suitably eccentric – the scarlet costume of an 18th-century Waterman, a sleeve of which sports a solid silver badge the size of a dinner plate. The less tangible prize is the honour of joining a very exclusive club. The ‘Coat and Badge’ continues to have enormous prestige in the tightly knit community of the Thames Watermen and their families, many of which have worked the river together for generations.
In the shadow of HMS Belfast with Tower Bridge behind them and the Tower of London beside them, the five competitors wait to go onto the start. From left to right: McCarthy, Coughlin, Petipher, Folkard and Maynard.

The competitors drew lots for their colours and stations at Fishmongers’ Hall on 23 June. In traditional style (with my additions in italics), it was announced:

The names of the five young Watermen who are to row on Tuesday, 15th July 2014, in the 300th Race for the Livery and Badge provided yearly under the will of the late MR. THOMAS DOGGETT, a famous Comedian, in commemoration of the happy Accession of His Majesty, George I, to the Throne of Great Britain in 1714, are:

Ben Folkard, Poplar, Blackwall and District Rowing Club. Colour: Green.
Age 23, height 6'3'', weight 76kg. His first attempt at Doggett’s but he comes from a family of Watermen and his grandfather is his Apprentice Master.

Dominic Coughlin, Medway Towns Rowing Club. Colour: Blue.
Age 23, height 6'0'', weight 74kg. First in his family to compete, came 6th in last year’s race.

Louis Pettipher, Medway Towns Rowing Club. Colour: Orange.
Age 23, height 6'0'', weight 79kg. The other first time competitor, though his brother raced three times. He has been sculling for eight months.

Charlie Maynard, Poplar, Blackwall and District Rowing Club. Colour: Red.
Aged 22, height 5'9'', weight 79kg. He came fourth last year and an ancestor, George Maynard, won Doggett’s in 1833.

Henry McCarthy, Poplar, Blackwall and District Rowing Club. Colour: Yellow.
Aged 22, Height 6'1'', weight 77kg. He came second last year. His father, Simon, won in 1984 and an uncle, Jeremy, won in 1992.

Harry McCarthy indulges in some form of meditation perhaps? The ‘Mercia’ behind him was for members of the Watermen's Company to follow the race. Only Doggett's winners are allowed to watch from the privileged position on the roof.

When the 2014 race lined up just below London Bridge at 12.45 it was a warm, calm day and, by Doggett’s standards, the tide was reasonably low and slack. It was McCarthy who got off to the best start and took an immediate lead. Folkard moved close to the north bank from the start while the others stayed to the south or centre.

At the first bridge, the Cannon Street Rail Bridge, the early order was already established: McCarthy (Yellow) then Maynard (Red), Pettipher (Orange), Folkard (Green, not in the picture) and Coughlin (Blue).

By Southwark Bridge the order was McCarthy, Maynard, Pettipher, Folkard and Coughlin. This order was maintained through the Millennium Footbridge and onto Blackfriars Bridge, though the leader’s advantage increased and last two scullers, Folkard and Coughlin, fell increasingly behind the leading pack of three.

At Southwark Bridge, about 500 metres in, the early order was maintained though the field had spread out more.

McCarthy navigates one of the many of the obstacles that it is best not to hit if you want to do well in the Doggett’s.

By Waterloo Bridge (about 1,900 metres) the leading pack had reshuffled slightly resulting in McCarthy leading Pettipher who in turn led Maynard. At the half-way point, the Houses of Parliament, the order was unchanged but the distances between the boats increased. Around this point the umpire ‘dropped’ Coughlin and overtook him.

Approaching Waterloo Bridge. Pictured here, McCarthy leads Pettipher (centre), Maynard (left) and then Folkard (right).

Going under the Golden Jubilee and Hungerford Bridges with the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben in the background, McCarty (right) leads Pettipher (left) and Maynard (centre).

Lambeth Bridge. Folkard in the foreground, in the background, left to right, is Pettipher, McCarthy and Maynard. Around the next bridge (Vauxhall) Folkard was dropped by the umpire.

At the old Battersea Power Station, 6,500 metres into the 7,400-metre race, McCarthy had about fourteen lengths on Pettipher who was about four lengths up on Maynard.

Approaching Battersea Power Station (far left) and the last 1,000 metres, the finish positions look certain.

The umpire’s launch with the man in charge, Bobby Prentice. Prince Philip (just behind the driver) looks on.

Coming up to the last two bridges, Grosvenor Railway and then Chelsea, it’s McCarthy, Pettipher and then Maynard.

At the finish the gap between the second and third placed boats was decreasing but Harry McCarthy sculled home to win convincingly in 24 minutes and 35 seconds. Second place was Louis Pettipher, third Charlie Maynard, fourth Ben Folkard and fifth Dom Coughlin.

Still pulling hard in the last few strokes, McCarthy approaches his supporter’s boat, the appropriately named ‘Pride of London’.

Passing the finish line, McCarthy quickly goes through a series of emotions. This is ‘Elation’.



While congratulations to the winner of the Doggett’s Coat and Badge are always in order, I must single out McCarthy for special praise. In my report on last year’s race I wrote:

Despite McCarthy maintaining form and never giving up, a calm and efficient Brice kept a lead which varied between three and four lengths...... Brice was a worthy winner but I confidently predict that McCarthy, in his first Doggett’s race today, will cross the line first in 2014 or 2015.

What particularly impressed me in the 2013 race was that, even when he clearly could not win, McCarthy continued to hurt himself and give his all. I wish some of the competitors at Henley in particular would give such displays of sportsmanship. Again this year, Harry continued to row hard and feel the pain even when it was obvious that he would win. The pictures of him at the finish tell far better than words what the victory meant to him.

Applause from the Umpire’s Launch and the Royal Party.

Charlie Maynard congratulates his friend and rival.

The press launch drew up alongside McCarthy’s scull a few seconds after the finish and the 300th Doggett’s man told us his feelings about winning, especially as he follows his father who won in 1984 and his uncle who won in 1992:

I wanted to keep it in the family. My Dad has done the Lord Mayor’s Show and things like that and it’s been my dream to walk alongside him...... I came second last year so I had a couple of months off, went on holiday with Charlie (Maynard), one of my best mates, and when we came back we started training (I haven’t had a drink since New Year’s Eve) and you train six days a week, twice a day.... My Dad doesn’t give me grief, he’s like my best mate, he’s helped me through everything this year, I couldn’t have done it without him.....

Later, in the pub, I asked him about his future plans:

I want to row at Henley, I saw this year’s finals and I want to carry on now.... I want to get into a crew boat...... I hate training but I love racing..... I grew up with (my opponents).... and when we train we are still mates but with about three weeks to go..... you don’t really talk to each other..... but you finish the race, give each other a big cuddle and we’re friends again.....

The finish is at Cadogan Pier where there was a brief, informal ceremony where the Duke congratulated the competitors and gave each a bottle of Champagne (apparently with the instruction not to drink it all at once). Here he shakes hands with McCarthy. The main ceremony is in November where the winner is presented with his tailor made costume and, of course, his badge. On race day itself, the Fishmongers’ finish with a splendid luncheon at their Hall – while most Watermen go to the pub. Picture: via @greenwichcouk.

The Duke congratulates Ben Folkard. Prince Philip also gets a prize, the HTBS ‘well dressed gent’ award for his wonderfully shiny shoes. They were probably a fifty-year-old pair of Lobbs, the bespoke footwear also favoured by his son, Prince Charles

Dom gives Harry his first alcohol in seven months in an unconventional way.

On the boat back to Fishmongers’ Hall, I asked Robert ‘Bobby’ Prentice, who as Bargemaster of the Fishmongers’ Company is the race umpire, for his take on the this year’s Doggett’s:

The lads did us all proud, it was one of those races where you want everyone to win..... The one that stood out to me was Louis Pettipher, he rowed such a good race. Charlie (Maynard) was always there, in with a great chance, and Harry did the business.... Ben (Folkard) pulled up on the north shore, if he had come over, he would have been a lot closer. And, as always, Dominic (Coughlin) gives value for money. Great competitors all....

Bobby never lets on, but at the end of every race perhaps he is quietly relieved that he still holds the course record. His comments on Pettipher were interesting. If someone who has been sculling only since last November comes second, they must be a very strong contender for winning next year.

Rowing historian and journalist Chris Dodd and I were delighted to be invited to attend the post-race luncheon at Fishmongers’ Hall. As befits a livery company with 700 years of history, the opulent Hall has a wonderful collection of paintings, furniture and silverware. I loved this little silver mustard pot supported by a mermaid and a merman that was tantalisingly placed in front of me. I resisted the temptation to give it a new home.

People in ‘conventional’ rowing and sculling sometimes wonder how good ‘Doggett’s Men’ really are. No doubt, the general standard was probably better in the days when Watermen powered their craft by oars, not engines. Today, the best competitors are of a good ‘club standard’. For example, the 2012 winner, Merlin Dwan, rowed in that year’s Henley Wyfolds for London Rowing Club and the 2011 victor, Chris Anness, sculled in the lightweight single and also the quad for London at that year’s National Championships. The least able competitors will perhaps train just enough to be able to finish the course – though, this in itself is no mean achievement considering the distance and the typical conditions.

Chris Dodd (trying to look like he has not just enjoyed a good lunch) tries out a nice ‘Doggett’s Chair’ that we found in a corner of Fishmongers’ Hall.

Like many things in Britain, the Doggett’s has a bit of a ‘class divide’. For historical reasons, both the Waterman’s Company and the Fishmongers’ Company are involved in its organisation. The former is composed mostly of working men whose trade is ‘the river’, while these days the latter’s members are more likely to be involved with ‘The City’ (London’s financial district) than with fish (with the exception of the occasional smoked salmon canapé). The twain tend not to meet and both have a different appreciation of the event and different ideas on its future. The Fishmongers’ probably see Doggett’s in the same way that non-rowers see Henley, that is as a predominantly social event. There is nothing wrong with this, indeed both Henley and Doggett’s would be the poorer without this aspect to them. The Watermen have a much more emotional tie to a race that they see as part of their heritage, something that any HTBS reader must be able to appreciate. The Fishmongers’ would like to ‘raise the profile’ of the event and market it in a modern way. The Watermen want to leave it pretty much as it always has been. As an historian and a blogger, I can appreciate both points of view.

One of the several paintings of Doggett’s winners in Fishmongers’ Hall. I think this is of Kenny Dwan, who won in 1971. He was one of Britain’s best scullers from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s. There are five Dwans living, who have won the Coat and Badge.

In his will, the founder of the race, Thomas Doggett, stipulated that the event should continue ‘for ever’. That is a long time but, whatever the problems of maintaining this curious anachronism, I cannot but help feel confident that it is good for at least another 300 years.

My thanks to Chris Dodd for his help in producing the race summery (though any mistakes are mine). 

Photographs © Tim Koch