Henry Searle: “How I Won The World Championship”, Part 3

Here continues the professional sculler Henry Searle’s article, “How I Won the World Championship” Part 3, sent to HTBS by Bernard Hempseed. The first part was published on Saturday, the second on Sunday. Today’s published part is the third and last part.

I was now matched against Peter Kemp, the champion sculler of the world, over the championship course on the Parramatta River. We rowed October 28, 1888, and a great day that was for me, for after a pretty good race for a mile I went ahead, and when the post was passed I was left in the proud position of champion, and the dreams of my early I boyhood had come true.

Of course, I do not pretend to give all the races I have rowed – to do so I should have to refer to papers for dates and particulars; but I have jotted down such as are most likely to interest the public.

In December I rowed at a great regatta at Brisbane for prizes of £300, £200, and £100. Among the competitors were Kemp, Beach, Neilson, Stansbury, Neil Matterson, McLean, and others. After three or four days’ racing, Matterson, Kemp, and myself were left in for the final, and we finished in reversed order – I first; then Kemp; and Matterson third.

The Americans now talked a lot of sending someone over to beat me, and a match was made between Teemer and myself. But it came to nothing, its Teemer did not row, and paid forfeit the £100 deposit. Seeing now there was no opportunity of getting on a match at home, I thought I would come to England, and so I accepted the challenge of O’Connor, the Canadian champion to row on the Thames. I came over accompanied by my friends, Messrs, Crane, Carter, and Matterson. Mr. Crane acted for my chief supporters, Messrs. T. and J. Spencer, who were prevented by business reasons from coming over with me. No sculler has had warmer, stauncher, and truer friends than I have had; no expense or trouble has been spared by them to get me fit and into winning form.

For my race with O’Connor I was trained by Neil Matterson. Mr. Crane also superintending the preparations. I don’t think they found me very troublesome, for I always make a point when I have a race on to go in for it thoroughly. In short I like to attend to my work. My training system is as fallows: Rise about 6 or 6.30, and strike dumb-bells for about ten minutes, then for a two-mile run on an egg and sherry and a biscuit; breakfast at 8, that meal consisting of a steak or chop, eggs, toast, and tea. After breakfast, as after every meal, I take a rest; then I go a six-mile walk, and at 11 start for a five or six mile row. Dinner at 1 p.m. At that meal I take roast, meat, fowl, plenty of cabbage or cauliflower, but no potatoes; custards and jelly, hut no pastry, and plenty of fruit. After about an hour’s rest I take a four-mile walk, mid a three or four mile row, according to my average weight; if I am a bit too heavy I take a little extra work. If I am a good weight I take things more leisurely. I have tea at 6 o’clock, and a take a stake of stewed fowl, grilled pigeon, or boiled turkey; then another six or seven miles on foot, have a few more minutes with the dumb-bells and then to bed at 10 p.m. Three days before the race I knock off all luxuries in the way of custards, fruit, etc. I like my food well-done, and can not eat anything that is underdone, so that raw steak training has no attraction for me, and, in fact, I consider it an altogether superfluous article. On the morning or afternoon of a race I have a chicken, some toast, and just enough tea to quench my thirst, about four hours, before the start, and nothing else until it is over.

In my race with O’Connor I had nothing to eat or drink for a good four hour before, only just as I got into my boat I rinsed out my month with a little water. I looked upon O’Connor as a first rate sculler, and I knew I should have all my work cut out to beat him, and so I told my friends. He rows a good scientific stroke, but does not reach out as far or use his back as much as I do. But, for all that he ran get along at a terrific pace, and he gave me a terrible shacking up as far as Hammersmith. I felt all the way there that the race was to be fought out every inch, but after passing Hammersmith Bridge I felt that I was safe, and that the victory was in my grasp, bar accidents. After I caught him up, for at the start he got away from me and led for nearly a quarter of a mile, we rowed level, stroke and stroke, for half a mile, then I forged ahead a little, but O’Connor spurted gamely, and again succeeded in leading me, in my judgment by half a length; I then spurted and pulled my hardest, and after a long struggle succeeded in obtaining a slight advantage over him, and after he never came up to me again. Though I held him in hand after Hammersmith it was by no means an easy race, and I was putting backbone into my stroke until I passed the winning post. O’Connor and his supporters are thorough and upright sportsmen, and we had a fair race, and no favour. Though a better course there might be in some respects than the Putney to Mortlake course there is none in the world where a fairer race may, be rowed. I shall always feel grateful for the handsome way I have been received in the Old Country, my only regret being that I have had no opportunity of meeting an English sculler on English waters. I close with the remark that I hope, until England wins back the championship, it may remain in Australian hands.

Thank you Bernard for sharing your finding with HTBS!

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