Ben Spock On 1924 Olympic Eight: Part 5 – The Race

Here follows part 5 of Ben Spock’s letter to Rusty Wailes, from one ‘7’ to another. Spock, seven-seat in the Yale’s eight which took a gold medal at the Olympic rowing regatta in Paris, wrote to Wailes, the seven-seat man in the Yale crew, who was on their way to the Olympic of 1956. The bold text parts are Spock’s text, while the italicized text parts are my comments.

12. Race – The actual place for the race was some miles away from where we practiced. It was a very hot spell of weather in Paris that year and where the race was rowed the sewers emptied out and it was unpleasant. The other countries represented were Canada (whom we beat in the first heat and then qualified for the finals), Great Britain, Holland, Belgium, Argentina, Italy, Spain, France and Australia. At the time of the first heat we had good weather and established what was then a new Olympic record, the 5:51 and rowed part of the race at 29. On the day of the finals there was a hard headwind and our time was somewhat slower. The U.S.A. won the rowing events with a score of 33 and Switzerland was second with a score of 32. Among those participating in the race were Jack Kelly in the singles and Kelly and [his cousin Paul] Costello in the doubles. [Thereby, Kelly and Costello repeated their Olympic victory in the doubles from 1920; see below.]

13. General – Due to our separate locations we really had no chance to see anything of those from other countries. The French were annoyed because they asked us down for a champagne party two days before the race and we refused. For the three days that we were staying outside the stadium we had some interesting times. On one of the hottest days I can remember I saw Nurmi, the Finn [Paavo Nurmi was called ‘the Flying Finn’], establish two world’s records in the 1,500 and 5,000 meter races within twenty-five minutes of each other. It was very interesting to watch the training for the various events. There was much more newspaper publicity over rowing than there is today. Both the New York Times and Herald-Tribune carried front page articles – and some poetry.

14. Schedules – We had quite a hectic time meeting the Olympic trials and we lost out on the trip with the Olympic teams and our training in Europe was very much like a continuation of Gales Ferry. On the other hand, the timing insofar as the actual Olympics was concerned worked out superbly with just the right amount of rest and change on the boat and just the right amount of time in Europe. While it had made a long season it was all concentrated and then over with. We were an extremely congenial group and although we broke up into various sized units there had been no difficulty whatever. For those of us who were seniors it had been a wonderful climax to college rowing because our sophomore year the Yale varsity was unquestionably the second slowest varsity eight in the east, the slowest being Harvard. Your difficulties of the long summer layoff and the interference with your plans for this year are very substantial. Your financing I am sure will be easier and fairer. I am sure the long summer layoff will be a difficulty. It is probably one which some of the European crews will not have faced.

15. Speed – Undoubtedly, there have been crews in the intervening 32 years which were faster than ours. This, however, cannot be proven. I must admit that our competition was not as keen in 1924 as it was in some subsequent Olympic years. In this intervening time there have been no substantial improvements in shell design, oars, riggers (except in rough water), etc. Unless my memory plays me false, this year’s Cornell crew had a style very much like ours and, of course, they showed themselves to be pretty competition on occasion. Having seen your crew a week ago, however, it does not disturb me in the least to say that you must be a faster crew. This enters the realm of axiomatic argument. You may not have 32 years at your disposal before you have to admit the same but I would think you would have a good many years when you could all secretly think it.

Let me urge all of you to extent that time permits to make a hobby of rowing.

See also:
“Ben Spock On 1924 Olympic Eight: Part 1 – Prelude”
“Ben Spock On 1924 Olympic Eight: Part 2 – Comparisons”
“Ben Spock On 1924 Olympic Eight: Part 3 – The Trials”
“Ben Spock On 1924 Olympic Eight: Part 4 – In France”

Spock’s letter is posted on HTBS with the permission of the NRF, which is the owner of the letter! Ben Spock’s letter, Part 6, will continue tomorrow with the final part, a poem, “On the Old Seine Yesterday”.

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