3 September 2020
By Chris Dodd
Chris Dodd writes about some photographs from the 1974 Mannheim Regatta which have resurfaced.
In the 1970s, the European regatta season began in Mannheim, then West Germany. The Mannheim Regatta was rowed over an 1800-metre course on a dock with steep sides. In those days, regattas offered two complete racing programmes, and in 1974 Bob Janousek’s famous British eight was sprung on the world in fours at Mannheim on Saturday and combined in an eight for the Sunday’s programme. In the words of their coach, they were ‘bloody English’, so nobody noticed them.
But when the regatta was over, the world sure paid attention. The coxless four had a physical punch-up in the boat shed before winning their event, and the coxed four fell out verbally in front of all the foreigners they were trying to impress before winning their event.
Those few minutes set the tone for what was to come. ‘We went up in Bob’s estimation,’ Lennie Robertson said. ‘We weren’t fat pigs. We’re English, and we rowed ‘em down.’
I am recalling this because when I wrote their story in Pieces of Eight (2012), illustrations for the book were hard to find. But the other day, crew member Tim Crooks, who is writing his autobiography, got in touch to say that he had found some old black and whites that he took in Mannheim. I have never been there, but Tim’s pictures show it just as I imagined it, and as another oarsman, Hugh Matheson, described it in my book:
Spectators and coaches could watch the races from an old clanking railway along one side of the dock… I remember Janousek sitting in a freight car ‘like it was going to Auschwitz, peering out of little holes with his stopwatch and praying that his boat would stop at the finish and not pile into the end wall of the dock’.
Janousek’s hand-picked eight won silver medals at the Lucerne worlds in 1974 and the Montreal Olympics in 1976.