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Slants on Sports

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The climax of the rowing season every year has been the traditional classic at Poughkeepsie. Every crew with money enough in the college exchequer to finance the trip to Poughkeepsie aims for this meet every summer. It is the high-water mark of a sport that is gruelling and thrilling, beautiful to watch and even more so to participate in.

In preparation for the renewal of this intercollegiate rowing regatta at the small town on the Hudson, the faculty and authorities at Vassar, that exclusive college for women have issued a special announcement. The dean said that it is perfectly satisfactory for the girls to marry and remain in school.

Inasmuch as there will be seven universities represented at this race on June 16 Vassar College feels that it is an unwise policy not to come out with their now famous “marriage statement.”


There are some people who actually believe a regatta is held every time the fleet comes to New York and unloads its thousands of gobs on the lakes and boats of Central Park.

However, on June 16, from a point four miles below the bridge that spans the Hudson at Poughkeepsie, seven boatloads of the best American oarswielders and sweepswingers representing the Universities of Pennsylvania, Cornell, Syracuse, California, Columbia, Navy and Washington will sink their blades into the waters and stroke for victory.


The crews of Yale and Harvard, although participating in many regattas during the rowing season, usually arrange their schedules so that they do not compete against one another until their annual meet at New London. This second water carnival is a classic in itself and is almost as famous as the Poughkeepsie Regatta on the Hudson. The latter has achieved such fame and has been hallowed by tradition for such a long time that it assumes the aspects of the colorful Oxford-Cambridge races.


There will be several other races besides the Varsity competition. Each university has also entered a freshman crew, a junior varsity shell and a 150 pound boat. Whatever the outcome of the other races it is the Varsity which decides the intercollegiate shell supremacy of the country.

Usually during the season the races are anywhere from a mile and a quarter to a mile and three quarters in length. Sometimes they may even go the three-mile distance. However, the Poughkeepsie course is four miles long and it is gruelling, heartbreaking, with a terrific pace all the way.

Without doubt pulling an oar in a shell along with seven other sweep-swingers is the most gruelling of all sports. A four-mile grind on the river is equal only to four football games played consecutively without rest or time out. This sport takes more out of a fellow, as we once said and we repeat, than water polo, tennis, soccer and lacrosse combined. For here, once the starter’s gun has been fired, there are no moments of letting up, of easing, or coasting along. It is a steady, ruthless sweep onward, and only the best men can qualify.

Besides the enormous stamina that an oarsman must possess for this terrific shell game, he must acquire a rhythmic pull, which in itself is tiring. And still this sport has great numbers of enthusiasts and candidates, who apply for positions in the boat despite the prodigious strength that it takes to be a sweepsman.


This race has been held for over forty years and each year traditions have been added and strengthened. The boats that come from all over the country, yachts, steamers, canoes, the observation train chugging along the shore keeping pace with the blade-wielders on the river, all make for color and a gala time.

We recall witnessing the regatta a few years ago in a driving rain. Columbia University swept the races that year after three of the crews were swamped. California’s team, which had come all the way from the west coast for this race, was one of the crews which was swamped and had to be pulled out of the Hudson. It gave rise to the saying, “three thousand miles for a ducking.” Well, it’s all part of the game.

Then again the winning team of this regatta collects all shirts of the men in the rival shells. Like-wise, according to tradition, the coxswain of the winning crew is tossed overboard. What for, you may ask? Well, just to keep tradition alive.


California’s crew of eight huskies from the West is a strong combination over long distances. Cornell is rated as a fair choice and Pennsylvania may pull a surprise. Columbia has been left behind in the shorter distances of a mile and a quarter, but may improve its strength tomorrow and sweep the four-mile classic.


Coxswain Solomon is one of the few Jewish oarsman on the Eastern waterways. Another is Myron Michelman, stroke of the Columbia eight this year. Both these sailors are seniors and have been with the crew for the last three years. They have made this their only sport because of the long hours of practice throughout the year that has to be put in.

The coxswain is the man who keeps the rhythm and steers the boat. He is responsible for the morale that exists in the shell and it depends on his knowledge of the young bladesweepers at what point in a race they can let everything go and give their all for alma mater.

The stroke, on the other hand, gets the signals from the cox’un for an added few beats and sets the pace. If he should be dipping his oars at the rate of thirty-four strokes per minute, the seven behind must be pulling away at the same rate of speed. Should the stroke pick up his beat, it is the duty of the cox’un to cheek the other lads in the boat.

Thus, tomorrow at the Poughkeepsie regatta, you will be able to hear the chunk of the oars and the shrill cries of the cox’uns as they shout, “Stroke, Stroke! Pick her up number four! Stroke fellers, stroke!”

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