Shortly after the results went up for the Men's Champ 8+ at the Head of the Charles yesterday, Pete Graves was in the hospitality tent for the great eights and heard Olaf Tufte joking with several of his boatmates "can you believe we won ziss race? None of us even knows how to row!" Meanwhile, a hundred feet away at the Craftsbury Sculling Center booth, one of the marketing posters that we've used for years was in its usual spot with its caption: "Reason #8 (to come to Craftsbury): Sculling Makes Sweep Rowers Faster." We've been shouting this from the rooftops for years, and it's nice to have some validation land squarely in the lap of the rowing world at North America's greatest annual event (with all due respect to the Canadian Henley and the Stotesbury Cup). All things considered, though, maybe we're not shouting it loudly enough or clearly enough - earlier in the weekend,a high school rower was looking at the poster and asked "how does it do that?" and we were all tongue-tied for a minute at the unexpectedness of such a simple but entirely understandable and valid question. We should not assume that everyone already knows the answer. More amusingly, there was a coxswain for a D-I women's crew who turned to several of her rowers while filling out her raffle card for a free week of sculling camp and asked in all seriousness "which one is it when everybody has two oars each?" Come to camp and let us help you with that, okay?
The truth, I suspect, is that Olaf Tufte probably wasn't too surprised to end the day a champion in the men's 8+, and that he knows as well as we do at Craftsbury that sculling is the real foundation of rowing. His joke, then, was on the folks both within and outside our sport who stubbornly persist in thinking that the best way to create a fast eight is to sweep row almost exclusively when the evidence is right in front of you that one mind-bogglingly effective way to create a fast eight is to take the eight fastest single scullers you can find, put them in an eight with a really good coxswain, and tell them their job is to beat up on a field of boats full of people who are primarily sweep rowers. As always, the thing speaks for itself, if you understand what you're listening to.