Photograph: Werner Schmidt

Friday, January 31, 2014

The Reason Behind Rowing

The Reason Behind Rowing

The rower thought to wait
for Godot, then realized
the possibility Godot
had already come
and gone, that to wait
was absurd.  He thought
Beckett had lost his head
to the absurdity in everyday existence.

But to row would
set things right.
Yet to be certain,
just in case Godot
was yet to come,
the rower pinned a notice
on the bulletin board in the boathouse
not to wait for him,
for he had already gone.

Philip Kuepper
(9 October 2013)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Charles Hamlin is New Executive Director of NRF

Charles Hamlin is the new Executive Director of NRF.

In a press release on 27 January the National Rowing Foundation (NRF) announced that Charles Hamlin will join the NRF as its Executive Director effective immediately. NRF writes:

Hamlin will be responsible for directing the NRF’s strategies and operations in fulfilling its mission to support the development of all national team athletes who represent the U.S. in international and Olympic competition.

‘We are excited to have Charlie join the NRF as its Executive Director], stated Jamie Koven, co-chair of the NRF. ‘As USRowing, our sport’s national governing body, and hundreds of dedicated athletes focus their efforts and resources on preparing for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the NRF needed a strong leader able to drive the fund raising programs that will help to ensure our teams will be competitive.’ Marcia Hooper, co-chair of the NRF added, ‘Charlie’s career in marketing, sales and entrepreneurial management coupled with his long participation in and knowledge of rowing bode well for the NRF’s ability to raise the funds that will enhance our teams’ competitiveness throughout this upcoming Olympic quadrennial’.

‘It is all about ensuring that our athletes have the opportunity to win against the best in the world,’ stated Charles Hamlin. He continued, ‘To be competitive and win medals at the international level will take more than the commitment of our athletes; it will take financial support of our donors. I look forward to working with the staff and Board of the NRF, our colleagues at USRowing and all those who love the sport to ensure that our national teams have the best coaching, equipment, facilities, and international racing opportunities to be successful’.

Hamlin has been an active and competitive member of the rowing community for nearly four decades. He was a collegiate champion at Harvard, three-time national team member, and a member of the 1968 Olympic team; he is a successful masters oarsman here and in Europe. He has been a board member of the Norwalk River Rowing Association, Upper Thames Rowing Club (UK) and Cambridge Boat Club. Mr. Hamlin’s career includes executive positions at Mercer Management Consulting, Mullen Advertising, National Family Opinion, Insight Express, Van Wagner Media, and Cambridge Water Technology. He currently is the varsity boy’s crew coach at Groton School, Mass. He is married to Ellen Kennelly, a 10-time winner of the Head of the Charles Regatta and avid rower.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pre-BNY Mellon Boat Race fixtures announced

Yesterday, the official pre-BNY Mellon Boat Race fixtures were announced.

The BNY Mellon Boat Race website states: ‘Club fixtures are key dates in The BNY Mellon Boat Race season and serve a dual purpose – firstly, as a selection test for both the Blue Boat and Isis or Goldie crews, and secondly, as key racing experience for the selected crews on the Championship Course against top British club and international opposition. Not only is that experience of competing against top-class opposition vital, but the fixtures also provide opportunities for the Clubs to simulate race day as much as possible and get to know the Championship Course better: practising routines, racing the Surrey and Middlesex stations, and being officially umpired.’

O.U.B.C., C.U.B.C., Isis and Goldie will be racing these crews: Thames RC, Upper Thames RC, Leander, Molesey BC and the German U23. Read more here.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Blues in Bags

Tim Koch writes:

I am often inspired to write a particular post by something that appears on ‘Hear The Boat Sing’. The splendid photograph of the 1931 Oxford Crew that illustrated Malcolm Cook’s article on the use of shaved blades in the 1920s and 1930s is one such thing.

The Oxford Crew of 1931.

I have attempted to identify everyone but I do stand to be corrected. From left to right: ER Edmett (Cox), WG Holdsworth (Stroke), WDC Erskine Crum (7), L Clive (6), JF Platts-Mills (Bow), CM Johnston (4), RJA Poole (5), GML Smith (2), GM Tinne (3). (On Boat Race Day, Platts-Mills did not row, instead it was WL Garstang in the bow seat.)

The Cambridge Crew of 1931.

Again, I have attempted to identify everyone correctly but contact me if I have got some names wrong. Clearly the cox, JM Ranking, is standing at the front. Behind him, left to right, are TA Brocklebank (Stroke), CJS Sergel (7), PN Carpmael (5), RHH Symonds (3), HRN Rickett (6), Unknown (perhaps a sub?), G Grey (4), D Haig-Thomas (Bow) and WA Prideaux (2).
I have a particular interest in the 1931 Boat Race as I own a winner’s medal from that year as well as a sheet of CUBC writing paper with the crew’s autographs.

The 1931 CUBC Boat Race Medal and crew autographs. Unfortunately, I do not know who was given this particular medal or who collected the signatures.

The two crew pictures above illustrate the power of photography. The technically better picture of Oxford makes them look far more glamourous than their Light Blue counterparts. The Cambridge picture is from a much copied postcard and contrast has been lost while the Oxford print has more light and shade. The men from the Isis look powerful and poised while those from the Cam look awkward and not especially fit. The irony is, of course, that it was Cambridge who won in 1931.

There is another reason that the two photographs appeal to me. As I have mentioned before, I am interested in the history of men’s clothing and many of these young men are sporting one of the great fashions of the interwar period – ‘Oxford Bags’. ‘Bags’ is simply an old slang word for loose-fitting trousers or, in American-English, pants. These usually measured about 24 inches around the ankle (though there were, briefly, broader examples sported by a flamboyant few) and were wider at the knee. They were popularised by Oxford students, if not invented by them, but by the late 1920s they were worn in many parts of Britain and the U.S., despite ridicule from the older generation. A contemporary joke ran: ‘Why are Oxford Trousers like two French towns?’ ‘Because they are Toulon and Toulouse’. In 1924, the first sighting in Hull in the North of England was thought worthy of a report in the local newspaper. By the 1930s they had become mainstream and were commonly worn by all classes of men, not just privileged undergraduates like these sturdy chaps filmed by British Pathe in 1938:


There is an extreme example in the Oxford Crew picture, sported by Smith, second from the right. They may seem strange to us now but perhaps they are preferable to the modern trend for young men to wear underwear revealing jeans with a low slung crotch, tapering to a tight fit around the ankle. Several places in America have called in the Fashion Police.

Oxford 1924.

The cartoonists were particularly fond of Oxford Bags as seen by the above caricature of WP Mellen and crewmates in 1924 (fans of the British version of the ‘Top Gear’ TV programme may notice Jeremy Clarkson in the top left). Another example is here where the 1925 joke is that ‘Cambridge... have no intention of giving up the trouser race without a struggle. They have visited their local tailor and their coach has him doing 33 stitches to the minute’.

There are several stories about the origins of the fashion. Some claim that bags were invented by the Oxford aesthete and dilettante Harold Acton (often alleged to be the inspiration for the ‘Anthony Blanche’ character in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited). Bob Boothby (later Baron Boothby, a Conservative politician with an exceptionally colourful private life, described by the late Queen Mother as ‘a bounder but not a cad’) claimed that he was the inventor, saying that it was ‘the only creative thing’ that he did while he was at the university. However, Oxford Bags were known to have existed while both of these gentlemen were in short trousers, baggy or not, so their origins must be elsewhere. Writing in the New Sheridan Club newsletter of July 2013, Sean Longden has a theory of much greater interest to HTBS readers:

First mention of wide trousers in the USA came in 1924 when reporters mentioned wide white trousers being worn at the Henley Regatta and “Eights Week”, the annual intercollegiate rowing event at Oxford. This is important because it links us to the true story of why Oxford bags were developed...  Speaking in August 1925, Mr Kendrick, the Keeper of Textiles at the Victoria and Albert Museum, gave his explanation for the genesis of the Oxford Bags... ‘(Students) found the wide trousers convenient to pull over (their) shorts to go down to the river.’

A contributor to an online men’s clothing forum found this piece of contemporary supporting evidence in the Dundee Courier newspaper of May 1926.

Longden continues:

Writing in the 1920s, a former travelling salesman referred to selling “Oxford Bags” in the 1880s. And in the 1904 novel A Chicago Princess by Robert Barr, the main character is a former Oxford student who comes across ‘a pair of Oxford bags I had not worn in years...’  Furthermore, the Rowing Museum at Henley holds a pair of 1896 trousers made from an off-white blanket material, which are described as “Oxford Bags”. These were trousers used by rowers to keep warm between races. Effectively the track suit trousers of their day.

There can be not doubt that ‘blanket bags’ originated in the late nineteenth century. There are many pictures of Victorian oarsmen wearing very baggy off white trousers in a coarse woollen material. They are invariably roughly rolled up at the bottom to something approaching the correct length. These are most elegantly illustrated by the ‘Spy’ cartoons in Vanity Fair magazine.

WAL Fletcher, 1893.

CT Fogg-Elliot, 1894.

RC Lehmann, 1895.

In summary, Oxford Bags were originally a crude garment made in rough inexpensive material invented by rowers as a form of what would later be called ‘sweatpants’. At sometime around the early 1920s students had this style of trousers made in finer cloth, properly tailored and finished with turnups (‘cuffs’ in the U.S.), which were then worn for everyday use. The fashion soon spread and Longden argues that bags influenced the basic shape of men’s trousers up to the 1950s. It seems that rowing provided the first real example of sportswear influencing mainstream fashion.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

NRF Interviews Ambrose Puttmann

Photo: USRowing.
‘There are a lot of new faces on the U.S. National Team this quadrennial on both the men’s and women’s side’ the National Rowing Foundation (NRF) writes on their website. In a way to present the newcomers, NRF will post some Q&A, highlighting the rowers and their backgrounds. First out is Ambrose Puttmann, who was a member of the bronze medal-winning men’s eight in 2013.

Read the interview here.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Happy Birthday, Robbie!

Ten more, in cadence to the sprightly strain,
Waked with their golden oars the slumbering main:
The waters yielded to their guiltless blows,
And the green billows sparkled as they rose.
Long time the barge had danced along the deep,
And on its glassy bosom seem’d to sleep;
But now a glittering isle arose in view.
Bounded with hillocks of a verdant hue:
Fresh groves and roseate bowers appear’d above
(Fit haunts, be sure, of pleasure and of love);
And, higher still, a thousand blazing spires
Seem’d with gilt tops to threat the heavenly fires.
Now each fair stripling plied his labouring oar,
And straight the pinnace struck the sandy shore.

(From “The Seven Fountains”)

The national poet of Scotland, Robert Burns, was born 255 years ago today. Happy Birthday, Robbie!

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Boat, Rocked

The Boat, Rocked

The rower sat still
in his scull sitting still
on the still river.

He had rowed to where he had
determined to row.
The sun was not yet eight.
No cloud scuffed the polished sky,
which the rower gazed on in the river
where the sun blossomed,
a giant white peony out of season,

autumn, crimson
leaves floating
on the water like dops
of blood shed from
a celestrial heart, invisible,
to the human eye,

though not to the eye
of the soul that saw
what the rower could only sense.
Though what may have been evidence
was the ripple, just perceptible
(caused by a single drop of blood)?
He saw just before it touched
and rocked his scull.

Philip Kuepper
(14 October 2013)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

50th Anniversary of Vesper BC's Triumph

The Vesper 1964 Olympic eight. Photo: Vesper BC.

This Saturday, January 25, Vesper Boat Club, Philadelphia, will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, where oarsmen from the club took the gold medal in the eights. More than 23 athletes, with their families, who represented Vesper Boat Club and the United States Olympic Team, will be present. Read more about these Vesper oarsmen in a great article on USRowing’s website, here.

Below is a short video from the U.S. Olympic trials at Orchard Beach Lagoon, New York, where the Vesper eight beat Harvard University and the University of California.

Below is 26 seconds of Vesper’s 1964 Olympic glory:

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Three Crews have now Completed the 2013 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge

The Atlantic Polo Team. Photo: Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.

After 48 days, 7 hours, and 3,000 miles, the rowing crew The Atlantic Polo Team crossed the finish line in the habour of Antigua. The four Brits, 38-year-old Henry Brett, 39-year-old James Glasson, 29-year-old Bobby Dundas (10th Viscount Melville) and 31-year-old Fergus Scholes, all polo players, thereby won the four class in the 2013 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, called the toughest rowing race in the world. They rowed to raise money for The Brooke, Hilton in the Community Foundation and Right to Play causes.

Henry Brett said, according to the Talisker’s website: ‘The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is something we feel extremely privileged to have experienced, yet would not have wished upon our worst enemies – we have been through hell and back again out there.’

However, coming in as the first boat in the four class did not mean that the four polo players won overall; they came in second. The first boat to cross the finish line in this race was Locura Rows the Atlantic with the two Brits 53-year-old Mike Burton and 30-year-old Tom Salt, both experienced sailors. Their winning time was in 41 days, 2 hours, 38 minutes and 54 seconds. They raced to raise money for the Generous Hearts Foundation.

On the Talisker’s website Tom Salt commented on their win: ‘Mike and I are absolutely ecstatic to have won! We’re no strangers to extreme challenges, but this is definitely the hardest thing we’ve ever done and pushed us to new limits both physically and mentally. We will be celebrating this evening with our friends and family – and the burger we have been dreaming about since day one!’

Watch how Salt and Burton arrive to Antigua – and how they finally could have those burgers!

While writing this, late Tuesday evening, the third-placed boat in the race, the British crew Row2Recovery, has just yet crossed the finish line. Racing in this four were 27-year-old Cayle Royce, 27-year-old Scott Blaney, 34-year-old Mark Jenkins, 31-year-old James Kayll. Royce and Blaney were injured while serving in Afghanistan and Row2Recovery are rowing to raise money for three military charities, Help for Heroes, the Endeavour Fund and Row2Recovery.

Three crews, The Atlantic Polo Team, Row2Recovery and Atlantic Row 2013 (with Dan Howie and Will North), were even featured in the January 2014 issue of the glossy magazine Tatler.

Read more and get updates about the race and the teams here. HTBS congratulates all the crews for their brave effort to reach Antigua.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Giving It Some Welly*: The 2014 Oxford Trial Eights

A Study In Blue: Oxford’s ‘Wellies’.

Chris Dodd has written about rowing and rowing history for forty years including twenty-five years as the rowing correspondent of the Guardian. Many of Chris’s articles for that esteemed newspaper can be read here. He now reaches the pinnacle of his writing career (possibly) with this exclusive report for Hear The Boat Sing on the 2014 Oxford Boat Race Trials which took place on Sunday, 19 January. Pictures, captions and sub-editing by Tim Koch.

The crews, courtesy of The Boat Race Company. (Click on the picture to enlarge.)

Chris writes:

Unprecedented events took place at the Oxford trials at Putney – delayed for a month because of pre-Christmas illness amongst the squad. On a sumptuous winter watercolour afternoon, with a handful of cotton wool clouds hanging low on the horizon of a Cambridge blue heaven, the tide had great difficulty in turning.

Since the beginning of January the Thames Valley has been a lake district. Millions of gallons have nowhere to go but plunge ever eastward towards the estuary, and at Putney the moored boats struggled to turn for nearly an hour as the ebb was supposed to be giving way to the flow.

Facing the camera, Race Umpire Richard Phelps (CUBC, 1993-1995) talks tides to Boat Race legend, Professor Boris Rankov (OUBC, 1978-1983). In the background are two other sporting icons. The white arch on the left marks the home of British soccer, Wembley Stadium, approximately 7 miles / 11 kilometres away. On the right, the white building is the ground of Fulham Football Club, better known as ‘Craven Cottage. Fulham are a much loved (if not always successful) London team.

The umpires panel debated the problem and decided that if the going got tough up at Barnes, the crews could hug the Middlesex bank and take the inside arch of the bridge, with official Tony Reynolds posted on the railway bridge to warn crews progressing downstream on what they supposed was the ebb that there may be boats racing upstream steering where they didn’t ought to be.

In the event, Oxford coach Sean Bowden delayed the start, waiting for the tide in vain, and then moved the course downstream to run from Wandsworth Pier to Chiswick Steps. And a damn fine race it was. Persistent, with president Malcolm Howard at 5, stroked by Chris Fairweather and coxed by Lawrence Harvey, was on Surrey, while Stubborn, with Olympian Constantine Louloudis stroking and Sophie Shawdon coxing, was on Middlesex.

It was a good start on flat water, nothing in it at Putney Railway Bridge, both crews neat and strong, with Persistent showing by scarcely two seats at Putney Bridge. Umpire Richard Phelps warned both crews early on, and the boats were close together as they duelled past the boathouses.

By Newens Marine, Stubborn had their bow ball in front and eked their lead to half a length at Barn Elms. The flotilla carved its way through a fleet of dinghies to the Mile, where Stubborn, led by Constantine’s fluent stroking, were a length in front.

Passing Harrods. Stubborn on the left, Persistent on the right.

Harvey was having none of this, though. Persistent clawed back the gap between Harrods and Hammersmith, both crews being warned as the blades were a cigarette paper from knitting.

Oxford supporter Sophie Behan finds a good viewing point on Hammersmith Bridge, next to the famous ‘second lamppost from the Surrey buttress’, which is said to mark the fastest water.

At Hammersmith Bridge, Persistent leads Stubborn by a canvas.

Persistent passed the bridge perhaps a canvas ahead, Stubborn classically under the second lamppost, and Persistent pushed out to half a length advantage by St Paul’s School, where another fleet of sails diced over the available water. Miraculously nobody hit anyone, and as Chiswick Eyot approached, Stubborn closed the gap once more, reducing the lead to little more than a length at the Steps.

Viewed through the metalwork of the upstream side of Hammersmith Bridge, the crews pass, on Middlesex, Sons of the Thames Rowing Club and, out of shot on Surrey, St Paul’s School.

Stubborn showed a hint of a wilt before the race stopped, but this was a mere blip. Bowden has sixteen good men and true, racers to a man. The unofficial time – Wandsworth Pier to Chiswick Steps – was 16 minutes 10 seconds to 16.14. A record!

Many thanks to Chris for his report. More pictures can be viewed on Twitter. Martin Cross, 'The Blogging Oarsman' shot a short little video of the boats approaching Hammersmith Bridge. HTBS reported on the trials held in December for both universities’ women and the Cambridge men here  and here.

*A common British idiom which means to apply great physical effort to something. Its origins are not old but they are obscure. A ‘welly’ is a long rubber boot, more formally known as a ‘Wellington Boot’ in the UK but as a ‘gumboot’ or simply ‘rain boot’ in other countries. It is named after the 1st Duke of Wellington who popularised them (he also popularised defeating the French). The most iconic British Wellington Boots are made by Hunter Boot Ltd, founded in Edinburgh in 1856. They are one of the sponsors of the Boat Race, but have cleverly got themselves some wonderful publicity in the last four years by supplying the crews with special Cambridge Blue or Oxford Blue boots, 
with the respective boat club’s crest. They are not available to the public but a pair of size 15/50 Oxford boots recently sold for £95/$130 on eBay. This may seem to be a lot of money but an ‘ordinary’ pair costs £85 new.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Silken Laumann's Difficult Past...

A true picture of female heroism in the sport of rowing is when Canadian sculler Silken Laumann crossed the finish line at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics to take a bronze medal. Ten weeks earlier she had had her right calf muscles shredded when a men’s pair had crashed into her single scull during warm-up at a World Cup regatta in Essen, Germany. With enormous courage and willpower, she fought her way back, despite pain and her doctors’ advice not to go back to elite competitive rowing so soon. Before she could even walk, she was out sculling to make it to the 1992 Olympic single sculls final.

Now, Laumann has published an autobiography that is an equally brave achievement. In her Unsinkable she writes about the verbal and physical abuse inflicted upon her by her troubled mother, or as she writes on her blog: ‘mom who loved us, but didn’t have the tools to parent us’; while her father turned a blind eye to the problems. In Canadian interviews, Laumann reveals that she still to this day has ‘feelings of unworthiness’ due to her mother’s abuse.

It must have been incredibly hard for Silken Laumann to write about her childhood since both her parents are still alive. It takes real courage to accomplish such a thing. She also writes honestly about the anorexia she suffered from in her teens, and her partner’s and her difficulties having two children with special needs. She is a brave woman, Silken Laumann.

Unsinkable is written together with Canadian author Sylvia Fraser. Read more about it here.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

HTBS Recommends...(5)

Hello ~ I will be out of commission for some days. In the meantime do visit our friends and colleagues at other rowing blogs. Today HTBS recommends you to visit The Blogging Oarsman.

~ Göran

Saturday, January 18, 2014

HTBS Recommends...(4)

Hello ~ I will be out of commission for some days. In the meantime do visit our friends and colleagues at other rowing blogs. Today HTBS recommends you to visit Rowperfect.

~ Göran

Friday, January 17, 2014

HTBS Recommends... (3)

Hello ~ I will be out of commission for some days. In the meantime do visit our friends and colleagues at other rowing blogs. Today HTBS recommends you to visit Fatsculler's Rowing Blog.

~ Göran

Thursday, January 16, 2014

HTBS Recommends... (2)

Hello ~ I will be out of commission for some days. In the meantime do visit our friends and colleagues at other rowing blogs. Today HTBS recommends you to visit Girl on the River.

~ Göran

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

HTBS Recommends.... (1)

Hello ~ I will be out of commission for some days. In the meantime do visit our friends and colleagues at other rowing blogs. Today HTBS recommends you to visit Rowing Related.

~ Göran

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Cods: Paris or the bush?

Greg Denieffe writes:

News has reached HTBS that the story of ‘The Murray Bridge Cods’ is to be made into 60-minute documentary by Australian International Pictures. It will tell the story of Murray Bridge Rowing Club and how they beat the odds to represent Australia at the 1924 Paris Olympics.

When I contacted Wayne Groom, the director of the documentary, he informed me that the target date for completion is 31 December 2014 but that there was still a lot of research to do and interviews to conduct. The project has a Facebook page that has started posting regular updates and a website with further details and an appeal for financial support to fund the project.

Here is a link to a short promotional film to whet the appetite of HTBS readers.

Last May, HTBS posted two articles about the Australian 1924 Olympic eight’s trip to Ireland to compete at the Tailteann Games. Australia was represented by Murray Bridge Rowing Club. Founded in 1909, the club won their first interstate championships in 1913 representing South Australia. Unfortunately, the First World War ended the hopes of this crew ever representing Australia at an Olympic Games.

The Cup presented to the winners of ‘The Allied Forces Eights’ at the 1919 Royal Henley Peace Regatta.

Following the end of the War, the Stewards of Henley Royal Regatta decided in January 1919 that it would not be desirable to hold Henley Royal Regatta that year but that an interim regatta, later called Royal Henley Peace Regatta, should be held. King George V presented a cup for competition between amateur oarsmen that had served in the Army, Navy or Air Force of any country who had fought for the Allied forces. The competition was called The Allied Forces Eights and was won by the Australian Imperial Forces. The Australian interstate championships resumed in 1920 and in 1922 this cup became the trophy for the championship eights and was renamed The King’s Cup. Murray Bridge won the interstate eights in 1920, 1922 and 1923 and the test race for Olympic selection in 1924.

According to the Australian Army Shop there was some resistance to the use of the cup as a trophy for the interstate championships:

The King’s Cup was presented by King George V to the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) Number One Crew on July 4th 1919 after the crew’s win at the Henley Peace Regatta. This historic post-war regatta brought together eight teams representing the Allies of the First World War. Australia fielded two crews – AIF Number One and AIF Number Two – for the eight-oared race. They vied against each other and against the USA, France, New Zealand, Canada and Cambridge and Oxford Universities for the prize.

In the end AIF Number One Crew defeated Oxford University for the prize, having also beaten AIF Number Two Crew in the first round and Cambridge University in the semi-final. The King’s Cup was presented to the crew's stroke, Captain M. C. Disher of the Australian Army Medical Corps before being taken by the Australian Imperial Expeditionary Forces Sports Control Board. The board shipped the trophy to the Australian War Museum.

Despite repeated requests to the Australian War Museum that the Cup be used as a perpetual trophy for the annual Interstate Eight-Oar Championship of Australia, the trophy remained locked away. Capt. Disher decided to petition King George V for the trophy’s release. He sent his petition via the Governor General to the King on October 30th 1920. The last line of his petition reads, “And your petitioner therefore humbly prays that your Majesty may be graciously pleased to make known your wishes in regard to the disposal of the said Trophy.”

The King’s response was conveyed by Winston S. Churchill, who wrote: “His Majesty commands me to inform you that it is his wish that the Cup should be used as a permanent trophy and be competed for annually in the Interstate Eight-Oar Race of Australia.”

In the HTBS posts The Case of CoD v Cods and More on Murray Bridge and 'The Cods' you can read about Murray Bridge’s adventures in Paris at the Olympics and on their trip to Ireland for the Tailteann Games where they competed in the international eights, fours and single sculls.

One of the photographs unearthed by Wayne is this one of The Cods stroke Wally Pfeiffer after he won the single sculls at the Tailteann Games in Ireland in 1924.

Monday, January 13, 2014

About Swaddle & Winship

A Text-Book of Oarsmanship by Gilbert C. Bourne has information about Swaddle & Winship, but in which other books will you find information about this boat building company?

The other day, HTBS received an e-mail from a lady in England who was looking for information about her boat building ancestors, the Swaddles from the north of England. While I was able to help her a little by giving her some information about the boat building firm Swaddle & Winship of Newcastle-on-Tyne, which built racing shells for both Oxford and Cambridge in the 1870s, I would like to reach out to the readers of HTBS to ask if any of you might know where she might find more information.

I gave here a couple of book titles where the company Swaddle & Winship are mentioned, A Text-Book of Oarsmanship (1925) by Gilbert C. Bourne and The Oxford & Cambridge Boat Race (1983) by Chris Dodd. She has also contacted the River and Rowing Museum in Henley-on-Thames, but I am sure that you readers have come across Swaddle & Winship in your research and readings.

Please send your information to HTBS via e-mail: gbuckhorn - at -

Thank you
~ Göran R Buckhorn

Thursday, January 9, 2014

What a Wonderful Cultural Achievement!

A new edition of Steve Fairbairn's On Rowing has recently been made available. The photograph of Fairbairn above is from his first book Rowing Notes from 1926.

Anyone who is only remotely interested in rowing history, probably knows, or at least has heard of, Steve Fairbairn (1862-1938), the Australian who followed his older brothers to study and row at Jesus College, Cambridge, in the 1880s. Although, a good oarsmen, Steve is mostly known as a rowing coach, or one might say the rowing coach. To Steve, rowing was not a set of rules how the oarsman was to move his arms, legs, shoulders and body in the boat, which had been prevalent ever since the schoolboys at Eton had started 'modern' rowing around 1800. This rather stiff style called the English orthodox style, originated from rowing in boats with fixed seats and fixed pins and carried over to the out-rigged boats with sliding seats and swivels, putting a strain on the oarsmen, making it difficult to row effectively unless they had rowed for some years. Also, the style made it very hard for novice rowers to actually learn how to row. Some characteristic elements in the orthodox style were the ‘shoulder catch’, the oar’s ‘back-splash’ and the ‘lively recovery’.

Steve, who coached at Cambridge and later at Thames RC and London RC, wanted his oarsmen to only concentrate on their oars and blade work and not how gracefully they moved in the boat. Teasingly, Steve called the advocates for the English orthodox style the ‘Pretty-Pretty Brigade’ or the ‘orthodox brigade’, also saying that no cups or medals were ever given for stylishness.

Of course, the reaction from the ‘Pretty-Pretty Brigade’ came immediately, accusing Steve of teaching sloppy rowing, and they detracted the Fairbairn ‘style’, or ‘Fairbairnism’, which they said would ruin English rowing. Steve stoically kept a stiff upper lip, saying that he had not invented a new ‘rowing style’ but a method to move the boats faster than before. He was only interested in the rowing itself, not the style, and wanted the oarsmen to have a fresher approach towards rowing and not take everything that was handed down to them as ‘gospel truth’.

A jocular rhymester gave his view in some verses in the Cambridge student magazine The Granta:

Beware the Orthodox, my son,
The slides that check, the arms that snatch;
Beware the drop-in blade, and shun
The Bourneish shoulder-catch.

Mischievously, Steve said that rowing styles were like seasons in Australia, ‘bad, damned bad and bloody awful’.

Throughout his years as a rowing coach, Steve wrote books about his rowing method and how not to row (read: English orthodox style). His books became extremely popular not only in England, but also in Europe, Canada and South America. In 1951, thirteen years after Steve’s death, his son Ian Fairbairn, himself a first-rate oarsman, edited and published The Complete Steve Fairbairn on Rowing. This omnibus of Steve’s writing is maybe not that tricky to find at an antiquarian book-seller, who has his or her books listed on the web, but it does not come cheap. You have to cough up between $250 and $2,000 for a copy.

So, what to do if you are interested in Fairbairn's writings? Fear not, because just before Christmas of last, the company Rowperfect began to publish a new edition On Rowing by Steve Fairbairn, now in digital format (eBook/Kindle edition) for the extremely fair price of $9.99. Editor of this edition is rowing historian Peter Mallory, famous around the rowing world for his 2,500-page, four-volume The Sport of Rowing (2011).

Peter writes in his Introduction, ‘I am very proud to be part of the team that is bringing Fairbairn’s complete works to a new generation of rowers and coaches in a series of affordable eBook volumes. The idea began with Diana Cook of Richard Way Bookseller in Henley-on-Thames, and Rebecca Caroe of has made it a reality. Kudos to you both.’

I can only agree: what a cultural achievement this is – Bravo!

Read more about what Peter has to say on this edition on Rowperfect, here. (Peter writes that this is the first time in 60 years that Steve’s collected works are made available, which I humbly would like to correct, as a 2nd printed edition of The Complete Steve Fairbairn on Rowing was published in 1990 by The Kingswood Press.)

However, it must be pointed out that this digital edition does not include all the texts by Steve in The Complete Steve Fairbairn on Rowing, which I wish would be more clear on Amazon (where you can buy this edition). The contents in this first ‘volume’ of Steve’s complete works are as follow: Steve’s famous poem “The Oarsman’s Song”, the pamphlet Rowing Notes from 1904, his first full book Rowing Notes from 1926, Freddy Brittain’s obituary about Steve, published in 1938, and comments by Peter Mallory. More volumes are to follow.

HTBS warmest congratulations to all of you who have been involved in bringing Steve’s writings back to life again.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Day of the Race

The Day of the Race

Among the massed humanity
watching the race,
I noticed a man who went unnoticed,
his face anonymous,
his body, thin, of average height,
hair, graying, thinning.
He was clothed, plainly,
scuffed sneakers, gray slacks,
a dull blue windbreaker.
He at one point employed
a handkerchief to his nose.

Beyond that he engaged
in no discerning action.
And yet the expression
on his face of utter joy
when the team he was pulling for
pulled out a victory!
To see his face at that instant
was to see pure beauty,
a beauty transcending
the ripped, sleek athletes
whose physiques of prowess
glittered sweating

beyond the finish line,
a face of a life
of anonymity and defeat
at the moment of victory
expressing immortal fame.

Philip Kuepper
(20 September 2013)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

James Cracknell For MEP?

In May, there is going to be an election for the European Parliament in Great Britain. One of England’s famous rowers, the Olympic champion James Cracknell, is standing as a Conservative MEP (Member of the European Parliament) for South West England & Gibraltar. On 3 January Cracknell wrote in the Daily Telegraph why he wants to save ‘The Rock’. Read his article from the Mediterranean RC in Gibraltar, here.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Dan Boyne's Kelly in Film Development!

Jack Kelly, Sr., is teaching his son, Jack 'Kell' Kelly, Jr., age 8, how to scull. Kell would later win the Diamonds at Henley twice, 1947 and 1949. Jack Kelly, Sr., had sent an entry for the 1920 Diamonds which was rejected by the Henley Stewards. Dan Boyne's book about the Kellys will now be a film.

In 2008, Dan Boyne came out with the hardcover copy of Kelly: A Father, A Son, An American Quest, and 2012 the paperback edition came out. At Christmas, Dan revealed that his book has been optioned for a film. HTBS caught up with Dan to ask him some questions:

HTBS: How has the sale gone with your book?

DB: I haven’t kept track of the exact sales figures, but I think Kelly has gone through its first printing in the paperback, which came out a few years ago. The hardcover is such a beautiful limited edition that I’m not sure will get printed again, so people should grab a copy before it goes out of print! More recently, with the announcement of the film option, the paperback has been selling so fast that Amazon can’t seem to keep enough copies in stock!

HTBS: Flashlight Films has now optioned to make your book into a film. Please tell us more about it.

DB: Flashlight Films is an independent motion picture company specializing in screenplay development. It was founded in 2009 by partners Allyn Stewart and Kipp Nelson. Stewart comes from Warner Brothers, where she was a senior executive for several years and worked on the academy award winning films Driving Miss Daisy and Dangerous Liaisons, among others; Nelson comes from the financial world, and was a former partner at Goldman Sachs. They specialize is acquiring stories from a wide range of sources and developing high quality screenplays with top filmmakers attached.

HTBS: Who is writing the script? 

DB: The script is being written by Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson, who were nominated for an Academy Award for David O. Russel’s celebrated film The Fighter (2010). It is probably a very good fit, since Kelly himself was quite a boxer as well as an Olympic oarsman.

HTBS: As you are the author of the book, and a rowing expert, will you have any influence on the script?

DB: I have been shown some early versions of the script and provided my input, but I have yet to see the finished product. I’ve been told by the producers that the Kelly story has been something of a challenge to render into an acceptable screenplay. Partly I think this is due to the complexity of Kelly’s life, which covers many fields of endeavor--sports, romance, politics, business, and even Hollywood. 

On the latter front, of course, the temptation is to “play the Grace Kelly” card, and include her in the story. But this story really isn’t about her; it’s about her dad and her brother, the Irish and English, and the power of one man’s will to succeed. Grace, however, did seem to have her father’s drive—it was just directed in another field of endeavor. And, of course, it is ironic that one of the Kellys married into a royal family, after coming from such modest roots!

HTBS: Armie Hammer, who played both the Winklevoss brothers in the film The Social Network, is one name that has popped up playing Jack Kelly Sr. Any other names that you can mention playing other characters? Any good English actor playing Kelly’s 1920 Olympic rival Jack Beresford Jr.?

DB: Jake Gyllenhaal is the other name that was mentioned to me to play Kelly. I haven’t heard anything about the Beresford character, but there are plenty of great British actors who could take on that role. I just hope the rowing is authentic, which is not an easy thing to pull off!

HTBS: You were the “rowing consultant” for The Social Network, and you have now been asked to take on the same position for the Kelly film. Is the Kelly film going to be a “rowing movie”, or a movie with some rowing scenes?

DB: At this point, since I have not seen the final script, I can’t say how much rowing will be involved. Certainly there will be a lot more than in The Social Network, where the rowing was really just used as window dressing. In one of  the earlier drafts of the Kelly script I read, there was a nice scene of Kelly watching a sculling race on the Schuylkill as a boy, which is how he originally got interested in the sport. And of course, there will have to be a scene for his duel with Beresford at the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp. Lastly, they will have to show Kell, or Jack Kelly Jr., winning the Diamond sculls in 1947. This is the tricky part, I imagine; to show the lapse of time between the two generations.

HTBS: You are the director of recreational sculling at Harvard, will you also teach the actors how to scull and row?

DB: I’d love to, of course! I’ve worked on a number of rowing films and commercials, and been an extra in others. I worked with Josh Pence and Armie Hammer quite a bit in The Social Network, and they seemed to manage the rowing scenes quite well. Of course, Josh had already rowed before, at Dartmouth, so he didn’t need much attention. It was pretty challenging to set them loose in a pair, however; especially when the director wanted them to keep switching sides!

HTBS: Are you looking forward to getting back to Henley to shoot scenes – after all, there was some marvellous scenes from Henley Royal Regatta in The Social Network, and Jack “Kell” Kelly Jr., won the Diamonds at Henley in 1947 (and 1949), a race that was denied his father in 1920.

Photo: Mystic Seaport
DB: It was great fun to be at Henley during The Social Network shoot; and at Dorney Lake, where much of the filming also took place. As many people who read my columns know, it was quite a coup to be allowed to film during the actual regatta. There were weeks, if not months, of negotiation prior to the shoot, and no one believed it would actually happen. But once the Henley Stewards finally gave director David Fincher the nod, we were all treated remarkably well.  

Filming, of course, it not all fun and games, and there was a lot of stress with Henley shoot, mostly due to the fact that we were on such a tight time table. We were only allowed one or two takes, so the oarsmen had to be managed very precisely (which is not always an easy task). Then, one of the guys broke an oarlock just before we were set to roll, which could have been a complete disaster! Luckily, we were able to swoop in from the umpire’s launch and get it fixed with just seconds to spare. Needless to say, it is not an experience I would ever care to repeat!

HTBS: Do you have any idea when the movie is going to be released?

DB: I have no idea, but hopefully in the next few years. These Hollywood projects can move very slowly or very fast. Hopefully this one will be the latter!

HTBS: If I remember it right, you yourself has actually been in a “rowing movie”. Which movie was that, and what was the scene/s?

DB: I was a rowing extra in a pretty awful version of David Halberstam’s book, The Amateurs. The film was called Rowing Through, and you can probably rent it on DVD if you want a good laugh. The rowing scenes, and much of the acting, are awful. Xeno Muller was an extra, too, and he was hilarious to be around—always making jokes and teasing the actors. I was also in a Denzel Washington film called The Great Debaters, where I very briefly row up the Charles. Lastly, I was in a PBS documentary called the Irish in America, where I also scull a bit. 

HTBS: Thank you, Dan, for taking the time, and good luck with the film. We at HTBS are keeping our fingers crossed that Kelly will be a good rowing movie.

DB: My pleasure!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Which Blue Are You?

Are you Lawrence of Arabia or Borat? Well, that is one of the questions on BNY Boat Race website. This highly scientific test will help you to determine whether you are a Light Blue or a Dark Blue, if you do not know that already. You don't know? Take the test here.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Mea culpa

Oxford and Cambridge on the start – in 1901 or in 1923?

Tim Koch writes:

On 13 December, I posted a piece on HTBS entitled ‘Blue Movies’ in which I confidently identified a film of the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race on the British Pathe website (titled by Pathe as ‘Boat Race 1910- 1920’) as that of the 1901 race, possibly making it the oldest Boat Race film available online. I wrote that the evidence for this was as follows:

The finish....... provides us with the best clue to the actual year. Oxford win by less than a length. The records show that, between 1895 and 1939, the Dark Blues won by one length or less in 1896 (1/2 length), 1901 (2/5 length), 1913 (3/4 length), 1923 (3/4 length), and 1937 (1/4 length). I suspected that 1901 and 1913 were the most likely candidates and set to identifying some of the participants. I managed to produce recognisable shots for the Oxford cox, bow and ‘7’ and for the Cambridge stroke. As the pictures… show, they seem to match the crews for 1901.

The next day the following appeared in the ‘comments’ section:

The Pathe film shows Oxford winning on Surrey. It is therefore almost certainly the 1923 race, which Oxford won by 3/4 of a length. In both 1901 and 1913 Oxford were on Middlesex. If it’s the 1923 race Oxford’s number 3 was Andrew Irvine, who died on Everest the following year, and Oxford’s number 7 was Gully Nickalls, who twice won an Olympic silver medal and who became chairman of the Amateur Rowing Association.

It did not take me long to decide that the anonymous contributor was indeed correct. Before I show the evidence for this, I must confess to the poor research methods that led me to be twenty-two years out. I made the classic mistake of ceasing to look at the evidence was soon as I found ‘confirmation’ of the result that I wanted. From the finish distance, I noted the five years that it could have been – but failed to identify which crew was on which station for each of those races. Had I done this I would have found that Oxford won on Surrey in only one of those five years – 1923!

There is more subtle evidence that I missed or ignored. Looking at the shots that show the crowds around the boathouses on practice days (seven seconds in), men’s fashions are difficult to differentiate between 1901 and 1923, but women’s clothing styles are easier. Several women are wearing skirts or dresses several inches above the ankle. I am not an expert, but I think that this indicates that it was filmed after the 1914-1918 War.

Ironically, the final and irrefutable evidence that the film is of the 1923 ‘Battle of the Blues’ is provided by Pathe itself. The website has another film which Pathe clearly identify as the ‘Boat Race - Oxford v Cambridge 1923’. This is undoubtedly the ‘final edit’ while the material which is identified as ‘Boat Race 1910-1920’ is the film taken around or on 24 March 1923 but never used. Again, it was a failure on my part not to have searched further.


The only thing that I can say in my defence is that I still think that my main piece of evidence, that of ‘matching’ some members of the 1901 crew with those in the film, still appears to hold up, even though I know it is wrong. I hope that I never have to give evidence in a Court of Law.

The final Oxford Crew for 1923 was, from bow, PC Mallam, PR Wace, AC Irvine, RK Kane, GJ Mower-White, JE Pedder, GO Nickalls, WP Mellen, GD Clapperton (cox).

The final Cambridge crew was WF Smith, FW Law, KN Craig, SH Heap, BG Ivory, TDA Collet, RE Morrison, TRB Sanders, RAL Balfour (cox).

The Times newspaper headlined it “A Great Boat Race” and reported:

Oxford won the Boat Race on Saturday by three-quarters of a length in 20min. 54sec, after one of the most interesting contests of recent years. The anticipations of a close struggle were fully realized. The times and positions of the crews at the leading landmarks were as under:

Mile Post                    04.18   Oxford   A few feet
Hammersmith Bridge   07.49   Oxford   1/2 length
Chiswick Steps          12.31    Oxford    2 lengths
Barnes Bridge            17.19    Oxford   1 1/3 lengths
Finish                        20.54   Oxford   3/4 length

The finish from the Middlesex Bank.

Oxford won... by their superior racing qualities. They were rather better together than were their rivals, they rowed with more life and rhythm, and they were admirably stroked by W.P. Mellen. Cambridge rowed well, and all through the race were the more stylish crew to watch, but, as in the trials, they had a slow heavy middle period. They made the usual recovery at the finish, but Oxford had secured too great an advantage, and the well-sustained spurt made by the Cambridge crew failed to achieve victory.

The finish from the air.

There are other newsreel films relating to the 1923 Boat Race online. This, filmed in the February, has nice slow motion shots of both crews in training and this, taken on race day, was filmed on the water, presumably from the press launch. Both were by the ‘Gaumont Graphic Newsreel’.

W.P. Mellen, Middlesex School, Concord, USA and Brasenose, Oxford stroke 1923 and 1924. ‘Mellen is undoubtedly he best stroke Oxford have had since R.C. Bourne. Although he is an American, he learned his rowing at Oxford, and his father stroked the Brasenose College eight in the Torpids’. (The Times, 26 March 1923).

Thursday, January 2, 2014

And the Christmas Caption Winner is....

(Please click on the picture above to enlarge it!)

HTBS is happy to announce the winner of our Christmas Caption Competition. The lucky winner of the Boat Race cap is.... Rebecca Caroe! The three judges, Tim K., Greg D. and yours truly, made up a list each of what we thought were the three best ones, gave them points, counted the points, and on top came, Rebecca ~ our warmest congratulations to Rebecca. You will receive your cap shortly. You can all enjoy Rebecca's captions above.

Thank you to all of you who sent in captions!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Will to Row

The Will to Row

Hamlet had been up
late the night before.
Role-playing with some friends.
And, now, this morning
he could not make up his mind,
hung-over as he was,
whether or not to get in
some rowing.  Routine
was Hamlet's king.
And to begin the day without rowing
would portend a day
lived off-center, a day
each minute of the morning of
would be like a rock
rolled up the mountain of time
toward noon,
only to roll back down again.
On days not ruled by routine,
Hamlet felt himself Sisyphus,
Sisyphus in a state of indecision.

Thus, row he would,
sluggish, at first,
his mind still veiled
in the gauze of dream,
a dream wherein Banquo
had appeared, confused,
seeming to have come to inhabit
the mind of the wrong character
in the wrong play,
which Hamlet reasoned was why
he found himself in the state
of indecision he had wakened to.

But Hamlet, having decided to row,
caused Banquo rise
from the dead of dream,
dream rising from Hamlet's mind,
and clear a way for him
to get his day underway.

And so Hamlet rowed
that he could be,
that he could play
his part in the day.

Philip Kuepper
(9 October 2013)