Bill Lanouette: Old Blazer – New Book

“Something Old” – Bill Lanouette’s blazer from his years rowing for the London School of Economics Boat Club.

27 July 2020

By Bill Lanouette

Something Old, Something New! That’s what came to Bill Lanouette’s mind recently when the HTBS crew of rowing history buffs joined worldwide by zoom to swap stories and share their favorite show-and-tell items.

The old treasure I broke out was a blazer from the London School of Economics Boat Club, where I rowed when earning a master’s degree in Politics in 1964-1966.

Bill in his blazer at Henley in 1965.

I had my first chance to wear the blazer to Henley Royal Regatta in 1965. LSEBC wasn’t competing, but I was there as a “stringer” (part-time reporter) for Sports Illustrated and covered the persistent rivalry between eights from Vesper Boat Club and Harvard. In New York in 1964, I had covered the Olympic trials on Orchard Beach Lagoon when Vesper topped Harvard to represent the USA in Tokyo. (See “A 1964 Vesper Cox Toss” in HTBS 20 May 2020.) Vesper triumphed that year by besting the 1960 Olympic champs: a United Team of Germany (EUA) led by the high-stroking West German Ratzeburg Rowing Club.

At Henley in 1965, Vesper and Harvard and Ratzeburg were all racing. You may not make it out in the photo, but the badge on my blazer was for the PRESS BOX. That year Vesper again beat Harvard, but in the finals lost the Grand Challenge Cup to Ratzeburg.

I was back in my blazer at Henley in 1966, as a Correspondent for The ROWING NEWS, this time watching the mighty Vesper eight in the Grand Challenge Cup semifinals against East Germany’s Turn und Sports Club. The crews were even, or Vesper a few feet up, until the final stretch – when TSC edged ahead to win by three-quarters of a length. TSC dominated that year, beating England’s Tideway Scullers in the finals.

Until a few years ago, I could easily button that old LSEBC blazer, and it remains a fond souvenir from my days rowing – and reporting – in England.

The “Something New” I shared on the historians’ zoom conference is the cover for a book I’ve written about the lucrative rise and scandalous end of professional rowing. Featured in this history are the Biglin brothers, seen on the cover in a Thomas Eakins masterpiece. After delays due to Covid-19, the book is now scheduled for publication next April by Lyons Press (Rowman & Littlefield).

Cover art for “The Triumph of the Amateurs: The Rise, Ruin, and Banishment of Professional Rowing in the Gilded Age”.

4 comments

  1. Dearest Bill,

    I’m guessing it’s actually been quite a few years since you could button the grand old blazer. But there’s a solution–a very, very wide tie with full size pictures of your especially nice book cover. You’d be able to
    give your local fabric artist a much-needed gig. And the tie could be added to the Lanouette rowing family heirloom box. Imagine in 2199 your descendants opening that box. By then the waters will have
    receded so there are just enough new places to row even at the Atacama Desert. We’ll have progressive
    world government and plenty polar bears.

    Bruce

  2. So very glad to learn of this latest endeavour, Bill, and I look forward to reading it with great anticipation – I should live so long! But there, you’ve given me the incentive….

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