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R. C. (Rudolf Chambers) Lehmann.

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should be an abnormally hard pressure on the part of the legs,
with the blades well covered ; no time should be lost in
getting forward for the second stroke, which should again
only be two-thirds of the length of an ordinary stroke ; the
third stroke should be longer, while the body, in getting
forward for the fourth stroke, should be using its full swing.
In these three short strokes the length is curtailed at the
beginning of the stroke, while the finish in each case is as
long as in an ordinary stroke. It has been found by experi-
ence that two or three short strokes at the start get a boat
under way more quickly than a corresponding number of
long ones, and they have the further advantage that, since



SCULLING 173

the slower a boat is travelling the more difficult it is to
balance, the sculls, in this case, are out of the water for a
shorter period and the boat does not get the same opportunity
to lurch. The first stroke can only produce a comparatively
small impetus, and to attempt a full swing when the boat is
travelling so slowly would require exceptional powers of
balance. Many races have been won in the first minute
merely by a superiority of watermanship, in the one case,
which has produced a slight lead that can never subsequently
be reduced, and, seeing that this has so often been the case,
no trouble should be spared in acquiring that perfect water-
manship which, with an equal expenditure of strength, will
add a boat's length or more to a sculler's pace in the first
minute.

III. RACING

There are practically no principles which can be laid down
for general application in racing, unless one except the well-
known yet valuable advice to race with the head, or in other
words, not to let one's excitement get the better of one's
judgment. The only way to deal with the question at all
thoroughly would be to write the account of all sculling races
which had been admittedly decided on a question of racing
powers alone, and for that there is not sufficient space in this
chapter.

Sculling races differ from rowing races in the fact that in
the former there frequently comes a period when a sculler,
who is really hard pressed, undergoes a complete collapse and
is incapable of finishing the course, whereas a crew of oarsmen
nearly always manages to reach the winning-post somehow,
even if they have long before been at their last gasp. What-
ever may be the reason of this, it is an important fact to bear
in mind when engaged in a sculling race, and every sculler
should beware of approaching that extreme of exhaustion,
bordering on collapse, without very good cause.

If a sculler who, with a slight lead, is sculling within his
powers, finds that his opponent can make no impression on



174 THE COMPLETE OARSMAN

him, and yet that he, for his part, cannot increase his lead
without a great effort, it is as well for him to continue as he is
doing and to await the development of events.

Spurts

He must be prepared for a sudden spurt on his opponent's
part, and make up his mind that such an eventuality will not
upset him by calling forth a hasty answer, which, if caused
merely by the momentary excitement at seeing the distance
between the two boats diminish, will only unsettle his stroke
without increasing his pace. Speaking generally, all spurts
should be premeditated for some strokes previous to their
taking place, and an important thing to remember in spurting
is that the extra pace must be got by an increase of power
and an almost extra quickness at the beginning and finish of
the stroke, and not by hurrying forward to the next stroke.
This is less likely to occur if, in spurting, the attention is
directed to an increase of power at the finish, rather than to
the beginning of the stroke.

In the above instance, the sculler who is leading should
regard his opponent's spurt as a signal to prepare for his own
spurt several strokes later, when the short interval that has
elapsed will have given him sufficient time to allay his excite-
ment and to make sure that the increase of power he intends
will not be accompanied by any unsteadiness. Of course, if
the boats still lie close together towards the finish of the
course, and the leader feels he could maintain a higher
pressure throughout until the winning-post is reached, he
should act on his own initiative without regard to what his
opponent intends to do, since, at this stage of the race, who-
ever spurts first will have the advantage of the few extra
strokes at higher pressure.

It is always well, when engaged in a race which is likely
to end in a victory for one's self, or even when the result,
as far as can be foreseen, is doubtful, to let one's normal
pace be such as will enable one to complete the course
at the same continuous pressure, and to reserve the



SCULLING 175

maximum of pressure which can be maintained for a com-
paratively short time, for a very definite object in view.
Advice, however, cannot be offered as to how a sculler may
win a race against an opponent who is faster than himself.
Such races have been won, and the result is due to the
possession by the winner of a sort of genius, akin to that
of a good stroke in rowing, which cannot be wholly taught.
This genius makes its possessor instinctively aware of his
opponent's weak spots, and, as he cannot win by continuous
pace alone, his only tactics are to judge at what part of the
course a sudden increase in his own pace is most likely to
unsettle his opponent, and to stake every thing on this extra
effort ; or he may, perhaps, begin spurting before the first
minute is over so as to prevent his opponent from settling
down into his stride, in the hopes that, by taking him out of
his pace at whatever cost to himself, his opponent may be
the first to " crack." At what part of the course, though, this
extra pressure should be exerted is a question which must be
decided anew in every race, and the more experience a sculler
has of racing the more likely is he to choose the moment.



IV. MEASUREMENTS
Span

The breadth of span (measuring from the insides of the
swivels, as they lie parallel with the side of the boat) should
vary according to the sculler's reach. For a man of small
reach a span of 4 feet 9 inches is advised, for a man of
medium reach one of 4 feet n inches or 5 feet, while a
man with a very long reach will require one of 5 feet
I inch or even 5 feet 2 inches. The adjustment of the
span to suit the sculler will obviate the "pinching" of the
boat at the beginning of the stroke, as well as ensure an
effective position at the finish, in which the elbows may
come close by the sides, instead of sticking out in an
ungainly fashion, as will occur if the span is too small for



176 THE COMPLETE OARSMAN

the sculler's reach. A boat is being " pinched " at the be-
ginning of the stroke when the blades are pressing out from
the sides rather than driving past them, with the result that
energy and time are wasted without a corresponding effect
upon the boat's pace. It occurs when a sculler with a long
reach is using a small span, and a similar disadvantage is also
experienced at the finish when the blades are pressing too
much in towards the boat, instead of driving it forward.

Six inches may be taken as the height of the slide above
the heels which are as close to the skin as will not entail a
danger of their going through it and it is usual for the front
stop of the slide to be placed on a line between the tholes,
or, perhaps, what is meant may be more easily explained by
saying that most scullers slide up to their work.

Of the proportion of in-board to the out-board measurement
of the scull, and of advantage or disadvantage of curtailing the
out-board length for a greater breadth of blade, and all such
disputed questions, it is not within the scope of this chapter
to treat. The measurements of the sculls already quoted on
page 171 may be taken more or less as those that are usually
employed by scullers at the present day, though it must be
remembered that a smaller span will necessitate a shorter
scull, and a broader span a longer. In theorising about the
proportion of in-board and out-board measurements, it is well
not to lose sight of the human element, for it is of small value
to demonstrate that a particular measurement will add to the
pace if it calls for a greater expenditure of strength than most
scullers are capable of sustaining for any length of time. One
cannot treat the human body merely as a machine, and it has
been observed every now and then that scullers, whose scull
measurements make every stroke a great labour, though for a
short distance they may obtain great pace, yet become so
done up and disheartened with their heavy toil that they are
incapable of making an extra effort at the critical point.

To get comfortable in his boat should be a sculler's first
object, but a caution should be entered against his lapsing
into that frame of mind in which anything that goes wrong



SCULLING 177

is attributed to the measurements used, with the consequent
result that a series of changes will only unsettle his whole
style. In sculling, as in every other form of sport or game,
every man has what are known as "off days," in which his
skill seems unaccountably to desert him, and during such
periods he should beware of over-haste in seeking for external
causes.



PART III

FAMOUS CREWS AND MEMORABLE
RACES

PRELIMINARY NOTE

BY the courtesy of Mr. W. H. Eyre, I am permitted to
publish here an account written by him of the Thames
Rowing Club, and of the manner in which their famous
crews (especially that of 1876) used to be trained for their
races. This crew of 1876 is memorable for several reasons.
It was the first Thames Rowing Club crew that won the
Grand. It was by no means a heavy crew, and for mere
weight and muscle was obviously inferior to most of the
crews entered against it. The men, however, had taken an
enormous amount of trouble. They had been handled with
excellent generalship by their stroke and captain, the late
Mr. J-pmes Hastie, and they had trained and worked with a
rigour and devotion equalled by few modern crews. They
owed their victory, not only to their skill as oarsmen, but also,
and perhaps chiefly, to the splendid physical condition and
the perfect uniformity which enabled them to row a very fast
stroke effectively over the whole course. However, I must
let Mr. Eyre speak for himself of the days in which he played
so brilliant a part in oarsmanship.



178



CHAPTER XVII

THE THAMES ROWING CLUB: THEIR METHODS
OF TRAINING AND THEIR VICTORIES FROM

1874 TO 1882

BY W. H. EYRE

THE Thames Rowing Club was started in 1861 as a
pleasure-boat club, called the City of London Club,
the members being principally clerks and salesmen in the
"rag trade," i.e. the big city drapery warehouses Leaf's,
Pawson's, Cook's, Foster Porter's, Morley's, the Fore Street
Warehouse Co. (formerly Morrison's, of whom, I think, came
George and A. Morrison, of Oxford fame), and other big
houses all about the rag trade district, namely, St. Paul's
Churchyard and the vicinity. There are very few (if any)
"rag trade" men in the Club now. The social status
(conventionally speaking) is, I suppose, higher, but we are
still happily a " mixed lot."

About two years afterwards it took on club racing, and
altered its name to the " Thames," asking leave to assume
that title from old Frank Playford, who was the only known
survivor of the celebrated Thames Club crews of the " forties."
Wherefore he was ever after asked to the Thames dinner, to
which he invariably came, and was an honoured and valued
guest.

They managed to knock up a good crew when the
Metropolitan Regatta was first started in 1866, and won the
Junior Metropolitan Eights Challenge Cup ; but they did
badly in 1867 and in 1868, at the latter end of which year
I joined the Club, rowing my first race on the Thames in
their opening scratch eights in March, 1869.

179



180 THE COMPLETE OARSMAN

I was then tremendously hot on athletics in general, going
in for boxing, swimming, Rugby football, and cross-country
running with the Thames Hare and Hounds, which started
out of the Thames Rowing Club in November, 1867.

This brought me into touch with a small, but intensely
enthusiastic, set of amateur swimmers, boxers, etc., of whom
W. L. Slater, known as " Micky," then of the West London
Rowing Club, and G. H. Vize, afterwards heavy-weight
champion in 1878, and for many years president of the
Amateur Boxing Association, were the ruling spirits.

Vize was then considered the best amateur swimmer in
England, and I have no doubt he was so, though there was
no such thing as a championship. He joined the Thames
at the same time as I did, and we both went in for the (to
us) new sport heart and soul.

In those days the professionals of all sorts used to train
very hard indeed, and we were full of the stones and traditions
of various " pros " in the different branches mentioned. But
Slater was the master spirit. He was the son of a Yorkshire
sporting squire, who married very late in life, after running
through a fortune at all sorts of sport, a good deal with
Osbaldestone. He had brought his son up to be a rare hard
one, and full of enthusiasm for sport and struggle.

Some nice characters we used to "collogue" with in those
days. Old Nat Langham, of the Mitre, St. Martin's Lane ;
Bill Richardson, of the Blue Anchor, Shoreditch (a noted
place for obtaining a good evening's pummelling at a small
expense) ; Bat Murphy, young Dutch Sam, Siah Abison, of
Bowlea, who held the professional mile record for many
years ; Teddy Mills, a beautiful distance runner, of Bethnal
Green ; Hayward, the Billingsgate fish porter and long-
distance walker (also a " college youth " of note, if you know
what that is ; if not, inquire of the big bell of St. Paul's) ;
Miles, of Brixton, the " walking coachman " ; Jack White, of
Gateshead, the best man from four to ten miles who ever
put on a shoe, who is now, and for many years has been,
favourite trainer and rubber-down at Cambridge in the Lent



THE THAMES ROWING CLUB 181

and October, and at the London Athletic Club at other
times. A very nice fellow, just such another as Jack Harvey,
of Cambridge.

From these and other similar worthies and old Micky's
maxims we derived our notions of training, and did our best
to impress them upon the other Thames men.

We could not, however, get the Thames Executive to go
our pace ; but we managed, with the aid of two others, whose
training was of a doubtful sort, to win a Junior four-oared
race at Walton (over which there was as much jubilation as
if we had won the Grand), and made a good fight for Senior
fours at Kingston and Barnes.

Vize and I were very ambitious, and wanted the Thames
Committee to make up a four for the Wyfold the next year,
which they regarded as far beyond our legitimate aspirations
Just then old Micky (he was well on to thirty, which we
considered very ancient) had trouble with the West London
leaders about something, and coming one night to see Vize
and me, who lived together at Putney, he bemoaned with us
the degeneracy of the times. Ultimately he arranged to
bring to us, from the West London, another youngster, a
worshipper of his, and a very good stroke, and it was settled
that we four should have a try together, off our own bat.
The man he brought was A. J. Lowe (known as " Chang "),
as fine a natural stroke as Drake Smith in later days, but one
who, alas ! ultimately proved a backslider in the way of
training, and dropped out after 1870.

However, he was all right at the start. As the Thames
authorities had practically interdicted us, we arranged to row
together from the boathouse of Harry Salter at the Feathers,
Wandsworth, a well-known waterman's pub. and training
place at the mouth of the Wandle, some three-quarters of a
mile below Putney Bridge.

We were all, except Vize, kept pretty late at work, Slater
not as a rule getting away much before 9 p.m. Consequently
we arranged to do our practice spins at 6 o'clock in the
morning, so soon as it became light enough ; but before that,



182 THE COMPLETE OARSMAN

and all through the winter of 1869, we practised assiduously
together whenever we got the chance, doing very long rows
in a heavy tub boat. We had all been doing a good bit in
the winter, but towards the end of March we began regular
training for the Wyfold at Henley, and stuck to it without
a break.

Vize and I lived at Putney, and used to get up and walk
over to the Feathers, arriving there at 6 a.m. when we
joined Slater and Lowe. We never paddled easily at all.
Having little time to spare we used to get into the boat and
row hard at a slow stroke up to Putney Bridge. Then we
turned round and pegged away down to the West London
Railway Bridge, a little over if miles, as hard as we could lick,
turned round, and came back at a hard slow stroke. It did not
run to shower baths there, but we used either to have a dive
in "the Cut," the barge entrance of the Wandle, or in the
Thames itself at low water (when it is beautifully clear), or
have buckets of water thrown over us, rub down, snatch a
hasty breakfast, and bustle up to town.

The breakfast fare was always cold meat (though
occasionally we could get a chop), stale bread and no butter,
watercress if available, and two cups of tea. Dinner in town
was always supposed to be a light meal (for me this was in
those days generally compulsory, training or no), but one
generally had some cold meat.

By the way, did you ever partake of a quarter of a pound
of ham and beef, shoved inside the crust of a penny roll, like
the artful Dodger's treat to Oliver Twist on first acquaintance ?
It really isn't bad, and in those days $\d. would see it through.
Also, did you ever partake of the beverages known as
" Cooper " or " six ale " ? If not, never mind ; but what Vize
called a "flatch tinnip" (I write as pronounced, not as it
should be spelt) of that, was the potation that usually
accompanied the solid refection mentioned.

When the day's work was over, we repaired again to
the Feathers. If Micky came down early enough, which
was very seldom indeed, we went out again in the dark, and



THE THAMES ROWING CLUB 183

again rowed the distance hard, or sometimes down to Chelsea
and back. It was nearly always ebb tide, had another al fresco
bath and rub down, had our supper, almost invariably a steak
or chop, but sometimes cold meat again, and a pint of strong
ale ; green vegetables if we could get them, but never any
potatoes, butter, or cheese. Occasionally we had some stewed
fruit if we could get it, or very rarely a tapioca pudding with
a glass of sherry (terrible stuff, I fear) thrown into it. After
that we invariably did a very hard walk together of between
four and six miles at top pace, so as to harden the muscles of
the legs. If Micky did not come down in time for a row, we
would do an extra hard walk and not infrequently finish up
with a run of about a mile or so. We had a sluice and a rub
down after the run, of course, and were supposed to go to bed
about 10.30. We had boxing, too, two or three nights a week
and a good deal of that, also, in training at Putney in
after years.

As a matter of fact I used, about three days a week, to
sit up to as late as I to 3 a.m. reading law, and all sorts of
stuff, having a snooze of about fifteen minutes or so after
coming in from the walk, but I do not recommend that for
men in training. In those days, what with the early rising
and the work of all sorts, I could go to sleep at any time
(and wake at any time) I liked.

On Saturdays we used to row to Richmond, or, if the
tide was flood, down to Westminster and back ; and on
Sundays we always did a lot of sculling together, there being
in those days a sort of unwritten law against rowing in a four
on a Sunday, as there is to-day in the London as regards
eights, though four-oared rowing on Sundays has been
common enough in both London and Thames for well over
thirty years.

I give you this to show the foundation of the system of
training which (after we had won the Wyfold in 1870, and
thereby made our peace with the T.R.C. authorities) we
succeeded as making traditional in the Thames R.C. for the
next fifteen years or so. We won the Wyfold the next year,



184 THE COMPLETE OARSMAN

following almost exactly the same training course, as Slater
was still unable to get to Putney in time to row in the
evenings, but in 1872 he was in a different position, came
down every night, and, as it were, took the whole Club in
hand on his own Spartan lines.

We that year put an eight on for the Thames Cup as well
as a four for the Wyfold, and won both races.

That was Hastie's first year, he having turned up as a
novice in the summer of 1871, and very rapidly getting into
form. He did not stroke a Henley crew until 1875, when
he did remarkably well against Leander, with a very moderate
crew, and established his reputation.

Now I at last come to the 1876 crew, the training of
which I have been asked to describe. I may say, by the way,
that I did not think that crew was as perfect in condition and
uniformity as the crew of 1874, the first which we put on for
the Grand. And so I get back to 1874.

The training of this 1874 crew, and of all other Thames
G.C.C. crews, during my time, was pretty well as follows :
The captain began getting a first eight together, so soon as
the first club fours (a race much valued then) were over
viz. about April 7. Long hard rows in the tub boat, in
sweaters, was the early work from Putney to the top of
Chiswick Eyot or to Barnes Bridge and back every night
at a slowish stroke, but being bullied to row hard every
stroke and great attention being paid to leg drive, swing,
and first part. Various combinations of fours were also tried
for Stewards' and Wyfold. There was also a good deal of
land work, and running (on the L.A.C. track or round
Barnes Common) to get weight down and we used to make
up parties for hard walks on Sundays.

The G.C.C. crew was not finally made up till after the
trial-eight race. The trials were (a) for coaching getting
men into proper form and picking new men, and (b) for
hardening their muscles. They were always rowed in heavy
tub boats for the latter reason, and our coaches of those days
used to bully and drive us unmercifully. I think it a great



THE THAMES ROWING CLUB 185

mistake to row trial eights in racing boats. You want the
heavier drag of the tub to increase and harden muscle at that
stage.

Of course, lots of fellows dropped out, but by those means
we found out the keen hands, and the stayers, and the good-
plucked ones.

Old Micky was always preaching you could not tell a
man's grit and staying power by his outward physique, or his
form he must go through the mill well before you could
be sure of him and better, by far, take a good nine-stone
man who would do all he could all the way, than a Hercules
for size and strength and looks, who either, through laziness
or dislike of the infernal monotonous grind, or any physical
failing, could not or would not keep going to the end or lost
his form, halfway over. Many a reputation disappeared
after our trial-eight races, which were nearly always very close
affairs, from Putney to the top of the Eyot 2^ miles on
a slack flood, as a rule. However, as a rule, by the end of
the first or second week in May, trials were over and the
eight was soon after complete all the men then being in
very fair condition, and hard in muscle.

We kept on at the tub till about a month before the
regatta still doing long rows on Saturdays, and the fours
getting practice as they could. We were most of us late in
getting down to Putney, and the night's work was not over
till nearly, if not past, nine p.m. as a rule.

When we took to the racing boat we at once increased
the rate of stroke at all times, but we still, for about a week
further, did a long row every night with the 1878 crew (the
hardest trained crew we ever sent up) we did three hard
fast rows regular "trials" from Mortlake to Putney on
successive nights, having gone up there in about two pieces,
at a pretty hard bat. Hastie was really a man of phenomenal
strength and vigour. He was so terribly nervous that he
often made a hash of the early (or some other) part of a race,
but in practice he never seemed to tire. And his great
power enabled him to keep his stroke long and work like a



186 THE COMPLETE OARSMAN

horse, when everybody behind him was dead done and rolling



Online LibraryR. C. (Rudolf Chambers) LehmannThe complete oarsman → online text (page 15 of 39)