Birth of a Team(s)

The Story

In 1949 Charles S. Butt Jr. approached the administration of Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, VA, (where he met his future wife and a great supporter of the team, Millie) with the idea of starting a crew team. Principal Claude Richmond made an announcement calling for any students interested in rowing to meet in the school cafeteria during homeroom. Charlie met with the guys and after meeting with students and generating a great interest, the team was born. Rowing out of Potomac Boat Club in Washington D.C., Charlie and his charges set forth in borrowed boats to learn the art of rowing, compete and in the process have a good time. Little did they know that they would start a tradition that would span over 5 decades. The 1949 team, consisting of 30 guys, started their racing season off slowly with a loss at their first regatta to arch rival George Washington, of Alexandria. Things changed after that. A article, written by none other than Charlie himself, for the National Association Amateur Oarsmen Official 1950 Rowing Guide says it all:

“The Washington and Lee crew first went on the water on the 7th of March 1949, had their first practice race with George Washington High School of Alexandria on the 16th of April, which they lost by about three-quarters of a length. On the 7th of May they defeated John Marshall and Thomas Jefferson High School of Richmond in a race at Richmond and on the 14th of May won the Championship of Northern Virginia from George Washington High in a race at Alexandria. On the 21st of May they won, the Stotesbury Cup at Philadelphia and on the 28th of May won, the National Scholastic Championship at Ecorse, Michigan. The same crew, with one substitution , Milt Irvin for Bruce Bauer, won the Junior eight at the Middle States and the Intermediate eight at the Presidents Cup. They’re sponsored by the Potomac Boat Club, used equipment and coached by yours truly.”

By Christmas of 1949 the boys were selling christmas trees to raise money for a new boat, the aptly named “Cinderella.” By spring of 1950 the team had jumped to 100 rowers and were rowing in additional shells provided by legendary coach Rusty Callow (U Washington, Penn, Navy). The V8 again won the “big three”- NOVAS, Stotesbury, and Nationals.

Since that auspicious begriming, the team has gone on to create a winning tradition. The team has won over 30 National Championships and countless local and regional honors. In addition, the team has competed at the prestigious Royal Henley Regatta, at Henley-on- Thames, England 8 times, winning the Princess Elizabeth Cup (for high school 8’s) twice. In 1975 the first women’s squad took to the water along side the men. Coached by 1969 alumni Thomas Chisnell III, the women’s team has also had great success winning many medals including the Women’s Lightweight Eight at the Stotesbury Cup Regatta 5 times.

For another insightful look at the very 1st year of W-L Crew, read Paul Yager’s story Cinderella team member.

Gold Medal Count

Regatta # of First Place Finishes
Northern VA/ DC Metro/ VA State Championships 20
Stotesbury Cup Regatta 54
SRAA Scholastic Nationals 31
Canadian Schoolboy Championships 2
Henley Royal Regatta 2

This table shows the number of gold medals W-L Crew has won over the years. W-L’s single best day was the Stotesbury of 1965. W-L won every heavy sweep event: V8, JV8, 3v, V4, and JV4. In addition, you can double the numbers in the chart if you want to count 2nd and 3rd place finishes. It includes all types of boats (8+’s to 2+’s) and is by no means complete. Information concerning NOVAS and Nationals results are currently incomplete.