1971: When Rowers Rowed WOOD

Some 1970s nostalgia: images of wooden boats, with ‘barn door rudders’, like on this Pocock shell can be found among Bill Howze’s photographs. © Photo: Bill Howze.

HTBS received an e-mail from William ‘Bill’ Howze, who writes:

‘Just discovered your terrific blog, and thought your readers might be interested in my photos from a regatta on the Schuylkill in Philadelphia, probably in 1971, when I was coaching the lightweight crew of Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut. It was an interesting time, when European boats and boat builders were being brought to the U.S., boats were becoming lighter, and new materials were introduced. Compare the ‘barn door’ rudders of the older Pococks with the hand-size Schoenbrods, or the spare Stämpfli, or coaming with the baroque Donoratico. Would any of your readers know the builder of the boat with the S & B logo?’

Take a look at Bill’s photographs here. For those of you who rowed in 1971 (or later in the 1970s), Bill’s images are really a journey to the past, when rowers rowed WOOD.

Regarding the ‘S & B’ logo, it might refer to Shew & Burnham, a boat builder located in Maine. But Shew & Burmham was/is mostly renowned as a boat builder of wider, so-called Whitehall boats that could be both rowed and sailed. Any of you readers who can give Bill more information? Thank you.


  1. There was an Australian boat builder named Sargent & Burton about in the 60’s – 70’s , possibly your S & B.

  2. In 1962 Green’s Racing Boats [Gus Green] was renamed Sargent & Burton, producing rowing shells but only for a couple of more decades.

    For the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the Australian Men’s Eight used a new boat which was donated by the Gillette Company and so bore its name. It was built by S&B using CAD/CAM technology, thought to help counter the prevailing advances in boat building. It was delivered a week before it was to be shipped to Tokyo. However, the stern dragged in the water with conspicuous adverse effect and so the boat was discarded. They tried another Australian boat. Ultimately, Australia came second in the B final. This episode proved to be a small blot on the success of boats S&B produced. They were later to win an export award for their rowing boats sent across the world, and so the boat pictured by Bill is one of theirs.

    S&B boats were manufactured in Sydney in a shed on the Parramatta River in a suburb called Abbotsford. The old shed is gone and is now the home of Sydney Boys High School Rowing who built a new shed and clubhouse on the site.

    There are still S&B boats occasionally in use today by various clubs around Australia, although they are becoming less and less as time goes by.

    The reference book, Rowable Classics by Darryl Strickler, has information and more photos about this Australian boat building company. Louis Petrin

    Date: Wed, 6 Jan 2016 06:00:49 +0000 To: luckylouis@hotmail.com

  3. The S&B boat was the bane of the aussie schoolboy novice rower, they were indestructable, as heavy as anything especially for the year 8’s and year 9’s who tended to be rowing the things, they could barely lift it. They were a good incentive to learn to get better so you could get into a sykes or something. in the 80’s and 90’s they were a dime a dozen but are fairly difficult to find now and as much as I hated the things back in the day, I remember them fondly now, there is a certain nostalgia attached to them.

  4. Sargent & Burton built a beautiful quarter-sawn cedar coxed four shell for the 1960 Rome Olympics, designed by or with the help of Peter Evatt and named ‘Crystal’ for its sponsor, then a well known brand of shirt. It was the only Australian boat that year to compete in a final. Later badly damaged by vandals in an attack on the Leichhardt Rowing Club shed on Iron Cove.

  5. I still scull in a Sargent & Burton fine boat in Sussex UK. Around 1985 I arranged for the Royal Brunei Yacht Club to purchase two single sculling boats from S&B in Sydney while I was working in that country. In 1991 a coconut fell on the hull of one of the boats causing serious hull damage. In 1992 the Club having no more use for the remaining boat sold it to me to take back to the UK. Decking has been replaced twice – otherwise the sculling boat is light well designed and well built.

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