Fairbairn and von Gaza at the 1911 Holland Beker

At the 1911 Holland Beker Regatta.

A couple of days ago, not only did editor Johan ten Berg send some interesting news about Co Rentmeester’s latest book, which HTBS wrote about yesterday, Johan also sent along a marvellous old photograph from the 1911 Holland Beker Regatta. In his e-mail, Johan writes that he found Stephen Cooper’s two-piece extract from his book The Final Whistle about George Eric Fairbairn very interesting (posted 1 August and 2 August) as Johan has used the photograph on top in his book Holland Beker.

The distinguished looking gentleman in the middle – back row in a cap and bow tie – is Eric Fairbairn, who competed for Jesus College, Cambridge. The organisers of Holland Beker still have his entry form, Johan writes. Fairbairn looks a little unhappy in the picture which might be explained by the fact that he lost the final by half a boat length to the German gentleman sitting on the left, holding the Cup, the famous sculler from RG Wiking Berlin, Bernhard von Gaza, who also became German champion in the single sculls that year. The German would return the following year to claim the Holland Beker Cup one more time. Not only did von Gaza row well, he also wrote books about how to row and scull.

Sculling for the Holland Beker in 1911 was maybe not the first time Fairbairn and von Gaza met. As Cooper writes in his The Final Whistle, Fairbairn took a silver medal in the coxless pairs at the 1908 Olympic Rowing Regatta held in Henley-on-Thames, where von Gaza also took a medal, a bronze in the single sculls.

The fellow sitting on the right in the photograph is Kurt Hoffmann, who became champion in the Junior class. (In 1912, Hoffmann would beat von Gaza to become the German champion in the single sculls.) Johan ten Berg has very kindly translated the caption of the photograph as it appeared in the sport magazine De Revue der Sporten: “Sitting on the left: Bernhard von Gaza (RG Wiking Berlin), champion seniores and on the right Kurt Hoffmann (Favorite Hammonia Hamburg), champion juniors. Standing on the left: Carl Jurrjens, J. J. Blussé, Prof. Damsté, Fairbain (Cambridge), G. W. A. van der Zee, Van Waning Bolt, the first Dutchman single sculler ever”.

Johan writes: “The first Holland Beker was lost by prof. Damsté in 1886 in a race against F. Schilling. Since Damsté is in the photo – I suppose he was an official – I speculated that the man in the background is F. Schilling. His portrait from 1887 is in the Holland Beker, too. I think it is the same man. It makes sense that he was there because it was the 25th anniversary race.” Johan continues, “It was common in those days that all competitors joined for the official photograph, that is why Fairbairn is in the photo as well.” The Cup that Hoffmann won was lost for half a century, but Johan accidentally found it when he was doing research for the Holland Beker book.

Sadly, neither Fairbairn nor von Gaza would survive the First World War. Fairbairn was killed in 1915, while the seven-years-older von Gaza died in 1917 at Langemark, West-Vlaanderen in Belgium.

A warm thank you to Johan ten Berg for sharing this information and the lovely photograph from the 1911 Holland Beker. By the way, Johan is already working hard on his next rowing book, a book about Dutch rowing which is to be published in 2014.

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