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The 1930 tissue paper montage made by Alice Lex-Nerlinger (1893-1975) at the exhibition “Bauhaus and Photography, On Neues Sehen in Contemporary Art”. Photo credit: Bauhaus and Photography, Museum für Fotografie, 2019 © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstbibliothek August Haverkamp.

22 May 2019

By Hélène Rémond

Hélène Rémond makes a discovery at the Museum für Fotografie in Berlin.

You would not make a connection between rowing and the art school Bauhaus right away, would you?

I want to share a discovery I made at the Museum für Fotografie in Berlin where the centenary of the founding of the Bauhaus is celebrated. The idea of the exhibition on Bauhaus and photography is to juxtapose the photographic avant-garde of the 1930s and contemporary art to show how the art and design movement is still influencing the evolution of the visual language of today’s aesthetic concepts.

“Bauhaus and Photography, On Neues Sehen in Contemporary Art”, installation view, Museum für Fotografie, 2019 © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstbibliothek August Haverkamp.

Alongside with the works of artists such as László Moholy-Nagy and Man Ray, there is a photogram of a tissue paper montage made by Alice Lex-Nerlinger (1893-1975) in 1930. Lex-Nerlinger was a German photomontage artist and painter. Her artistic-dialectic works tackle heroism versus the soldier’s death, snob and war cripple, lady and proletarian woman, man and machine, capital and labour, state and censor. She actually turned the photogram process to political ends.

As to the silver gelatin print (23×17 cm) entitled “Training (Ruderer)/Training (Rowers)”, the work captures well the repetitive geometric pattern formed by the rowers in their boat. Repeated faceless figures reappear in the form of anonymous factory workers in other photograms. Depictions of leisure then gave way to labor. Alice Lex-Nerlinger abandoned repetition and featured an iconic symbol of physical labour and the working class.

A blow-up of Alice Lex-Nerlinger’s “Training (Ruderer)/Training (Rowers)” in the exhibition “Bauhaus and Photography, On Neues Sehen in Contemporary Art” at the Museum für Fotografie.

The exhibition “Bauhaus and Photography, On Neues Sehen in Contemporary Art” at the Museum für Fotografie is running through 25 August 2019.

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The Roseninsel Eights Regatta is for all ages. Closes to the camera is a mixed, youth octuple scull from Regensburger Ruderverein.

21 May 2019

By Larry Fogelberg

Larry Fogelberg gives HTBS a taste of how it is to race 12 km on the windy “Roseninsel-8er” regatta on Lake Starnberg, south of Munich in Germany.

German rowing has an old tradition of long-distance racing. A book published in 1928 – the first year Germany was invited to return to the Olympics – has articles about each of the sports. The author who writes about rowing mentions all the highlights in German rowing but also that longer-distance competition was common; apparently 12 kilometers was a popular distance.

The annual “Roseninsel-8er” regatta on Lake Starnberg, south of Munich, returned to this tradition 30+ years ago and attracts crews from all over Germany and beyond, maybe because it is the last Saturday in September, the height of the Munich Oktoberfest.

The “Roseninsel-8er” regatta might not be as festive as the Oktoberfest in Munich, where this image is from, with women wearing the traditional Dirndls, but the regatta does not lack Bavarian “Gemütlichkeit”.

Crews at the regatta do not have to go Munich for Bavarian “Gemütlichkeit.” The host for the regatta, Münchner Ruder- und Segelverein “Bavaria” von 1910, has a Bavarian band playing,  stands serving beer and food, coffee and cake in the clubhouse. Many of the girls and women are wearing Dirndls to complete the scene. If your crew wins in its class, one of them will hang your medal around your neck and may even give you a “Bussi” on your cheek.

Poster for the 2018 the Roseninsel Eights Regatta.

Lake Starnberg is ca. 20 km long and about 2 km wide in the area of the race. The race course is 6 km heading south. On a clear day, the cox can steer towards the Zugspitze on the horizon. The course turns around two large buoys, and goes back to the starting line. The turn is near Roseninsel, an island in the lake, hence the name of the regatta. The regatta is open to nearly every class of eights, racing and gig boats, men, women and mixed. This includes average age levels for the crew, sometimes making it advantageous to have a strong older person in the boat, raising the average to compete against hopefully older, slower crews. If a crew does not have a competitor boat in its class, the crew rows against the time of the previous year’s winner in that class. An older crew may be competing against its own winning time the year before.

The starts include crews of different classes, ca. 20 boats in each of the starts at 1:45 hour intervals.

Of course, the bows are only roughly on the line when the starting shot is fired. Eventually, the field spreads out, but near the buoys for the turn, there is always traffic and different tactics: a wider turn to maintain speed; sharper turns at each buoy to have the shorter, inside course.

Some crews, especially younger ones, have trained for the regatta. Older crews may have only managed to have a couple of outings with the whole crew together, maybe including someone from a neighboring club and rowing in a borrowed boat. There is only one dock for all the boats, but somehow it all works out.

Rough waters on the 2×6 km course on Lake Starnberg.

Rowing on the big lake is not like rowing on the calm water of a race course or on a narrow river.  One regatta was aborted, when all the racing shells in the first start sank in the rough water. Unfortunately, that was the year when the Münchner Ruder- und Segelverein was celebrating its 100th anniversary. My club’s crew had a later start, had a beer, and returned home.

Sometimes the rowers have to swim more than they row. Emptying out the water where it belongs.

One year with not so flat water, we had competition in our class, but on the return stretch, the most challenging crew had to pull over in the shallows and empty water from its boat. For once, we were thankful that rowing on the Main River in Frankfurt, we had experience with rougher water.

In 2018, 76 boats had registered, and three starts were planned. After the second start, the regatta was cancelled due to waves. There are a couple of hundred photos, many showing the conditions and consequences, on the Münchner Ruder- und Segelverein’s website, where there are also other photos of the ashore “Volksfest” where participants, their families and supporters are enjoying themselves.

Spectators following the racing from ashore.

This was a lot about the possible problems. Lake Starnberg is never a mill pond, but usually the conditions allow a successful race for all crews.

A men’s crew, with a female cox, picking up their first prize wearing the traditional Bavarian “lederhosen”.

What is it like to race 12 km (ca. 7.5 miles)? That is a little longer stretch than what I and my fellow rowers row on the river in Frankfurt. We (+/- 60 year-olds) are usually not over-exerting ourselves on those outings we do twice a week, always taking a pause after the turn. But then, on Lake Starnberg, the eight of us are suddenly full of ambition. We had a 16-year-old cox. Her voice showed how much experience she had – she didn’t need a megaphone or cox-box.

The start was all right. We were hoping that the leading crews were not in our class. But after 500 meters, I was asking myself why I was there? The stroke was okay, but doing this all the way, still more than three miles to the turn, and then all the way back?! And the distant shore didn’t move past like it did back home. That villa was still there after several strokes. Stop looking, just pull. The cox shouted: “Schub, schub!”, “Shove, shove!” More leg-drive! Right she was, but I didn’t like that she knew.

She mastered the turn, then the long slog back. Clever girl, she called: “Ten strokes for bow.” We gave them. Then “Ten strokes from number two.” With intervals, she went through the crew, distracting us from the long haul.

Where was that villa? Still way past my shoulder. And when it was abreast, how much further still to row? “Schub, schub! The clubhouse is in sight.” It wasn’t yet for me, but I stomped on the stretcher as best as I could, and then it was in sight, and finally the finish line too.

After the race – time for beer! Or as one of the Münchner Ruder- und Segelverein board members, Claudia Hassmann, told the article writer “… anstrengend, aber hinterher ist man glücklich und das Bier schmeckt besser!” – “exhausting, but afterwards you are happy and the beer tastes better!”

We didn’t win that year, but I took home a “König Ludwig” glass beer stein.

All photos, courtesy © Münchner Ruder- und Segelverein “Bavaria” von 1910 website.

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American sculler Jim Dietz training on the rowing machine for the 1972 Olympic Games. According to rumour, his mother really disliked this image of her son. Photograph © Co Rentmeester.

20 May 2019

By Göran R Buckhorn

Coach Jim Dietz hangs up his megaphone.

In the beginning of May, Jim Dietz, the University of Massachusetts women’s head coach, announced that he was retiring. The UMass Athletic Department immediately started a national search for his successor. In the meantime, Andrea Landry is acting head coach. Dietz has led the Minutewomen since the varsity programme began in 1994-95.

‘I want to thank Coach Dietz for his dedication in building a nationally prominent rowing program at UMass over his tenure,’ said Ryan Bamford, director of UMass Athletic Department, according to UMass sports website. ‘Jim has certainly left his mark in the rowing community as an athlete and coach and we have been fortunate to benefit from his leadership for the last 24 years as a varsity program. We wish Jim well in retirement.’

In a statement, Dietz said: ‘I feel extremely confident that UMass will continue to be a force in women’s rowing. I am fortunate to leave a legacy of loyal alumnae with a true knowledge and love of our sport. I feel confident they will continue to provide direction and support to our team. I wish the team continued success!’

Under Dietz leadership, the Minutewomen – Maroon and White – have won 16 Atlantic 10 Championships, including 12 in a row between 1996 and 2007. Among other prominent achievements during Dietz tenure were winning the San Diego Crew Classic in 1995, the Women’s Henley Regatta in England in 2003 and 16 Dad Vail Championships. ‘Dietz leaves a legacy of Olympians, World Championship medalists, and numerous crew coaches and referees throughout the U.S., it stated on the UMass sports website.

Jim Dietz at the induction into the Rowing Hall of Fame in 2010. Photo: Göran R Buckhorn.

Dietz rowed collegiately under Ernest Arlett at Northeastern before graduating in 1972. Throughout his competitive years, he managed to win a heap of medals: he took 45 United States and 37 Canadian national championship titles. He was a member of nearly all U.S. national teams from 1967 to 1983, including the U.S. teams going to the Olympics in 1972 and 1976; missing out on the games in 1980 due to USA’s boycott of the Moscow Olympics. Dietz competed at seven World Championships – in 1974, he won a silver medal in the single sculls. He also won medals at the Pan American Games in 1967, 1975, 1979 and 1983.

Jim Dietz was inducted into the National Rowing Foundation Rowing Hall of Fame in 2010. The same year, Dietz was elected vice president of USRowing. His term of this position ended earlier this year.

Jim Dietz speaking fondly about his old coach Jack Sulger at the 2012 Rowing History Forum. Photo: Göran R Buckhorn.

I was present when Dietz was inducted into the ‘Hall’. I was also in attendance two years later, in March 2012, for the 6th Rowing History Forum, held at Mystic Seaport Museum. Allow me to quote myself from an article about that forum:

After lunch, […] Jim Dietz […] literally dashed in through the doors to give a whimsical, hilariously funny talk about his club, ‘New York Athletic Club’, or so it said in the programme. Instead, his presentation soon slid in to a tribute to one man, Jack Sulger, an Irish New York policeman, who was a six-time national champion oarsman, and Dietz’s rowing coach at New York A.C. Sulger carried his service revolver at all times, it seems, and at least once, he used it to keep law and order when a fancy fast boat with a water-skier came too close to the ‘kids’’ race course.

Sulger, who was a manager of the U.S. rowing team, director of the U.S. Olympic Committee, and president of the N.A.A.O., had, according to Dietz, an old-fashioned way of what was right and wrong, and whatever that was, it was always to Dietz’s and his fellow rowers’ advantage, because first and foremost, rowing should, at that age, be fun! They don’t make them like that anymore…

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The 2019 Australian Defence Force King’s Cup rowing team was announced at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, on 13 April. Details are here. The Australians won the King’s Cup in 1919 and are very serious about repeating the feat a century later. © Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence.

19 May 2019

By Tim Koch

Tim Koch on an event combining the twin attractions of fine dining and rowing history.

HTBS Types will by now be well aware that this year’s Henley Royal Regatta is commemorating the 1919 Royal Henley Peace Regatta with an event for military eights, mirroring the one held 100 years ago to mark the end of the First World War. In 1919, military crews from Australia, Canada, France, New Zealand, the UK and the USA raced in a one-off premier eights event, the King’s Cup. This year, their successors will return to compete for a presentation sword and a newly commissioned King’s Cup, this time joined by crews drawn from the armed forces of Germany and the Netherlands, and this time in mixed-sex crews. The eight boats will race in a knock-out format over the final three days of Henley 2019.

The original King’s Cup, now the perennial trophy presented to the winning state men’s eight at the annual Australian Rowing Championships. Picture: rowingaustralia.com.au

Chris Hartley has been coordinating the international participation and is traveling from Australia to explain the historical significance of the commemoration and of the 2019 King’s Cup campaign, which has been several years in the making and has strong support from all eight nations.

The Royal Henley Regatta on Thames - YouTube

The 2019 King’s Cup project has its own website and has produced the above short trailer.

Chris will be giving a talk a Leander Club in Henley-on-Thames on Tuesday, 21 May, after a two-course set supper (6.30 for 7.00). Priority is given to Leander Club members, but the organisers are happy to welcome others if space permits. To book, contact the club office on 01491 575782 or email events@leander.co.uk The cost is £25. 

The King's Cup in Hobart - YouTube

The first week of February saw the Royal Hobart Regatta (established in 1838) and the Australian Wooden Boat Festival taking place in Hobart. This year, they had the King’s Cup on display and the festivities included a race for wooden eights.

The ADF King's Cup Squad training in Canberra - YouTube

On 20 March, the Australian Defence Force King’s Cup Rowing Squad conducted a re-enactment of the 1919 King’s Cup and rowing training on Lake Burley Griffin, in Canberra ACT, in anticipation of the upcoming race at Henley.

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Hear The Boat Sing by Gbuckhorn - 3d ago

19 May 2019

By Philip Kuepper

Through the rain-spattered window
the boats appeared
smudges painted on the bay,
indistinct shapes caught between
the representational and the abstract.
They were both
boats, and suggestive of boats.
And so they were neither.
It remained to anyone seeing them
to make of them what they would.

(24 April 2019)

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Cheers! Following the Combined Cavalry Old Comrades Association Parade and Memorial Service that Tim Koch reported on yesterday, a former member of the Blues and Royals and two Chelsea Pensioners enjoy a post-parade drink in the Non-Commissioned Officers’ and Warrant Officers’ Mess of the nearby Hyde Park Barracks.

18 May 2019

By Tim Koch

Tim Koch is confined to barracks for again writing about ‘Nothing To Do With Rowing’.

Following my attendance at the Combined Cavalry Old Comrades Association Parade and Memorial Service in London’s Hyde Park on 12 May, my host, John Walker, Chairman of the Oxford and District Royal Dragoon Guards Association, took me for a drink in the NCOs’ and WOs’ Mess of Hyde Park Barracks.

Hyde Park Barracks, located at the southern edge of the park.

Hyde Park Barracks (sometimes known as Knightsbridge Barracks) is home to the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment. The Household Cavalry consists of two regiments, armoured reconnaissance and mounted ceremonial, with both units manned equally by soldiers from the Life Guards and the Blues & Royals. They provide mounted ceremonial troops for all state occasions. The barracks houses 500 soldiers, 120 families and 250 horses. The site has been in such use since 1795, but the present, rather brutalist structure was completed in 1970. The ornate portico pictured above is all that remains of the barracks that stood between 1880 and 1967.

The mess had wonderful pieces of silverware and other pieces of regimental memorabilia on display. I would have like to have seen what treasures the Officers’ Mess held. Space had clearly run out to display all the souvenirs that the Household Cavalry had collected over the years. After several drinks in quick succession, John took me to visit the stables. A young trooper with one of his charges. A former commander of the Household Division recently wrote: ‘For the horse and his upkeep there is no short cut, so you have 21st-century men, the iPad generation, doing exactly what was done in the 17th century when the Household Cavalry was formed’.

Most horses used by the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment are ‘Irish Draft Cross’, all measure above sixteen hands (i.e. above five-foot four inches from the ground to top of the shoulders), are gelded to make them better-behaved and easier to control, and are ‘Cavalry Black’ in colour. The horses must be capable of carrying a rider with heavy ceremonial kit for long periods so the smaller modern sport horse is rejected in favour of a robust, more old-fashioned type, with feet ‘as big as pizzas’ and ‘a leg in each corner’. However, good temperament is as important as strength.

It was charming to observe the young soldiers with their horses. Typically, on recruitment, the troopers are ordinary urban youths with absolutely no experience of anything equine, but the army soon makes them into good horsemen with an obvious affection for their mounts, talking like proud parents about the different personalities of their charges.

The horses are often named after battles or significant places, and each year the new horses’ names begin with a particular letter. There are few blacksmiths shops left in central London, but the barracks has one of them. The regiment gets through 12,000 horseshoes a year. They are changed every four to six weeks due to the wear from riding on London’s roads. The memorial at the stables entrance to the Household Cavalry horses killed in the Hyde Park bombings of 1982.

My visit ended on a sad note, as I came across the little memorial to the horses killed in the Hyde Park bombings 37 years ago. On 20 July 1982, Irish terrorists exploded 11 kg of gelignite packed with 14 kg of nails in Hyde Park as members of the Blues and Royals were passing on their way to the Changing of the Guard at Horse Guards Parade. Four men and seven horses died. One wounded survivor suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and committed suicide in 2012. There is a memorial to the men at the spot where the bomb was detonated and the Household Cavalry still salute it every time they pass. A famous photograph of the dead horses, innocents in the political and military conflict, shocked the world, perhaps more so than if a picture of the slain men had been published.

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Winston Churchill pictured in 1895, newly gazetted to the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars. Lord Wolseley, one of the Victorian army’s most influential generals, held that ‘The better you dress a soldier, the more highly he will be thought of by women, and consequently by himself.’ Churchill never lacked confidence, but sporting a splendid cavalry uniform probably increased his self-belief even more.

17 May 2019

By Tim Koch

Tim Koch is ashamed to follow Socrates.

This is one of HTBS’s ‘Nothing To Do With Rowing’ pieces, posted simply on the grounds that those interested in rowing’s chronicles tend to be intrigued by military history as well. On Sunday, 12 May, I made a return visit to The Combined Cavalry Old Comrades Association Parade and Memorial Service in London’s Hyde Park, an annual event which honours British and Commonwealth cavalrymen killed in action and which has some unique aspects to its ceremonial.

Despite the best efforts of historians, artists, authors, film makers, musicians, poets and particularly of former and serving military men, soldiering and war are often thought of as glamorous and exciting, even by those of us who think that they are clever enough to know better. In one of my favourite quotes, the 18-century man of letters, Dr Johnson, famously summed up the result of this guilty mindset on many of us who have never been in uniform:

Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier…. No, Sir; were Socrates and Charles the Twelfth of Sweden both present in any company, and Socrates to say, ‘Follow me, and hear a lecture on philosophy;’ and Charles, laying his hand on his sword, to say, ‘Follow me, and dethrone the Czar’ a man would be ashamed to follow Socrates. Sir, the impression is universal; yet it is strange.

“Scotland Forever!” by Lady Butler. The Royal Scots Greys at Waterloo in 1815. Although inaccurate in many ways, this painting is often considered an iconic representation of heroism, so much so that during the First World War the Germans used this picture in their propaganda – with the Scots Greys transformed into Prussian cavalry.

Historically, the greatest unintentional perpetrators of this image of warfare have been the epitome of military glamour, the mounted cavalry. Even today, when camouflage has replaced colour and armour has replaced equine for battlefield use, the cavalry still cuts a dash, particularly on parade grounds, in mess halls and in ballrooms. As one officer of the former 14th/20th King’s Hussars wrote in the Daily Telegraph in 2004:

Dressing up in historic, dashing kit at military balls and parties gives the wearer a distinct sartorial advantage over those from less fashionable bits of the Army. High-collared jackets worn over waistcoats adorned with gold frogging, and spray-on tight crimson (trousers) with twin primrose stripes… trapped over boots with jingly spurs could cause knicker elastic to snap at twenty paces.

No comment.

“Punch” magazine, 1892.

In the past, the cavalry’s splendid uniforms, fine horses and terrifying battlefield charges combined to form a romantic image, one most famously encapsulated by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, in his 1854 poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade. Ironically, while Tennyson’s six stanzas have done much to promote the allure of war and soldiering, it is actually about a military blunder, and parts at least could be considered anti-war. During the Crimean War in 1854, a misunderstood order led to the cavalry units of the Light Brigade charging into a valley that had Russian cannon aimed at them on both sides. The poem’s second verse devastatingly sums up the soldier’s lot throughout history: not to question even a clearly suicidal order.

Forward, the Light Brigade!’
Was there a man dismay’d ?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Some one had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die…. 

Forty years after the publication of The Charge of the Light Brigade, Rudyard Kipling used it to draw attention to the paradoxical relationship that civilians have with the military; they support ‘the boys’ in time of war, but do little for them after their service, a situation that continues today. In 1891, Kipling wrote The Last of the Light Brigade, focusing on the hardships suffered in old age by ex-troopers of the Crimean War:

There were thirty million English who talked of England’s might,
There were twenty broken troopers who lacked a bed for the night.
They had neither food nor money, they had neither service nor trade;
They were only shiftless soldiers, the last of the Light Brigade.

A rather heroic representation of a wounded Crimean War cavalryman. Sergeant John Breese served with the 11th (Prince Albert’s Own) Hussars and lost his arm at the Battle of Inkerman. The stylish Breese appears to be more proud of his lost limb than of his campaign medals.

In Tommy (1892), Kipling also contrasts the attitude that civilians have towards the British soldier (‘Tommy Atkins’, though a term perhaps applied more to infantrymen than to cavalrymen) during peace to that during war. When a soldier is refused service in a pub for being a ‘redcoat’, he laments:

O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, go away”;
But it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play.

Kipling’s Tommy points out yet another unchanging aspect of the way the military is often mistreated, that is by politicians sending them to war poorly equipped:

Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap….

While Kipling was clearly critical of the way the British often treated their military, I am not sure that he would have approved of the common modern idea of regarding everyone who ever wore a uniform as ‘a hero’. My Father played his small part in the defeat of Nazism, but I am sure would have been nonplused if anyone had granted him the epithet ‘hero’. He, his contemporaries and their fathers all served in the military; they knew what a hero was and was not and they reserved the term for those very few who voluntarily ‘rode to the sound of guns’. Again, Kipling’s Tommy is astute:

We aren’t no thin red ‘eroes*, nor we aren’t no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you….

Just outside Hyde Park is this statue of the Duke of Wellington (1769 – 1852) astride his horse, Copenhagen. In the background is the Wellington Arch. Although also an influential politician, his victory over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 put him in the first rank of Britain’s military heroes. He served in two regiments of Light Dragoons, the 12th and later the 18th.

Like most such events, the Combined Cavalry Old Comrades Association Parade contained a few ‘eroes (as some of the medals testified) and possibly one or two blackguards (though no one offered me any cheap regimental silver), but most of those marching were, no doubt, like most soldiers, somewhere in between. Where the Parade is perhaps not typical of other such events is that it contains a disproportionate number of officers and also that it is made up of a mix of current and former servicemen, all in civilian clothes. Officially, the dress is simply ‘lounge suits with medals and decorations’ but, according to the Facebook page of the Army’s Headquarters, London District:

The traditional dress of bowler hat, suit and tie, while carrying a furled umbrella was the accepted walking out dress in 1920s London when the annual parade started. Even today Household Division Officers are expected to dress like this when on duty out of uniform in the capital. Although now a stereotype of the English gentleman, the bowler hat was what the working classes wore in the 19th century and was the hat of choice for working horsemen, like our cavalrymen today. (Unlike a top hat) not only does it afford protection from low lying branches but does not blow off in the wind. The umbrellas are carried not in case of rain but carried in place of a sword or pace stick. (When the late Queen Mother) took the Salute on a particularly wet parade she insisted the umbrellas remained firmly furled as a reminder to all that these were soldiers marching.

Gathering for the Parade

Past and present cavalrymen and women, plus friends and family meet on the Broad Walk in London’s Hyde Park on a glorious spring day. Smart on the left, elegant on the right. The standard-bearer for the 1st, The Queen’s Dragoon Guards, nicknamed ‘The Welsh Cavalry’.
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The cover of the Swedish rowing magazine which featured a couple of articles on the FISA World Cup in single sculls on Lake Hjelmsjön in 1991.

16 May 2019

By Göran R Buckhorn

Is HTBS editor Göran R Buckhorn trying to re-write rowing history? Here is a sequel to his article on 1 May about the 1991 FISA World Cup at Hjelmsjön, a regatta that maybe was not all that it was cracked up to be.

It’s not easy to be entertaining, and it’s even harder to be funny. On 1 May, I published an article about Romanian single sculls star Elisabeta Lipă, who I picked up in Malmö, Sweden, to drive her to a rowing regatta on Lake Hjelmsjön in 1991.

I had been thinking about this story for many years (obviously), but it was first when I read a press release from FISA, World Rowing, on 23 April that I felt I could tell this anecdote and still be writing about a current event.

In FISA’s press release, we were told about a new process called the Strategic Event Attribution Process (SEAP), which ‘offers a more strategic and long-term approach to attributing FISA events. It allows interested parties to indicate all of the FISA-owned events between 2021 and 2028 that they believe would support their long-term events strategy,’ the press release read. It continued:

There are 36 events open to bidding for the period spanning 2021 to 2026, including the 2023, 2025 and 2026 World Rowing Championships. For the 2021 to 2024 period, bids are invited for the junior and under-23 World Rowing Championships, three World Rowing Cup series regattas per year and the World Rowing Masters Regatta. In addition to the World Rowing events, FISA owns the European Championships at the senior, under-23 and junior level and these events for the 2021 to 2024 period are also open for bidding.

The press release went on to say that 21 federations had sent in preliminary bids from 31 rowing venues, including the ‘regular’ ones, Lucerne, Bled, Poznan, Plovdiv and Belgrade. There were also bids from several venues that had hosted FISA events, but those were now some years ago. Then there was a third category: ‘Bidders include an emergence of new venues, which – if successful in their bids – would host World Rowing events for the first time such as Hjelmsjo (SWE), Kazan (RUS) and Pretoria (RSA).’

‘Ahh’, I thought. Hjelmsjön has organised a FISA event before; I know because I was there. I was one of 130 officials at the regatta, which was a Scandinavian Open event, which included the second year of FISA’s newly created World Cup Rowing for single scullers, a series that ran between 1990 and 1995. Four hundred rowers from 20 countries had found their way to the village of Örkelljunga and Lake Hjelmsjön. Elisabeta Lipă was one of the female stars that came to the regatta, and I was the one who drove her there. Now was the time to tell my Lipă story.

Again, trying to be entertaining and funny is to walk a thin line between being a humourist and a twit. I understood that the other day when I received a friendly e-mail from Matt Smith, executive director of FISA. Though Mr. Smith was very polite in his e-mail, he didn’t like my 1 May article. He points out that I’m wrong about Hjelmsjön arranging a FISA event in 1991. (Maybe I should mention Matt by his first name as he called me Goran in his e-mail? As a matter of fact, we became on a first-name basis when I interviewed him in Lausanne in 1997 for the Swedish rowing magazine; though that is some 22 years ago, so I can’t expect him to remember me.)

Matt Smith. Photo: FISA

In his e-mail, Matt starts out by saying ‘Just for the record, FISA ran a “singles-only” World Cup from 1990 to 1995, which was neither televised nor supported by FISA staff and service providers. It ended in 1995 as not having succeeded to achieve its goals.’ He continues to write ‘When we say [in FISA’s press release from 23 April] that Hjelmsjon has not hosted a “FISA” event, we refer to World Championships or, since 1997, a World Rowing Cup event or, since 2007, a European Rowing Championship regatta.’

Matt explains further in his e-mail, ‘The new “Rowing World Cup” series started up in 1997 with all Olympic events, Television broadcasting confirmed and timing and results service provision by Swiss Timing, etc. This changed in 2011 to “World Rowing Cup” and has continued.’

This surprised me, and I’m not sure I understand Matt correctly. Is he saying that because this series of single sculling events were not televised, and as no staff from FISA were present at the event, the regatta at Lake Hjelmsjön was a non-FISA-sanctioned event?

During the regatta at Hjelmsjön, the FISA flag was proudly raised with the Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish flags. At the regatta, I chatted briefly with John Boultbee, then FISA Secretary General, who was there in his nice, blue blazer. While it was Lipă who won the women’s single sculls race, it was Sweden’s Maria Brandin who still was in the lead of the women’s series and therefore was entitled to wear the yellow FISA jersey.

Detail of the cover of the Swedish rowing magazine “Svensk Rodd”: Swedish sculler Maria Brandin wearing FISA’s yellow jersey, indicating that she was still in the lead of the women’s FISA World Cup Rowing series of 1991. The overall series was later won by Canadian Silken Laumann. Photo: Per Ekström.

While the regatta at Hjelmsjön was not televised, in the meaning that every race was broadcast on a TV channel or streamed by FISA, Swedish national and regional TV channels were present, even a Swedish sports channel, which interviewed Lipă after her gold medal race. As she spoke Romanian and Russian, not any languages someone among the regatta officials spoke – especially not me – a young woman from a Baltic coxed four who knew some Russian translated the TV interviewer’s questions and Lipă’s answers. Maybe not a perfect situation, but the TV channel was happy, Lipă seemed happy with her medal and the sport of rowing got a few minutes of airtime on Swedish TV, a rare thing in the beginning of the 1990s.

I understand that FISA wanted to kill the World Cup Rowing for single sculls as the series had not reached FISA’s goals after a six-year run. If we look at FISA events – cups and championships – these days, 24 years after FISA dropped the single sculls series, the world rowing federation is running a well-oiled machine where there is more money involved than ever before (there was no money in the 1990s). Just the other day, it was announced that the Olympic Channel will present live streaming coverage of the 2019 World Rowing Cup series. Perhaps it’s all just a matter of semantics and one should not confuse World Cup Rowing with World Rowing Cup. However, I do think those who won the events from 1990 to1995 consider themselves to have achieved World Cup status.

One thing that I should maybe apologise for in my 1 May article is my use of ‘fake news’. Matt finishing up his e-mail by saying that he, as a ‘half American’, is sensitive to those words. However, what I’m really writing is ‘No, no, FISA is not spreading “fake news” in their latest press release…’ Despite that I’m using the negation ‘not’ in the sentence and surround the phrase ‘fake news’ with single quotation marks, the world rowing federation finds it difficult to be mentioned in the same sentence as ‘fake news’. I get it. Here in America we are struggling with what daily comes out from certain news sources and Washington. American expats out there in the foreign wilderness must be baffled about what’s going on in their old country and where everything is going – and for that I’m truly sorry.

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15 May 2019

The Philadelphia Gold Challenge Cup Foundation announced in a press release yesterday that the inaugural Blackwall Duling Challenge will be contested as part of its U.S. and world sculling competition, taking place on Saturday, 26 October 2019, at Cooper River Park in New Jersey.

The Blackwall Duling Challenge is intended to highlight and promote adaptive sculling in the United States. Prize money will be awarded to the top four American men and women para-scullers in PR1 (arms and shoulder only) event. In this inaugural year, the Blackwall Duling Challenge competitors will be invited based off their performance at Para Trials which are being held at Mercer Lake on 7-10 July 2019.

‘The foundation’s mission includes advancing competitive sculling in the United States, bringing together top U.S. and International athletes to compete in a series of sprint races. We are pleased to introduce and include Adaptive Rowing athletes to the competition,’ said Scot Fisher, board member of the foundation. ‘Holding our event in New Jersey this year allows the foundation to add more events focusing on awareness and inclusivity and we are excited to continue to thoughtfully add programming over the next few years.’

Fred Duling, in the stern seat.

The Blackwall Duling Challenge is named to honor Christopher Blackwall and Fred Duling, two accomplished oarsmen who have been tremendously active in supporting and increasing awareness of Adaptive Rowing. Blackwall established the first U.S. rowing club solely for persons with disabilities, Philadelphia Adaptive Rowing, that is part of the Pennsylvania Center for Adapted Sports. Duling is a three-time U.S. National Team member and competitive Masters rower. He experienced a significant spinal cord injury in 2010 that caused him to switch boats where he now rows an adaptive double purchased by his family.

Christopher Blackwall

Blackwall and Duling have been active in the Philadelphia Boathouse Row community for many years.

‘USRowing is excited about our PR1 (arms and shoulders) rowers racing in the in Blackwall Duling Challenge. Recognizing Christopher Blackwall and Fred Duling is especially meaningful given the contributions Chris and Fred make to the sport of adaptive rowing and all aspects of rowing in Philadelphia and internationally,” commented Tom Darling, senior director of USRowing Para Programs. ‘It is a fitting tribute to these men who have given so much of their lives to the betterment of our sport through their commitment, dedication and service to others.’

Prize money of $5,000 will be awarded to each men’s and women’s Champion, $2,500 for second place; $1,500 for third place and $1,000 for fourth place.

Full rules and regulations are available on the Gold Cup website, www.thegoldcup.org

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The Australians outside Wharf House, their accommodation at Henley. From the Smedley Family Collection.

14 May 2019

By Chris Dodd

Chris Dodd has read two books about the oarsmen who died in the Great War, and one book about those who survived and competed for the King’s Cup at the Peace Regatta in Henley in 1919. Chris has also taken a quick peek in an upcoming book with letters from the trenches, written by famous Olympic oarsman Jack Beresford to his parents.

The four-years of struggle and slaughter in the trenches that ended a century ago has, understandably, continued to bring memoirs to the fore and tears to the eyes. The rowing community, endowed with many of fighting age, enlisted and volunteered in great numbers, and their clubs and descendants have not forgotten their heroic deeds nor their sacrifices, judging by numerous moving ceremonies and publications such as London RC’s book on the lives of its 50 casualties, or Nigel McCrery’s volume that shares its Fairbairnian title with this blog on Oxford and Cambridge rowers who lost their lives in the ‘war to end all wars’.

These are about the victims, but there is also news of the survivors. Soon to roll off the press is a volume of letters from the Front written by Jack Beresford to his parents, ably edited by his son John. Jack lied about his age to join up and survived the Great War to row on and win five consecutive Olympic medals.

But more of Jack later. Just published is Bruce Coe’s thorough account of how the Australian Army No 1 crew won the cup presented by King George V for the eight-oared event at Henley’s hastily organised Peace Regatta in 1919. Pulling Through, The Story of the King’s Cup, now awarded for the winner of Australia’s premier event, the inter-state championship, is timely because the pot will be on show at this year’s Henley Regatta, and the Stewards are holding a one-off challenge for eight military crews from eight countries for a replica of the cup.

The background to the Peace Regatta and other sporting events was that 200,000 troops of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) were hanging around in Britain, Belgium and France waiting for demob and repatriation. Events for military crews were held before Henley at Marlow and Walton-on-Thames and after Henley at Kingston-on-Thames, Staines, Molesey, Goring and Streatley, Reading and the Metropolitan at Putney, as well as the Inter-Allied Games in Paris. Five thousand oarsmen – half the estimated 1914 total in Oz – had joined up, and the AIF set up a Sports Control Board in London to promote teamwork and camaraderie among the bored men.

Other allied services were in a similar position. While Aussies hung out at the Anzac Buffet in Victoria Street and went rowing from London RC, Kiwis were ensconced up the embankment at Thames, Canadians shared the facilities at London RC and Americans were training in France. Distraction in Putney was supplied by the Australian Flying Corps on one occasion when Flight Lieutenant Lionel Armstrong flew his ‘plane under Putney Bridge as the first eight was pulling though it. The foolhardy flying rower somehow escaped serious punishment.

1919 King’s Cup. Photo from the Robb Family Collection.

The Stewards felt that they could not stage a full-blown regatta in 1919, but they warmed to the idea of special events for those who served (and some for those who didn’t). It will not surprise you to learn, as it did not surprise me when I stumbled across it in Coe’s book, that their eminences made a buggers’ muddle of deciding who was eligible to row for both the King’s Cup and the other events open to the military (8+ and 4- for Allied forces, 2- and 1x for ‘amateurs from Allied countries’). One thing was clear, however, entries from German and Hungarian clubs would not be countenanced. And to make sure, the pre-war agreement with the German and Hungarian federations were ripped up.

Oxford and Cambridge both produced a boatload of servicemen. Thames announced a Service crew but scratched. The Belgian Army didn’t show. Leander’s promised entry failed to materialise, as did the Rhine Army Officers’ BC. The AIF Wattle Club, an outfit for Aussies in desk jobs or temporarily unfit for active service rowing out of Hammersmith Town RC, failed the eligibility test for the King’s Cup and was refused for the Remenham Cup because the latter was only open to ‘English’ clubs. But what started a ruckus in the pages of The Times was the treatment of the River Lea-based National Amateur Rowing Association (NARA), champion of horny-handed amateur sons of toil, that sent in its entry before the King had donated his cup – only to hear later that the entry ‘proved unacceptable’ on the grounds of dodgy amateur status.

The NARA sent a telegram to its sovereign: ‘Eight British soldiers who have fought for their country, members of the NARA who are amateurs under every rule recognised in British sport, appeal to your majesty to see justice done them…’ The NARA told its monarch that its members believed that their entry was rejected on class distinctions when overseas and allied entries were accepted from applicants with qualifications similar to theirs. It appealed to the king to withdraw the cup.

The king’s assistant private secretary replied that the palace could not interfere. A Times leader sympathised with the NARA and attacked the antiquated rule that rated NARA members as ‘not “gentlemen” enough for old-fashioned rowing circles’. The committee should ‘make the race for the King’s Cup the event which its donor intended it to be.’ Wattle RC took up its own cause in the letters page, revealing divergence of opinion among its members. Eventually Fred Pitman of the organising committee condemned the NARA for not asking the committee to qualify its rules in advance! He said that the rules were set before the king donated the cup. So that’s all right, then.

Programme cover from Saturday, 5 July 1919. Photo: River and Rowing Museum.

At the regatta, Sod’s Law in the draw drew AIF No 1 against AIF No 2 in the first quarterfinal, with victory going to No 1. Other quarterfinal winners were Oxford University against the Canadian Army, the U.S. Army against the French Army, and Cambridge University against the NZ Army. The semis gave AIF and Oxford victory over Cambridge and the U.S. Army respectively, and the AIF beat Oxford in the final.

Australia defeat Cambridge in semi-final at the Peace Regatta. Photo from the Robb Family Collection.

Another non-surprise analysed by Coe is that during the six weeks of preparation for the Peace Regatta, the Aussie rowers and coaches – who included Stephen ‘Steve’ Fairbairn and the future Prime Minister of Australia, Stanley Bruce – were engaged in far from peaceful musical chairs, almost to the extent of losing their marbles, or at least their chance of winning. This derived partly from the variety of rowing ‘styles’ practised Down Under. What appeared to be a spat in 1919 turned out in the passage of time to have been a full-blown mutiny against the great god-like coach Fairbairn, an Aussie resident in London who had just taken on the captaincy of Thames RC.

An early version of the Australian Imperial Forces No 1 crew with coach Steve Fairbairn outside London RC. From the Robb Family Collection.

Rumblings of dissent among the first crew included criticism of Steve for coaching the crew instead of individuals by the boat’s captain, Captain Clive Disher. Dissent boiled over when Lieutenant Harry Hauenstein, rated the strongest and best puller, told Steve exactly what he thought of his patronising coaching methods before stomping out. Nowadays, says Coe, he would probably be diagnosed as suffering post-traumatic stress disorder after experiencing the maelstrom of death and destruction in the trenches.

The oarsman only returned when it was put to him that he would have to return to his unit if he didn’t. Hauenstein, incidentally, was a veteran of the Sydney crew who won the Grand at Henley and lost to Leander in the third heat of the quarterfinal at the Stockholm Olympics in 1912. Like most of that crew, he was a policeman, but described himself as a civil servant at Henley so as not to fall foul of the Stewards’ concept of amateurism.

At the point of crisis, Steve thought that the crew he was coaching was better than the 1912 boat. Late in May, he withdrew ‘on grounds of ill health’ (with Steve the excuse was never ‘to spend more time with the family’). The root cause, however, was probably ill will rather than illness. Hauenstein had dared to question his selection policy and training methods. Sydney Albert Middleton was his immediate replacement.

It may not have been he first time that Steve had been involved in mutiny and it was certainly not the last, as ‘Hear The Boat Sing’ pointed out recently in a piece describing Fairbairn’s suggestion of holding a spring time trial on Thames RC’s notepaper one month and announcing the birth of the Head of the River Race on London RC paper in the next.

Julius Beresford’s unpublished autobiography hints heavily of rift at Thames between ‘Old Berry’, the father of Jack, Jr, and Steve caused by coaching differences and rivalry over selection of their respective sons for the stroke seat. But Steve appears not to have harboured a grudge against the Aussie Army. Asked by Sporting Life on 7 July 1919 what was the best crew he had ever coached, he named AIF No 1. ‘They were just back from the war and full of nerves, but they were the easiest lot to coach. You could tell them what to do, and then hang your megaphone up in the shed,’ he told the paper.

Eric Fairbairn

Incidentally, a Fairbairn who didn’t make the Peace Regatta was Steve’s nephew Eric. Eric attended Geelong Anglican Boarding School, Eton and Jesus and represented Cambridge in the 1908 and 1911 Boat Races. He played rugby for Rosslyn Park and, said the Jesus magazine, ‘like all geniuses, he has idiosyncrasies. He hates collars, takes no milk in his tea for fear of dead flies, and is a confirmed Peripatetic after bump-suppers.’ He was in the Jesus eight coached by Steve and Bruce that went to Belgium in 1911 to race the crew who beat them in the 1909 Grand. They returned the compliment on 25 May before 100,000 people in uproar on Terdonck Canal. The victory inspired a postcard that sold 170,000 copies, and a poem that reads in part:

‘Ere fiercely upsprang,
Eric the Mighty;
Red was his face
And Blue was his raiment
Kinsman was he
To Steve the great trainer…

Sadly, Eric enlisted in the Artists Rifles, was commissioned into the Durham Light Infantry and was fatally wounded on 20 June 1915.

Which brings us to where we started. Jack the son of Julius Beresford was a Bedford schoolboy when he enlisted and was sent to the Western Front with the Liverpool Scottish, from where he wrote home to his Father and Mother regularly from April to October 1918.

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