Washington-Lee High School Crew is one of the most successful and longest running crew programs in the country, rowing from the beginning out of the historic Potomac Boat Club in Georgetown. In 1949, the first year of existence under legendary Coach Charlie Butt Jr., the Washington-Lee crew team won the two major rowing championships, the prestigious Stotesbury Cup Regatta in Philadelphia and the Scholastic Nationals. In the 1950s and 1960s, Washington-Lee men’s crew was one of the most dominant programs in the country.
W-L was the first public high school to compete at the Henley Royal Regatta (1958), Henley-on-Thames, England. They earned national headlines for winning the Princess Elizabeth Cup in 1964 and 1969, and competed there most recently in 1989. In addition, W-L crew was the National Champions 12 times (in the Varsity 8 alone) between 1949 and 1987. In 1965, the greatest single day in the Washington-Lee rowing history occurred when the boys won every sweep race at the Stotesbury Cup Regatta in Philadelphia. More recently, the lightweight men were undefeated in their 2004 season, taking the Stotesbury Cup from long-reigning champions St. Joseph’s Prep. In 2005 the lightweight men were National Champions. In 2011 the Junior 8 men won gold at States and medaled third at Nationals.
In 1975, Washington-Lee’s proud crew tradition was expanded when with the establishment of the Washington-Lee Women’s Crew. The first coach was Tom Chisnell, a Washington-Lee alumni who rowed on the 1969 Henley championship boat. The women’s team has been a strong program over the years. From 1984 through 1986, their lightweight eight was nearly unbeatable and won consecutive National Championships. In 1987, the junior eight took second place at Stotesbury and won the National Championship. In 2000, the girls’ mid weight eight won third place in the Scholastic Rowing Association Nationals.
W-L is honored to have a number of team members go on to race with top collegiate programs, the U.S. Junior National Team, the U.S. Senior National Team, and the U.S. Olympic Team. Many more alumni have coached at both the high school and collegiate level including Georgetown, Yale, Princeton, and the University of Washington. Perhaps even more impressive, Washington-Lee Crew has selflessly shared its rowing expertise with other Arlington and Washington area schools. Washington-Lee’s assistance was instrumental in helping Yorktown HS, Wakefield HS, Thomas Jefferson HS, UVA Crew, GWU Crew, and many other area high schools and colleges begin their rowing programs.