Rowing Books for Christmas II

8 December 2020

By Göran R Buckhorn

Göran R Buckhorn continues to help you to find books for a rower’s Christmas stocking or to fill a spot under the Christmas tree.

HTBS is here to help you find rowing books for your Christmas list. As with those books in my previous piece, which was published the other day, these books have never been reviewed or barely mentioned on HTBS. A sad statement I know, but as they say, better late than never.

Emory Clark: Olympic Odyssey (2014)

Emory Clark started rowing at age 13 at Groton School in Massachusetts. Clark continued to row at Yale and was captain of the crew his senior year, 1960. He has had several careers: officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, history teacher, rowing coach, newspaper reporter, lawyer and – mostly importantly for us HTBS Types – rower. Clark’s Olympic Odyssey takes the readers from his training at Vesper Boat Club to the Tokyo Olympic Games. As an oarsman, he reached the highest level in the sport, he’s an Olympic champion, beating the then world champions Ratzeburg in the 1964 Olympic final in the eights.

His writing of the final race in the Olympics is thrilling. The race started at dusk and was rowed in darkness. At one point in the race, Clark’s blade slapped a wave on the recovery and his oar spun in his hands. Being in darkness, he couldn’t see his blade in the water, but at the next stroke he knew his blade was backward. He decided to take an ‘air shot’,

taking the stroke in sync with the others with the blade clear of the water, and frantically twisted the oar handle around properly at the end of the stroke when it was in on my body. On my next trip up the slide, I decided the others could row it in. I was going to make sure I did not mess up, catch a crab, or do something catastrophic.

It was so dark I don’t think anybody noticed. The boat kept on churning, but Robby [Zimonyi, the cox] said he saw it, and Boyce [‘Buddy’ Budd, rowing at 6 and Clark at 5] claims to have started to pray.

Later, Buddy Budd would tease Clark that he took one stroke less than the rest of the crew. It was actually Budd, also known as ‘Big Budd’, who had persuaded Clark to take up the oar while still in the Marines to start training for the Olympics in 1964. While, according to Clark, Budd was too rough at the oar at Yale, he was taught to row properly at Cambridge and was a member of the winning Light Blues in the 1962 Boat Race.

Emory Clark’s book Olympic Odyssey is a marvel and gives every rowing and Olympian history buff value for the buck. As the former history teacher and newspaper man, Clark knows how to tell the tale and how to do it extremely well. Not only is this rowing story well-written, but as a former editor in the book publishing world, I must give Clark a special shout-out for the wonderful design of his book, which is filled with beautiful and amazing illustrations.

I’m very happy for my copy of Olympic Odyssey, which Emory Clark kindly signed when I met him at Yale’s Gales Ferry in June 2017.

Ginny Gilder: Course Correction (2005)

Course Correction: A Story of Rowing and Resilience in the Wake of Title IX by Ginny Gilder is a rower’s memoir, but it’s also an important part of American rowing history. Gilder rowed at Yale in the wake of Title IX in the 1970s. She was training for the 1980 Moscow Olympics, but, like the rest of the U.S. athletes, she had to stay home due to the American boycott of the Games. Four years later, Gilder rowed in the quadruple sculls that took an Olympic silver medal.

Gilder’s elegantly penned autobiography is a marvellously written love affair with the sport of rowing, but it also depicts her struggle to handle her life after her successful rowing career, how to come to terms with husband, children and family life. And, ultimately, accept her true sexual identity. A little minus with the book is that it lacks photographs.

Dotty Brown: Boathouse Row (2017)

Dotty Brown’s Boathouse Row: Waves of Change in the Birthplace of American Rowing is a magnificent coffee table book and as such it’s filled with beautiful photographs in black & white and colour of the clubs and boathouses along the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. Here is the rich history and many anecdotes of the famous oarsmen (including the professionals), oarswomen, coaches, crews, champions, Olympians and other heroes and characters that made the Boathouse Row what it is today.

Dick Anderson: Springhill: Two Centuries of River Lea Rowing (2014)

When Dick Anderson, who has been a member of different rowing clubs on the River Lea since 1969, started looking for a book on rowing on the river, he only found a book from 1913 (this was before Clive Radley came out with The Radleys of the Lea about his boat building and rowing ancestors, in 2015). Anderson decided to update the old book and tell the story of Lea Rowing Club at Springhill and some of the other clubs along the river. Springhill tells the story of boats, watermen, male and female rowers and rowing clubs from 1800 to 1980 and has some interesting photographs of the river in the olden days.

Fletcher E Ward: Chautauqua Lake’s Great Race (2014)

The story of the races between the professional scullers Charles Courtney, of USA, and Edward Hanlan, of Canada, has been told many times. Especially the race on the Chautauqua Lake in 1879 for $6000, when, on the evening of the day before the race, the hull of Courtney’s racing single scull was found cut two-thirds through. His practice boat had also been severely damaged. Courtney refused to race in a borrowed boat, so the Canadian rowed the five-mile race himself. After the race, he received his $6000 cheque. When he went to the bank to collect the prize money, the bank clerk told him that the representative for the Hop Bitters, the company which sponsored the race, had withdrawn the money saying it had been a ‘non-race’.

Decades after this ‘race’, the discussions continued of whom had sawed the American’s boat in half. Was it one of Hanlan backers or Courtney himself being afraid to lose? To this day, no one knows for certain. And Fletcher Ward has no ‘new’ evidence in this matter. However, in his book, Ward has many interesting quotations from newspapers of the day. The papers gladly spread rumours left and right. The author ends his Chautauqua Lake’s Great Race: The Courtney-Hanlan Fiasco by writing:

The names Courtney and Hanlan ultimately became synonymous with the sport these gentlemen built and loved. Following the race at Chautauqua, the passion that America and the world had for professional rowing ebbed and finally died. The greed that manifested itself in the cutting of Courtney’s boats ultimately ended America’s love affair with professional sculling.

I end these book notes by mentioning two novels, not rowing novels, but novels with rowing. Gwen Thompson’s Men Beware Women (2012) is a light little thing that you can easily devour after Christmas dinner, while Alan Hollinghurst’s The Sparsholt Affair (2017) should be saved for your reading in the days between Christmas and New Year’s.

To purchase these books, ask for them in your local book shop, or search for them at second-hand bookstores online.


  1. Good morning, Goran. Boyce Budd was way too talented and big to row a #3 seat. He was the classic #5 in that crew. Believe he was the heaviest in the boat. All the best. Look forward to HTBS each morning. Bob Madden

    Sent from my iPad


    • Dear Robert, thank you for your comment. Yes, you are right. I checked some other sources (from the first one I checked when I wrote the article), and Clark rowed at 5 and Budd at 6 in the Olympic final. I have corrected this in my piece above.
      Thank you for your kind words about HTBS.
      Cheers, Göran

  2. Does anyone know where I might obtain a used copy of the book “Chautauqua Lake’s Great Race: The Courtney-Hanlan Fiasco” by Fletcher Ward (2014)? I’ve checked around Lake Chautauqua area bookstores and even spoke with the author who was not able to help.

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