The Inside Scoop: 1969 V8
Here’s some additional information about the 1969 championship V8:
B. Tom Chisnell
2. Dirk Ringers
3. Bill Volkart
4. Chris Gordan
5. Martin Bittner
6. Larry Davis
7. Bill Wilbur
S. Kevin Smith
Cox. Jim Storie
Alternates: David Smith, John Strom and Paul Covey
Coaches: Charlie Butt and Quinton Franklin
Boat: The Avenger (one of the 1st sectional boats)
No Va Championships – 1st
Stotesbury – 1st
Nationals – 3rd
Canadian Nationals – 1st
Henley Royal Regatta – Princess Elizabeth Cup
In 1968, Jeb Stuart, HS lived the Cinderella story by winning all the major races, including the Henley Royal Regatta. W-L had done poorly that year. During the summer of ’68, a number of us joined the Potomac Boat Club and won the President’s Cup (I think it was the first) and finished 3rd at the AAU races in NY (had a great time).
The ’69 season started out rough with some tough losses and no victories over Stuart. Then, in the last race of the season, we came from behind and beat Stuart by open water. In the Northern Virginia Championships, Stuart crossed into our lane, and we touched oars. Stuart went on to win, but they were disqualified for the mishap and we were declared the winners.
The water at Stotesbury was exceedingly rough and Stuart was out to avenge the No Va Championships. We were in the inside lane, next to the wall, and won by a couple of boat lengths. The only thing left between England and us were the Nationals, which were held in DC that year. We felt confident we could win.
Unfortunately, we didn’t. We finished third behind Riddley High School of Canada and Jeb Stuart. Charlie believed we were good enough to compete in England, so he reshuffled the boat and added Chris Gordon. The following weekend was the Canadian Schoolboy Championships in St. Catherines, Canada, which would allow us to face Riddley again. The school system would not sanction our trip to Canada, so Charlie asked us to take a vote and if we wanted to go, he would drive us (no brainer!).
Luckily for us, we had a shell that split in the middle (after some customization by Charlie) and could be carried on his station wagon. We all skipped school on Friday and Charlie and Tom Chisnell’s father drove us up to St. Catherine’s. We camped out that night at the racecourse and prepared for the qualifying races on Saturday.
Sunday’s final was the most memorable experience I had rowing. We overheard Riddley’s strategy to do a silent power 20 in front of their dock to pull away from the field. Jim timed his call beautifully, and we stayed with them (to their surprise). We were all so pumped up… I still remember screaming “Sprint!!” about half way through the race. Jim held us back till about an 1/8 mile left and then turned us loose. We won by open water.
After the race, we pulled up to the grandstands and received our medals in an Olympic type ceremony. We left late that afternoon, with Charlie driving all night back to Virginia. I walked into my house a 5:00am the next day. We were off to England!
We stayed with a woman and her daughter in the little town of Nettlebed, outside of Henley. I still remember eating outside on her back porch during the beautiful summer afternoons. One of the more unusual things for the time was that the milk still came in bottles and had the thick cream on top.
Charlie arranged for us to have some practice time with both the Yale and Pennsylvania crews. Practicing with the college teams really motivated us to work hard. He also allowed us to row down the Thames through the locks to see some of the countryside. Bill Wilbur showed us his cow calling talents and attracted three or four of them into the water.
The celebration that followed the final race was something to remember. First, all of us took a dip into the Thames (thanks to Bill Volkart). Then Charlie took us on a field trip to a number of pubs in and around Henley.
The lady we stayed with arranged a victory party for us and her daughter invited a few of her friends (I leave those stories to Bill Wilbur and Chris Gordon). Late that night, Kevin Smith organized a raiding party. He and his cohorts (I think Tom Chisnell was involved) borrowed a car and drove into Henley. There they requisitioned a set of lawn furniture from the Leander Club as a gift for our hostess.
The final days were spent traveling around England with Charlie in a rented van. We visited small English villages, Stone Henge and various spots in London. Tom Chisnell showed his character by buying gifts for his brothers and sisters in London (it didn’t even cross my mind!).
The night before we left, we all visited the pub across the street and made off with souvenir beer mugs, which the next day, Quinton Franklin had to pay for. I also borrowed a sign from the Nettlebed Inn, which hangs in my house today.
We arrived at Dulles airport in the evening and were given our own transport to the terminal without having to go through customs. There, waiting to greet us, was the W/L band and a large number of supporters, something I will never forget.
I hope this recap of the ’69 season was helpful. Writing this helped me to appreciate the gift Charlie gave to a bunch of 17-year-old kids. Thanks Charlie!
Dirk Ringers ’69