Tim Koch On Rowing Pamphlets

Tim Koch writes about rowing pamphlets,

The recent HTBS item on the mystery rowing pamphlet which started here and finished here reminded me of the fact that, in the pre-internet age (remember then?), the pamphlet was a relatively cheap and easy way to get political, social and technical ideas circulated. As it is often held that everything that you need to know about rowing can be written on the back of a postage stamp, the sport lends itself to the production of such publications.

Steve Fairbairn (1860 – 1938) probably the most influential rowing coach of the twentieth century, produced several pamphlets. I have a reprint of the fourteen-page Rowing in a Nutshell: The Endless Chain Movement and I have a feeling that his book, Chats on Rowing started as a series of booklets. I am sure that HTBS readers will let me know if I am correct and also what other pamphlets ‘Steve’ produced.

I recently had access to the archive of W.D. Kinnear (1880-1974), the 1912 Olympic Sculling Champion (I will write more about this another time) and one of the things it contained was a 1925 pamphlet by ‘J. Beresford’. I assume this is Julius, Beresford Senior (1868-1959), not Jack, Beresford Junior (1899-1977), his son and five times Olympic medalist. It contained everything that ‘Old Berry’ thought important about rowing – on one side of something smaller than A4. (See also HTBS 28 February, 2010 for the 1954 edition, seen on the right.)

The most recent such publication that I know of is the 32-page Rowing Technique: A Manual for Rowers and Coaches first published in 2001 by Peter Holmes and the late Andy Holmes (1959-2010).

In my opinion it is a splendid little book which should be issued to everyone starting rowing (and to many who have been doing it for a long time). The publisher is Springback Books. Their website no longer works but I would imagine that the Richard Way Bookshop in Henley has copies.

If I may deviate slightly, from an historical point of view, I particularly like the one page chapter in Rowing Technique entitled ‘Old Masters’. It says of Edmond Warre: ‘We no longer accept the ‘body-beginning’ of orthodox, fixed seat style but Warre defined most of the other elements of good technique’.

On F.S. Kelly: ‘(Kelly) applies Warre’s ideas to sculling, insisting that the action is the same.

R.S de Havilland: ‘(de Havilland) bought Warre’s ideas up to date for longer slides. Fixed seat coaches argued that the slide just extended the swing. Havvy changed the emphasis by insisting that legwork is still the foundation of rowing. But… he still stresses the need to swing and get on your feet’.

On Gilbert Bourne: ‘(Bourne) accepted all of Warre’s ideas (Göran Buckhorn disagrees) …. he analyses the stroke in a scientific way that modern coaches still find useful’.

On Steve Fairbairn: ‘(Fairbairn) remains the most influential coach in rowing history. His ideas on ‘natural action’ and the ‘springing hit’ are fundamental to good technique. We even still use his coaching calls. No one has written better about what it feels like to row a blade’.

The best thing about pamphlets is that lack of space forces the author(s) to follow the KISS principle – Keep It Simple Stupid. This alone is an argument for bringing them back.

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