Updated: Jan 25
In the closest finish ever recorded in a trial, Harvard defeated this mighty Pennsylvania crew at Long Beach by less than a foot, earning the right to represent the United States in Mexico City. The Harvard crew came in 6th. (photo Sports Illustrated)
As part of the deal, the Trial’s hosting city had to supply all the equipment. The City of Long Beach immediately imposed their enormous order (30 boats + 96 oars and sculls) on Pocock Racing who already had their hands full with their busiest season ever. Over eleven months, Stan Pocock figures they built 125 boats – That’s one every other day!
Stan tried to talk the City of Long Beach out of it, suggesting they borrow the equipment. But they wouldn’t listen.
“To prove I had no need for the extra income earned from all those evenings and weekends of overtime, I invested it in some kind of tax shelter and lost most of it” Stan Pocock Way Enough, p 237 (the Pococks were notoriously generous – frequently advancing the sport at the expense of their profit margin)
One of the oarsmen in the Trials was Bill Tytus, who later took over the helm at Pocock Racing when Stan retired. An avid oarsman since his high school days at Green Lake, Bill went on after the Long Beach Trials to win championships with the U.S. National team in Boston, mostly in singles and later in 8s.
But that year (1968) he competed in the straight 4 class. “They were lighter and harder to row well than a 4+”, which has the additional weight of a cox. Back then, a 6’4″ 180 lb oarsman was considered big…as opposed to nowadays when the average is pushing 7′ and over 200 lbs.
Bill Tytus, president of Pocock Racing Shells, also coaches at LWRC. Photo courtesy Pocock Racing Shells
Bill was at Long Beach wearing the blue jersey of the Northwest Training Center along with Loren Coleman, Chad Rudolph and Greg Miller (all with ties to Lake Washington Rowing Club). Stan reports that they lost by the slimmest of margins.
Bill figures Pocock provided 6 boats in each class – and with 4 heats, there’s a good chance Bill and his crew raced in the Riverside at the Trials!
The “Riverside” (named later after a California suburb) and the other Pocock boats were never transported from the Long Beach Olympic trials to Mexico City for the Olympic games. In fact, no Pocock wooden racing shells were ever used again – after almost half a century of winning gold in 10 consecutive Olympic games.
The 60’s marked a seismic shift – not only away from Pocock equipment, but away from the traditional Pocock stroke, according to Bill. It marked a continuation of the trend away from these shells and toward European makers and rowing styles. (read more at Washington Rowing History )
Stan Pocock, hall of fame coach, took over Pocock Racing when his father George retired and the operation moved to Lake Union. Photo courtesy Pocock Racing Shells
Stan remarked, “We were not asked to build any boats for the U.S. Team to use at the games in Mexico City. They must have been bought from someone. While there was enough time after the Trials for any boats there to be trucked down, the City of Long Beach didn’t want theirs used. Though I never heard any complaints from the competitors who used the boats in the Trials, one thing was certain: the movement away from our boats had begun in earnest. “ Stan Pocock Way Enough p 237
For the next 20 years, not a single gold medal was won by the U.S. in an Olympic rowing event. Whether it was due to the switch away from Pocock shells, the traditional stroke, or some other variable – no one can say for sure.
The 1968 Long Beach Trials also marked the end of collegiate crews vying for the Olympics. By 1972 contenders were selected by a National camp. Among them – a local Long Beach sculler, 1976 Olympic silver medalist and unofficial “Rat”, the late Joan Van Blom.
Joan Von Blom rowing with the “Rats” in Port Townsend
Meanwhile, the Pocock trial boats – including the Riverside – proved to be a boon to rowing in the Long Beach area due to former Cal State boatsman Pete Archer
“After the Trials, he was hired by the city to maintain all the new city-owned boats and oars. He did it with a vengeance, ruling that boathouse with an iron hand. Years later, I visited him there and found most of the boats still looking as though they had just come out of our shop. Remarkable under any circumstances, it was all the more so, considering that they rowed on saltwater, an environment notoriously tough on boats.” Stan Pocock Way Enough p 237
Marine Stadium, Long Beach CA
The City of Long Beach modernized the Marine Stadium for the 1968 Olympic Rowing and Canoeing Trials. The current boathouse provides 2000 meters of straight water (the standard distance for national and international rowing), and unlimited sheltered water. LBRA dedicated the boathouse to Pete Archer in honor of his legendary contributions to the sport of rowing in Long Beach and southern California.
Ed Kirkpatrick relaxes outside Stan Pocock’s LWRC after racing his Owen wooden double at 2016 HOTL
The Riverside sat unused for 12 years at LBRA until pilot and oarsman Ed Kirkpatrick heard they were auctioning off their wooden shells. He bought the boat for <$500 and took the Riverside to the Stockton Rowing Club where he was president. The club rowed on the San Joaquin River – a narrow waterway for huge (900′) commercial vessels that could only navigate one way, making for some interesting bow wakes, but the Riverside was hardly ever used.
Watercolor by Phoebe Storey
Years later when Ed came north and joined Rat Island Rowing, he donated the shell to the club , where it is appreciated and rowed with much pleasure. As a result it frequently needs repairs, overseen by the Rats’ expert rigger, Jim Mason.
First restoration – 2014. See More Restoration Photos Here
Jim writes – As many of you know, the decks on the Riverside are in sad shape. I am sure these are original. Given the use this boat gets, it would be advisable to get the decks redone before we start getting into serious problems. I would like to get it done this spring before we get into the heavy use season. The process would include:Removal and replacement of old decks and surrounding bead , put in breast plates in bow and stern for additional drainage holes (Steve Chapin)along with copious sanding and varnishing.(volunteers)
BACK TO THE STARTING LINE!
Rat Island Regatta 2014 – first in class
Peggy Myre (stroke), Sally Aerts, Peggy Johnson and Sally Giesler (cox) (Photo courtesy of Mike Lampi, Sound Rowers)
2015 Rat Island Regatta
Kate Franco (B) Marsha Weiner, Michele Olson. Jeanne Costello (S)
2016 Rat Island Regatta – First 4x
4x Riverside Kate Franco (S) Jeanne Costello, Peggy Myre and Michele Olsen (C) 1:06:12.2
2014 HOTL -2nd
Mixed Masters 4x F-G Second
Cate Comerford Stroke, Don Berger, Lorraine Rimson, Jim Mason Cox (photo courtesy Gary Beanland)
2015 HOTL 6th
Women’s Masters 4x K. Franco raw time 26:26.152 adjusted time 25:37.912
Katie . (S), Michele, Marsha and Jeanne (C.) in the Riverside
2016 HOTL -3rd
Post Script: On the way back to LWRC, a hit-and-run sailboat struck the boat, sending all 4 crew members into the cold November water. Thankfully it happened outside the Pocock Center and two rescue launches arrived promptly to take our crew and boat to safety. Thank you from all of us!
Pocock Rowing Center launch helping the Riverside crew out of the drink. Repairs to the damaged boat are underway in Steve Chapin’s shop.