‘The Song Of The Stroke’

There are many testimonies about Harcourt ‘Tarka’ Gold’s accomplishments as an oarsman, coach, Henley Steward, Chairman of the ARA, and sportsman in general. This little piece will celebrate him as a pamphleteer as it is 92 years ago this month his 20-page pamphlet The Common Sense of Coaching was published.

However, Gold was not the sole author of this short publication. He did not write part one, only part two. The first part was actually written by the members of the Oxford University Service Crew which Gold coached for the King’s Cup in the Royal Henley Peace Regatta in 1919. During the crew’s last week of practise before the regatta, Gold writes in the preface, he requested the crew record their attempt “to resuscitate the style and traditions of Oxford rowing after the lapse of five years.”

The only person exempted from taking part in this experiment was the crew’s president, the “pre-war oarsman” Ewart Horsfall, who had rowed for Oxford’s winning boats in 1912 and 1913, and the losing one in 1914. Horsfall also won an Olympic gold medal in the eights at Stockholm (and would take a silver in the eights at the 1920 Amsterdam Games).

The second part, Gold wrote primarily for the coaches of the College Boat Clubs at Oxford as they were believed to have little previous coaching experience. Gold states that it is hard to explain “rhythm” to novice rowers, but writes that “Dr. Warre once gave me the delightful description of rhythm as ‘the song of the stroke’”. Coming from Warre’s Eton and rowing at Oxford meant that Gold’s teaching was based on the orthodox style.

A couple of interesting anecdotal notes are that the Australian crew, which beat Oxford in the King’s Cup final, in an initial stage of their training on the Thames, had their countryman Steve Fairbairn, coach at Thames RC and a renown pamphleteer, to help out. A Cambridge eight, which was also competing for the King’s Cup, had another Australian to assist them, Stanley Bruce of Trinity Hall. (He would later be elected Prime Minister of Australia, and be granted an hereditary peerage, Viscount Bruce of Melbourne.)

After Bruce had coached Cambridge for the Peace Regatta, he dictated some notes which was published first in 1936 as a 24-page pamphlet, Rowing – Notes on Coaching. Both Gold’s and Bruce’s pamphlets are impossible to get hold of today. Time to re-publish them?

One comment

  1. If you have a copy of these pamphlets and can get them digitally scanned, Rowperfect UK would be glad to sell them or enable their download. The only proviso is that they are free of copyright and it's legal!
    Please get in touch if you want to “re-publish” old rowing books like this because we know the perfect audience to read them.

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