30 March 2016
HTBS editor Göran R Buckhorn writes:
Yesterday, HTBS received an e-mail, with a photo, from John Wiggins, Oxford, whom some of you readers might remember shared a silver medal in the HTBS caption competition for an old Victorian Holiday card with a coxed ‘dog four’. John contacted HTBS because he had noticed that in Tim Koch’s entry about a previous Oxbridge crew, “Very Old Blues: Sixteen Decades of Boat Race Crews” on 26 March, there was no Oxford crew photo from the 1970s – this decade was represented by the 1972 Light Blue crew. Not that John wrote so – he is too humble – but I could read between the lines that he thought it would be a deficiency in the rowing history education of the HTBS readers if they would not see a photo of the 1976 Oxford crew.
What was so special with this Oxford crew? Mind you, John himself was in that crew and they have gone down in the history of the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race as, up to that time, the heaviest crew; heaviest and tallest oarsman, Stephen Plunkett (16.4 stone/104.1448kg – 6.7½ feet/196cm); fastest crew, first to go under 17 minutes (16 minutes 58 seconds); and having the youngest winner (John Wiggins, age 18.8), who in the Boat Race Programme listed as his interests: ‘Very bad jokes and trying to combine rowing with metallurgy’.* Oxford won by 6 ½ lengths.
Oxford’s finishing coach was Daniel Topolski, who the following year would take a gold medal in the lightweight eights at the World Championships in Amsterdam. To compare to today’s foreigners in the Oxbridge crews, the 1976 Dark Blues had one American, ‘Ken’ Brown, of Cornell. According to the Wikipedia entry on the 1976 Boat Race, ‘the day before the race, British bookmaking company, Ladbrokes, announced that they would sponsor the race from the following year. From 1977, each boat club would be awarded £10,000 and would compete for The Ladbroke Cup.’
More information about the crews and the race is here (from Wikipedia.com).
*This information is taken from the University Boat Race Oxford versus Cambridge 1976 Programme, which slightly differs from the Wikipedia entry on the 1976 Boat Race.
Update: Chris Dodd sent in a footnote to educate us further:’In the 1976 Cambridge crew, bowman David Searle now runs the Boat Race for the Boat Race Company. Cambridge also had an American in the crew, Dick Cashin, of Harvard, at 6, and at 3, in Goldie, was John Hale, of Yale, who is a trireme scholar (and mate of Tom Weil).’