|Vesper Boat Club|
It's been over 30 years since The Alumni Boat Races were last held in Philadelphia and that streak almost continued.
Sunday, April 2nd was a gorgeous spring day filled with blue skies, sunshine and a pleasant breeze. Unfortunately, it was not as tranquil and picturesque on the Schuylkill River as high water, floating logs and flood conditions concerned our race officials.
Christopher Blackwall masterfully rearranged the schedule of races to accommodate Mother Nature. In the end, prudence dictated that the college boat races be cancelled so we were able to run only 2 of the 5 scheduled races with only the most experienced rowers participating. Our races proved to be a foreshadowing of the results to come in The Boat Races. The Vesper ladies eight (Cambridge designee) crew prevailed and in the men’s race the Oxford Varsity (alumni blue) boat was victorious.
Here’s how Gardner Cadwalader, the captain of the Cambridge crew, recounted the Varsity Race:
“The Varsity Race became a three boat race between Oxford and Cambridge and the University Barge Club's experienced Master's eight whose race had been cancelled. Floating starts in very fast waters were made for debate at the pub afterwards and the unique start that day guaranteed a few subsequent verbal thrusts and parries among the friends. We shall say no more about that. However, the gentlemen and lady of Cambridge raced brilliantly and did set a new record. The gentleman of Oxford raced much more brilliantly we admit, and came in a solid first place, showing the fine focus and fitness which the other boats have had on days a while ago. The gentlemen of the University Barge Club split their UK loyalties with the diplomacy and hospitality for which UBC is renown by coming in second. This strategy allowed the dark blue guest crew to win first place and the light blue guest crew to set a new record. The record is a first in Oxford Cambridge races by Cambridge having coming in a solid third. Never done before and will never be done again.”To our knowledge, we were the only alumni society in the world that held alumni races on the day of The Boat Races – quite a distinction. I'm pleased to say that two of the founders of that race were instrumental in the races resurgence, namely, Christopher Blackwall (Oxford) and Gardner Cadwalader (Cambridge).
After the races, everyone retired to Vesper Boat Club for the viewing party of the 2017 Cancer Research UK Boat Races in London. Rich in history and tradition, Vesper is one of the most celebrated boat clubs in the country and the world and was an ideal venue to watch The Boat Races. Attendees watched on two TVs, one in the large bar area and the other on a giant projector screen. We had a wide variety of alumni and guests, from recent graduates to, let me say, not so recent and many in between with families and lots of children running about. The capacity crowd enjoyed the festive environment and had a fun time cheering on their favorite blue.
I think I speak for everyone involved when I say the event exceeded our expectations. We thought we might have 30 to 40 rowers register to row for our races and we actually had over 70. There was a wide range of ages and sizes with experience ranging from former college rowers to Blues to World Champions to Olympians. In fact, we had 8 Blues race-5 from Oxford and 3 from Cambridge (see crew listings below). We were planning on 75 to 100 people attending the viewing party when in fact we sold over 150 tickets and that didn’t include all the children. It was quite a gathering.
Putting together a regatta, no matter the size, is no small accomplishment and fortunately, we had a very experienced Steering Committee who handled it brilliantly as well as wonderful sponsors. I want to thank the Committee for its time, effort and dedication, it was a true team effort. I would like to extend a special thank you to the following individuals (in no particular order):
Christopher Blackwall (Oxford) and James Hill (Cambridge) who did a superb job of planning, scheduling, logistics, recruiting linesman, referees and coxes, procuring equipment etc.; the captains, Gardner Cadwalader, 1972 Cambridge Blue, and Mike Wherley, 2008 Oxford Blue, who both did a great job recruiting, organizing and selecting the crews; John-David Franklin (Oxford) who helped form the committee, was involved in many of the facets mentioned above and sponsored us at Vesper Boat Club; Bonnie Mueller (Oxford) Secretary of the Schuylkill Navy whose assistance was invaluable; and to Josh Mooney (Cambridge) whose efforts and guidance were much appreciated.
Also thanks to: University Barge Club, Undine Barge Club, Penn Athletic Club Rowing Association and the University of Pennsylvania.