Henry Searle: “How I Won The World Championship”, Part 2

Here continues the professional sculler Henry Searle’s article, “How I Won the World Championship” Part 2, sent to HTBS by Bernard Hempseed. The first part was published yesterday.

It was, I think, in 1887 that I rowed at Maclean a time allowance skiff race, receiving 20 seconds from D. McDonald, one of the best scullers for his weight that over got into a boat. He was a small man, but game as a pebble. He was in the Trickett, Laycock, and Rush set, so that this occasion afforded me my first chance of seeing what I could do against men of world-wide reputation. Two others were also in the race, A. Baker with 26 seconds start, and M. Wallace with 45 seconds. I soon caught up Baker, and after a mile and a-half, passed Wallace, leading easily home, McDonald coming in a good second.

A month or two later at Chatsworth, I rowed my first skiff race. I was handicapped at 35 lb. against A. Baker, 20 lb, R. J. Brown, 15 lb., and M. Wallace, featherweight. It was a good race to the first stake boat. There Brown and I fouled, and I getting the worst of the foul, they all got round before me, and I had to renew a stern chase which was not, however, as long as the proverbial one, for I came up, hand over hand, and won I by about two lengths with a bit up my sleeve. Wallace was second.

My father then wished mo to take a twelve months’ spell from racing least I should overstrain myself; he was always most anxious in that respect, and I wisely took his advice, and by means of the rest got thoroughly well set up and matured. Many a rising athlete goes to pieces just at this critical time by overworking his powers before the framework of the body has got properly set. Of course, during my rest I kept up my practice, so as not to rust, but on the whole I had just then a very quiet time of it.

I now took to rowing in wager boats for the first time, and on January 2, 1888, rowed my first race in one at my birthplace, Grafton. The following entered for the race: E. Hanlan, scratch; C. Neilson, three and a half lengths start; W. Hearn, the New Zealand champion, four and a half length’s start; and myself, who received seven lengths. We all paddled to the scratch, and got to our moorings, when, just as the flag was about to fall, Hanlan quietly says, “I guess I won’t start; I don’t feel well” and off he went a quarter of a mile ahead of us all, determined to see the race if he did not take part in it. I thus missed my opportunity of trying what I could do with the redoubtable Canadian. We got the signal, and off we went at a rattling pace. I kept my distance throughout, and won by just the number of lengths I had received. How I wished Hanlan had rowed. The race was a terrible struggle for a mile between Neilson and myself, but I pulled through at the finish. Neilson was second.

After this race I took a trip to Sydney, 350 miles from the Clarence River, with letters of introduction to gentlemen who were known to take a great interest in Australian sculling. I there for the first time met my friend Mr. Neil Matterson. I told him I had come down to see if I could do a little rowing, and, with his usual kindness, he said he would see if he could got a match on for me. This resulted in my rowing against Wulf for £100, a-side over the championship course on the Paramatta River. I won easily. A fortnight later, I met on the same course Jim Stansbury for £100 a-side. This was the hardest race I ever rowed in my life. After the severest struggle I just managed to get in first, beating all records, for I did the 3 miles 330 yards. in 19 min. 53 sec. This was the fastest race ever rowed on the Paramatta River. I had had quite enough of it, and was heartily glad when I got past the post. For a mile and a half we were dead level, and straining every muscle to get an inch on one another. Stansbury is only 22, a year younger than I am, and scales 12st. 2lb. when in condition, so that it may be imagined he is no chicken to row against.

In the September of the same year I rowed over the same course against C. Neilson for £200 a-side and won rather easily. A fortnight later I rowed W. Hughes at Newcastle, Hunter River, for £180 a-side, and allowed him 10 seconds start. The day was very rough, and when we had gone about half a mile my boat sprung a leak and began to fill rapidly, so that I had to make the best use of my time to get to the post. I need scarcely say that I did so, but just before getting home the plug flew out of my boat, and I was compelled to take off my cap to stuff up the hole with. I got home 12 lengths to the good, but only just in time for all that, for just as the post was passed my boat went below the waterline, and I alone remained visible.

The third and last installment of Henry Searle’s article will be published tomorrow.

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